Words associated with Angelina Jolie in 2005: Bisexual. Tattooed. Wild. Homewrecker.
Words associated with Angelina Jolie in 2013: Mastectomy. Star. Humanitarian. Mother.
Even amongst other Hollywood stars, Angelina Jolie stands apart. The actress walks a fine line between being a mystery and a well-known entity. Today, as Angelina Jolie turns 38, her wild past, of overly-passionate kisses with her brother and lesbian love affairs are a distant memory for the public. And that’s no accident.
Weeks before her birthday, Angelina Jolie made the leap to the sparsely-populated stratosphere of stars who are beyond public reproach when she made her double mastectomy public in a New York Times editorial. Jolie’s bravery, medical trauma and cancer awareness advocacy can’t be discounted. But it shows you how far Hollywood’s favourite wild child has come at the ripe old age of 38.
When she starred in Lara Craft: Tomb Raider at 26, Jolie’s breasts dominated headlines. Jolie is sexy and we knew it. But now, the actress is most well-known perhaps for her double mastectomy. And it didn’t matter. Her mastectomy was a dignified and planned narrative of medical awareness shared in the NYT, a publication which screams “serious journalism”. Jolie’s come a long way, and so has the way we see her.
It was just over ten years ago that Jolie married the jowly Billy Bob Thornton in a ceremony that included wearing vials of each other’s blood around their neck. At the age of 31, Jolie capped her reputation as troublemaker when she broke up the marriage of the world’s favourite Friend – Jennifer Aniston’s marriage to Brad Pitt crumbled amid rumours that cast Jolie as homewrecker. Immediately afterwards, Jolie travelled to Pakistan, visiting camps that housed Afghan refugees.
Jolie has spent the years in-between earning some serious activist cred. In 2007, Jolie appeared at the launch of Global Action for Children, a group that encourages American aid to orphans in the developing world. The same year, Jolie’s changing movie choices also came to the fore.
Jolie played Mariane Pearl, the widow of murdered journalist Daniel Pearl in A Mighty Heart. It was a move that would signal her changing professional choices. After this movie, Jolie took fewer and fewer roles. The ones she did take included voiceovers in the Kung Fu Panda movies and in The Changeling, the role of a desperate mother. While she did her quota of action movies with Salt and The Tourist, Jolie kept media attention high on her smaller projects – a documentary in 2007, and her directorial debut (at the age of 36) In The Land Of Blood and Honey set during the Bosnian War.
In 2008, when Brad Pitt and her first sold the photos of their newborn twins to People magazine, the contract included a hefty slice of journalistic input – the magazine wasn’t allowed to write about the family negatively, even in future coverage. When Jolie was giving birth in Namibia, she convinced the government to disallow access to the country for foreign journalists unless they had been approved by the couple. Many of her interviews are granted on the condition that attention be paid to her charity work, as well as that the much-hated tabloid amalgamation of the couple’s names, ‘Brangelina’, be avoided completely.
While all celebrities craft their images, Jolie’s manipulation of her image is done with a determination, success rate and seamless appearance that is particularly impressive. Jolie, notably, has neither a publicist nor an agent. As she turns 38 today, Jolie is a sophisticated media strategist. Which is partly why she's become such a powerful symbol for issues which have nothing to do with Hollywood – whether they’re mastectomies or philanthropy.