When I was a little girl, my parents used to have my hair cut the “Lady Diana” style. Apparently it was all the rage back in the early 80s, and Princess Diana fever had reached our island home of Sri Lanka. Not that I knew anything about that at the time of course because I had no idea who this woman was or why I needed to get my hair cut like hers. I just wanted long hair like all the other kids my age. I eventually saw a photograph of Princess Diana and immediately wanted a new hairdresser – I didn’t think I looked anything like her! But when you’re 6 or 7, you don’t have many options so I tried to rock my short do as best as I could. Looking back on photographs of junior me, I can see that my hair cut did resemble hers in a way…but just slightly less glamorous.
This was my introduction to the phenomenon that was Princess Diana, and like millions of others, I feel like I grew up with her as a constant presence in the periphery of our lives. When we migrated to Australia, there was a lot more of Diana. Maybe my parents had stopped caring about censoring our media exposure back then but she seemed to be everywhere. I have distant memories of watching the Panorama interview with Martin Bashir, sympathising with her and feeling saddened by her experience. The fairy tale was over but she would find her happily ever after.
And then August 31, 1997 happened. Even though it was nearly 20 years ago, I still remember that day very clearly. I was studying for my Year 12 exams, and my sister came running up to tell me that Princess Diana had been involved in a car accident. But she was fine – she only had a broken arm. Relieved she was relatively unhurt, I went back to the books. An hour later, she was dead. Shock. Disbelief. Being glued to the television as the horrific details of the accident trickled in. A week later, we set our alarm clocks to watch the funeral procession live from London. Prince William was only 2 years younger than me, and I couldn’t even begin to imagine what it must be like to walk behind your mother’s coffin in front of millions of people.
It was only after Princess Diana’s death that I gained a true appreciation for her work and humanitarian efforts. I didn’t know her personally but she always struck me as a very genuine person who cared deeply about the suffering of others and who wanted to make the world a better place for everyone. She just radiated warmth and compassion. And that’s how I will always remember her.
© 2017 Sunshine and Gelato