AP Photo/Heng Sinith
AP Photo/Heng Sinith
Angelina Jolieand vulnerability are two words we rarely see in the same sentence, but if there was ever time the A-lister lost hope personally, her reaction has always been to uplift it in the lives of others.
As the media firestorm surrounding her sudden split from Brad Pitt simmered over the past few months, we've seen Angelina return to the public eye with a new mission: Humanitarian work. It's certainly not the first time we've seen the globally recognized celebrity commit tenfold to activism, but there's a new fervor to Jolie's efforts that speak to a focus strayed further than ever before from her storied past.
Earlier today, the 41-year-old advocated for the United Nations during an impassioned speech in Geneva, capping off a recent visit to Cambodia with her six children in which she spoke publicly about the divorce for the first time and premiered First They Killed My Father, a scripted drama fusing Angelina's directorial and philanthropic efforts. She's also penned an op-ed for The New York Times about refugee policy and gave her first lecture on women's rights at the London School of Economics.
Call it a coping mechanism (an extremely benevolent one at that), but we've seen Angelina turn to what really moves her in times when others doubted, scrutinized and cast her as one dimensional.
By the time Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton made their three-month courtship marriage official in 2000, she'd already garnered quite the bad girl reputation for her eyebrow-raising, if not outlandish, antics. For starters, Angelina kissing her brother James Haven on the lips at the 2000 Academy Awards was enough to box the then-three time Golden Globe winner and one-time Oscar honoree into a bizarre league of her own.
"I'm in shock—and I am so in love with my brother right now," she gushed while accepting her Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Girl, Interrupted. "He just held me and said he loved me and I know he's so happy for me." (Years later it came to light that the full frontal lip-lock took place on the same day their mother, who passed away in 2007 from cancer, had started treatment for the disease.)
The media's fascination with Jolie reached an all-time high when the actress and Thornton's outrageous public displays of affection famously included wearing vials of each other's blood around their necks. In a 2000 interview with Us Weekly Jolie didn't hold back from sharing that the couple might even create a padded room "for those moments in the middle of the night when you want to kill each other because you're so in love."
Meanwhile, her interest in the humanitarian crisis piqued while filming Lara Croft: Tomb Raider in Cambodia, which led to numerous field missions around the world up until the U.N. appointed Jolie a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 2001. Three months before splitting from Thornton in 2002, Angelina adopted her son Maddox from Cambodia.
About this period in her life, Jolie recalled to USA Today, "I was just being a young girl who was experimental, bold and a bit nutty. I was absolutely self-destructive. I think a lot of young people in this business lose their way. You don't know what is of value. You don't know where you are. And you know something's wrong, because it isn't life as it actually is. It's like living in some warped reality."
And even when Jolie's newly polished image suffered over accusations that she broke up Pitt's marriage to Jennifer Aniston, humanitarian efforts remained a game plan focal point in directing attention to impoverished communities. In her first interview after giving birth to Shiloh in 2006, she revealed why donating the $4.1 million payout from the photos of her daughter was crucial to her mission.
Speaking to Forbes, Jolie described her work as "twofold: I have all that gossip in my life that has gotten so out of control. And my work in Washington and with the U.N. gets people to focus on other things."
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Somewhere along years of balancing superstardom, raising a family and fighting for change, her marriage began to crumble privately. And looking back, it appears as if she looked to her humanitarian role as an outlet for release. Only a week before news broke that the actress filed for divorce from Brad in September 2016, Jolie made her fourth trip to Jordan refugee camps in hopes of shedding light on the Syrian crisis.
As Brad returned to the spotlight by way of the red carpet, Angelina's first appearance following the split was uniquely linked to her passion, as she recorded a video for the International Criminal Court in support of a policy regarding child safety.
In the years ahead, Jolie told BBC World News she hopes to "be traveling around the world visiting my children," adding, "Everything I do I hope is that I represent something, and I represent the right things to my children, and give them the right sense of what they're capable of, and the world as it should be seen."
She continued. "Not through the prism of Hollywood or through a certain kind of life, but really take them into the world, where they have a really good sense and become rounded people."