I was quite saddened to hear of the death of iconic child actor/dancer/singer and U.S. diplomat Shirley Temple Black, who died yesterday at her home in California of natural causes, aged 85. Without question she lived a long and good life, but it is still a little heart-rending to see all the photos of her as the ringleted, chubby-cheeked little girl and know that she is now gone. She was truly special. The term "gifted" is used so frequently now that it is weakened, ripe for mockery. But Shirley was exceptional on any scale you'd choose to apply, and was able to use her talents to their highest potential. More importantly, she used those gifts to brighten and better the world.

Shirley worked non-stop from preschool-age throughout her childhood, the highest-grossing movie star during the Great Depression, with a film schedule that would stress even the hardiest adult actor. Her ability to learn dialogue and complex dance routines nearly instantaneously left her co-stars in awe. She sang completely on key, and had an uncanny sense of how to deliver exactly the right tone in each of her scenes, from whimsy to pathos. She was an effortlessly charming, magnetic, fiercely intelligent child who never came off as affected, spoiled, overly precious, or odd. She survived being The Biggest Thing In The World -- which is no small accomplishment, and points to her having some solid family support behind her -- with no significant emotional dents or public embarrassments to speak of.

After happily retiring from the movies in her early 20s, Shirley raised three children, and her second marriage to Charles Black lasted 55 years until his death. She was not content to sit back and wallow in nostalgia, however, and it is no surprise that someone with her big brain and work ethic would want to do something more. In 1969, she began a highly-successful career in diplomatic service, acting as a delegate to the United Nations, United States ambassador to both Ghana and Czechoslovakia, and President Gerald Ford's chief of protocol.

After going through a mastectomy in 1972, she spoke out publicly, urging women to talk about breast cancer and come forward rather than hide in shame. In 2014, it now seems unthinkable that breast cancer was a taboo subject or that any kind of cancer would be branded as shameful, but that is how it was, and I remember it well. Women died because they feared treatment for breast cancer would make them desexualized outcasts, that they would be ruined physically and emotionally, shunned by everyone. That Shirley Temple Black was strong and brave enough to risk this social backlash says quite a bit about her character. In being one of the very first women with a high public profile to break the silence over breast cancer, she set a new tone and standard, and by doing so saved the lives of thousands, and perhaps now millions, of women across the world.

What an amazing life she had, and what an impact she made. When I now watch her films with my daughter, I see not only this whip-smart little cutie-pie who could out-act, out-sing, and out-dance everyone else on-screen, but the brilliant woman she would become, waiting to show the world everything else she had to give. Rest in peace, Shirley. You did well.

Shirley Temple & Buddy Ebsen, "Codfish Ball" from "Captain January" (1936)