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I think back to a particularly successful trip I helped plan for Claudia Schiffer to visit Bangladesh. Claudia actually called us, inspired by learning that the glamorous and dedicated Audrey Hepburn had been one of UNICEF's most respected and beloved Ambassadors. We met with Claudia, but I remember that there was a little bit of trepidation in our offices about whether to move forward with her. I think some people might have been skeptical that a stunningly beautiful supermodel could also be a serious person, or maybe they were just afraid that she wouldn't be taken seriously.

I was really clear, though, that working with Claudia would be a terrific plus for our agency, and I lobbied for her acceptance. At the time, Claudia Schiffer was one of the hottest supermodels in the industry. She had a huge fan base, and that's exactly what we wanted. I knew that any time she opened her mouth, reporters would be eager to publicize what she had to say.

Claudia was eager to go into the field. I was thrilled, of course, but wanted to make sure that she had firsthand information that would help her to be a credible spokesperson. Her first stop then was an orientation program we set up for our Ambassadors to visit UNICEF's international headquarters, across the street from the United Nations, and meet with every single department head at UNICEF as well as with certain UN officials who helped UNICEF do its work. This orientation was always a wonderful day that proved very helpful to our spokespeople.

After orientation day, it was time for Claudia to visit a developing country so she could see UNICEF's work on the ground. Her first trip was to Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world, hard to navigate and harder still to find any comfort in. Claudia was used to traveling first- class and staying in luxury hotels, and as a model, she obviously wore designer clothing for a living. Yet she was so understanding of the fact that as a nonprofit we did not fly first-class and that she needed to dress down not only because of the poverty- stricken environment but also out of respect for the country's culture, the people's religious affiliations, and the simple need for comfort!

We needn't have worried. Claudia was wonderful on her trip to Bangladesh. She was generous with her time, kind and gentle to the women and children she met, full of energy, and extremely inquisitive, everything you need to be an effective Ambassador. She continues to be one of UNICEF's most valuable spokespeople.

FROM: Superstar Mary J. Blige and Malaak Rock
Published on April 13, 2010

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