ach week, we present an influential woman whose career and style has inspired the Silkarmour team to aim higher and dress better. This week’s Silkarmour woman is actress, humanitarian, UN diplomat and honorary Dame, Angelina Jolie.
She may be known either as a gun-slinging action hero or a humanitarian icon to most, but Angelina Jolie has her eye on a new career and if all goes according to plan, it’ll be bad news for those who resist change. Despite her refusal to consider herself unique, it would be a mistake to compartmentalise Jolie as ‘normal’. Growing up with a mother who studied with ‘the father of method acting’ Lee Stausburg, Jolie’s understanding of human emotions is what makes her such a valuable asset as an actress as well as a philanthropist; after all she’s the girl who got high-school credit for going to therapy.
Commended for her violent and emotional portrayal of Gia Carangi, in the 1998 film, Gia, Jolie almost immediately quit acting, feeling that “I had nothing else to give” after playing the incredibly personal roller-coaster that was Carangi’s life. Thankfully, the role of charming sociopath Lisa tempted her back in 1999, starring in ‘Girl Interrupted’, earning her an Oscar, a Golden Globe, a Studio Actor’s Guild award and a Broadcast Film Critics award. Playing Lisa is often considered a pinnacle role in her career as Jolie has always disputed the ‘manic’ nature of Lisa's character, arguing that she was “just incredibly honest". But it is this ability to see different sides of a single person that has built her portfolio of blockbuster films, including video-game character Lara Croft in Tomb Raider, historical epic Beowulf, the pivotal Mr & Mrs Smith, Changling and most recently, Maleficient.
Unsurprisingly, someone with as much emotional intelligence as Jolie hasn’t stayed on one side of the camera. As part of her expanding interest in solving human conflict Jolie’s 2011 directorial debut ‘In the Land of Blood and Honey’ focused on the surprising relationship between a Serbian soldier and a prisoner of war among the ravages of the Bosnian war. Having written the script, Jolie didn’t trust anyone else to direct, “so by default I ended up putting myself in as director.” In similar fashion, her 2014 productions, child-bride abduction film Defrit and the account of Japanese POW Louie Zamperini in Unbroken were Jolie’s efforts to highlight some of humanity’s best moments when faced with desolate situations. The latter was especially poignant to Jolie, admitting that her excessively large pitch was simply to fend off all the white male directors. “There were many days where I had my head in my hands” Jolie said, “but the one person who told me I could do it was Louie.”
Although she blames her humanitarian work for a loss of interest in acting, it was actually her role as Lara Croft that connected her to her most prolific position to date. Jolie first contacted the UN for information after witnessing the extremities of poverty when filming Tomb Raider in Cambodia in 2001, taking up the role of UNHRC Goodwill Ambassador later that year. Over the last decade, Jolie has made over 40 field missions to meet with refugees in 30 countries, her focal point being restoring aid to the world’s “forgotten emergencies”. As of April 2012, Jolie is a recognised member of the UN Special Envoy, which enables her to represent the High Commissioner and the UNHCR at a diplomatic level. She has also expanded her work to combat sexual violence in conflict by opening up the UK’s first academic centre on the subject with the London School of Economics in February 2015. To top it all off, Jolie was made an honorary Dame by HM Queen Elizabeth in October 2014 for her services to humanitarianism and fighting sexual violence.
After her latest campaign to make genetic testing accessible for all after her own brush with terminal cancer Jolie shows no signs of slowing down. Recent reports have discussed the idea that her political career is gaining momentum, as she has struck up a friendship with House of Lords member Baroness Arminka Helic, who helps her “make decisions about her next political move”. In November 2014 she was asked by ITV news whether a political career was a possibility, to which she replied “if I felt I could really make a difference, yes. I’ve always gone wherever I felt I was needed.” With the required hurdle of “outstanding personal qualities” already cleared from her work with the UN, this isn’t a far-fetched idea. It’s no secret that a game that politicises gender and prioritises glamour is in need of fresh blood and Jolie is admittedly “fearless to the point of stupidity sometimes”. It's safe to say, the opposition doesn’t stand a chance.
Career Golden Nuggets
- On being yourself: "Make bold choices and make mistakes. It's all those things that add to the person you become.”
- On keeping perspective: "Anytime I feel lost, I pull out a map and stare. I stare until I have reminded myself that life is a giant adventure, so much to do, to see."
- On being afraid: "Life comes with many challenges. The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of."
- On living in the now: “The thought that you could die tomorrow frees you to appreciate your life now."
- On leaving your comfort zone: “If you don't get out of the box you've been raised in, you won't understand how much bigger the world is."