Angelina Jolie takes a walk on the wild side in the November issue of Harper's Bazaar.
In an essay in celebration of the magazine's 150 anniversary (on newsstands Oct. 24), the 42-year-old actress and director champions environmental and women's rights. She also models clothing from Atelier Versace, Rag & Bone, Ralph Lauren Collection and other labels while posing with cheetahs and locals at a nature reserve in Namibia's Namib desert. "There is a lot we can't predict about the world 150 years from now," Jolie writes. "But we do know that our great-grandchildren will be living with the consequences of decisions we make now, just as we can trace the origin of problems we are dealing with today to their roots in earlier centuries."
The reserve is run by the N/a'an ku sê Foundation, led by Jolie's friends, Marlice van Vuuren and Rudie van Vuuren. Jolie's daughter, Shiloh Jolie-Pitt, was born in the country, and the family "has worked with Rudie and Marlice on conservation in that country over the past decade," the actress says. "For me, Namibia represents not only ties of family and friendship but also the effort to find the balance between humans and the environment so crucial to our future. The N/a'an ku sê Foundation works with Namibia's San people, who are considered to be the world's oldest culture. They represent thousands of years of man and wildlife coexisting in harmony, but they have suffered, like other indigenous peoples, from being forced off their lands by farming, unchecked development, and the depletion of wildlife. The destruction of natural habitat and wildlife has left the San people unable to hunt and support their families."
According to the actress, "the same thing is happening all across the globe—in Africa, Latin America, Asia, and the Pacific—and women are often the most affected." Statistically, women "make up most of the world's poor," she writes. "It often falls on them to find food, water, and fuel to cook for their families. When the environment is damaged—for example, when fishing stocks are destroyed, wildlife is killed by poachers, or tropical forests are bulldozed—it deepens their poverty. Women's education and health are the first things to suffer. The environment is also a crucial factor in future global stability, with 21.5 million people displaced worldwide by climate change every year, as part of the more than 65 million people displaced in total."
As a Special Envoy for the UNHCR since 2012 (and a Goodwill Ambassador for 11 years), issues like these are close to Jolie's heart. "N/a'an ku sê works to preserve the natural habitat and to protect endangered species, such as elephants, rhinos, and cheetahs, like the ones pictured in this story," she writes. "I first encountered them in 2015, when they were small cubs and our family sponsored them. They'd been orphaned and nearly died. They were nursed back to health, but they cannot be returned to the wild, as they have lost their fear of humans and could be killed if they stray onto farmland. With cheetah numbers plummeting to fewer than 7,100 worldwide, the mission is to save every animal possible." Despite how glamorous the photos appear, she wants to be crystal clear: "These cheetahs are not pets, nor should any wild animal ever be kept as one. They inspire us to help preserve these unique, majestic creatures in the wild, as just one of many steps to preserve the environment for future generations."
Jolie was particularly interested in highlighting these causes in Harper's Bazaar, as "fashion was once a major factor in encouraging the demand for clothes, jewelry and objects made from wildlife parts." By not featuring such items, editors can "send a different message: that wild animals belong in the wild, and that ivory is not beautiful unless on the tusk of a living animal."
Jolie hopes her essay will inspire others to take a stand. "What we do, each in our own small way, matters. The hopeful thought is that it is in our hands. Over the next 150 years, technology is going to give us more and better means of communicating, fighting poverty, defending human rights, and caring for the environment. But it is what we choose to do with the freedom we have that will make all the difference. If my life experience has taught me anything," she says, "it is that what you stand for, and what you choose to stand against, is what defines you."