In tribute to: Angelina Jolie

Continuing my string of tribute posts to the living, I’d like to talk today about Angelina Jolie. I think she’s amazing and that’s not in a gushing fangirl kind of way. I say it from a place of deepest respect and utmost admiration.

Being a celebrity is as much of a curse as it is a gift, I think. When they go off the rails or do something a little unusual, it’s like the nasty gossip raging like wildfire around a boarding school. Everyone is quick to point fingers and sneer. In her younger years, most notably during the Billy Bob Thornton era, Angelina Jolie was a bit wild and did some unusual things, like the vials of blood at their wedding. Is it my cup of tea? No. Do I respect her for it? Hell to the yes. The thing is, that kind of peer pressure on any one person must be extraordinary. The drive to conform, to be the mellifluous generic stepford plastic must be so crushing. Despite settling slightly, Jolie still does what she wants with her body and I really admire that in a person. It’s hers and she’ll do whatever she wants with it, despite the tide of public opinion. I happen to like her tattoos and it strikes a chord with me that they’re not just about art. They’re emotive – they mean something to her. Mine are the same. As a woman who, perhaps unexpectedly, has tattoos, the constant flow of snide comments about “tramp stamps” and “mistakes to be regretted” really infuriate me. I got them to mark events in my life that changed me. They’re milestones, things I look at in the mirror and make myself remember. They’re the gravestones for all the previous incarnations of myself that were less…less strong, less kind, less loving. Those events will never stop being special to me and neither will the ink. I love Jolie’s IDGAF attitude about flaunting her ink because if she doesn’t make a big deal about it, no-one else has the right to either.

I massively respect her as a woman. Clearly none of us are ever going to know what happened when she and Brad Pitt met and frankly I don’t really care. What I do admire her for is the way she handled the public outrage following the news that Hollywood’s golden couple had split up. Jennifer Anniston was hugely popular in the 90s and the backlash from that must have been staggering. I remember seeing more than one news story declaring Jolie to be a homewrecker etc. Whatever happened, it clearly all comes down to love. Jolie and Pitt are married and still in love and have a remarkable family.

That too is something I find hugely inspiring and special. Jolie has adopted 3 children from third world countries in addition to giving birth to three children. It takes some heart to make that decision and while having the money and a loving partner certainly make it easier, emotionally it’s a minefield. To make that commitment to a child and to give it a loving, warm and joyous home…it’s an amazing gift and they’re all as blessed as each other. And she clearly does adore them unconditionally, insisting on having their drawings all over her wedding dress at her recent marriage. There aren’t many mothers, let alone celebrities, who would make such a gesture. Hats off to her for it.

In addition to all of the above, Jolie is perhaps most famous at the moment for her humanitarian work. Since 2001 she has been campaigning for a number of causes in some of the most war-torn, desperate and dangerous places on earth, both visiting the field and campaigning in Washington at a higher political level. She’s making waves and changing lives, putting the talent and recognition she’s earned through her acting to good use to better the world and make it a safer place. I find her drive to aid those less fortunate both awe-inspiring and selfless. If I could one day change the world even half the amount she has, then it will have been a life well lived.

It also shows her smarts. I strongly suspect that she’s far more intelligent and ambitious than anyone gives her credit for. Politics are a total minefield but she navigates it and navigates it well.

I’m not going to list all her accomplishments, but I would suggest that you go and look them up. She’s really very inspiring as a campaigner for children and women’s rights against sexual violence, amongst other causes, and deserves every last accreditation and award that she receives for her work.

Finally, I would like to say how much I respect and admire her grace and panache while going through probably one of the most awful things a woman has to endure. In 2013 Jolie underwent an elective preventative double mastectomy because she had the BRCA gene. I have friends and family that have both won and lost battles with cancer and something a friend said to me has stuck with me for many years. She admitted that she’d managed through all the treatment with a positive attitude until it started affecting her appearance. She told me it was something that you take for granted, that you don’t realise how much of your sense of identity is rooted in it, until it’s gone. Taking away the things that somehow make you feminine lead you to lose sight of who you are as a person. To one of the most beautiful women in the world, living in the public eye with all of that pressure to remain lovely and perfect that I mentioned before, that must have been an agonising decision. To then use it to campaign for awareness for women everywhere and more affordable testing and treatment…So much respect for that.

I genuinely think that she is an amazing woman and this is my tribute to her while she’s still alive.

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