Angelina Jolie was ranked highest in a Reuters poll on celebrity humanitarians this week. Others to make the top five were Bono, Desmond Tutu, Bill Gates, and Bill Clinton. You can read the results here.
Angelina Jolie is a great example of someone who made a conscious move towards a heroic life. She began her life of fame as an out-of-control actress. She was clearly full of talent, but her lifestyle trumped that for attention. In an Esquire interview in July of this year she said, “I entered this business before I had focus and purpose in my life. I was very unhappy, very unhealthy…” There were tattoos, public family kissing, and a vial of blood. There was also an Academy Award.
She received a call to adventure when she was embodying the video game character, Lara Croft. Some of the filming for Tomb Raider was done in Cambodia where she witnessed first-hand the sorts of humanitarian crises happening in the world. Soon afterwards she contacted the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and began a series of visits to “hotspots” around the world. She was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador half way through 2001.
Thus began a new life. She has done extensive work ever since, seemingly never stopping. You can read the details of her work here. She has met with people in high and low places, traveled all over the world, and raised awareness of numerous important issues like no-one else can.
The prime reason she beat people like Bono or Madonna in the poll is her integrity. Peter Walker, director of the Feinstein International Famine Center at Tufts University, said people “can really sense when it’s just an endorsement and when somebody really means it. Someone like Angelina Jolie comes across as having more integrity than some celebrities and a greater sense that she doesn’t just do this for the publicity.” Jeffrey Sachs says in the Esquire interview, “…Angelina is different (from Bono and Madonna). For her, the gift is the gift of the common touch you wouldn’t expect from her.”
So from an unhappy, unhealthy actress to a world-changing humanitarian. She is now a mother and goodwill ambassador who happens to work as an actress. Angelina Jolie’s transformation shows us that no matter what we are doing now, we can make a change for the better. With integrity and purpose, one person can change the world.