Few women have achieved the same levels of success and recognition as Angelina Jolie. The actress, director, humanitarian and mother of six has earned an Academy Award, two Screen Actors Guild Awards and three Golden Globes. She’s been acting since 1982, portraying iconic characters such as Gia Carangi, Lara Croft, Mariane Pearl and Jane Smith, the latter with her now-estranged husband Brad Pitt.
But the role that defines Jolie is simply being herself. “There is nothing more attractive than someone being fully themself, without inhibition, in whatever form that takes,” she says. “We all recognise it when we see it — those women whose beauty is their spirit, and their inability to be anything other than true to themselves.”
Jolie, who has campaigned tirelessly as a special envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, is fiercely committed to causes including community development, environmental protection, and children’s and women’s rights. It was this passion that led French beauty house Guerlain to tap her as the face of the newly released Mon Guerlain Eau de Toilette, “a celebration of contemporary femininity”.
The actress — who has experienced adoption, marriage, childbirth, divorce and a double mastectomy, all in the public eye — says she feels most at ease with her femininity now, and when she first became a mother. “That sense of ease grows and changes with each passing year and each stage in life. For me, it’s about learning to accept yourself and what life brings,” she explains.
Indeed, the concept of femininity is constantly shifting and changing for Jolie. “There is not one version of femininity. It means different things at different times and in different places,” she says. “It can be a certain softness and grace, but it’s also women marching or fighting for their rights or the rights of others.”
Jolie, who turned 43 in June, does not subscribe to the view that femininity and feminism are mutually exclusive. “Equality is not about us all being the same, it’s about the freedom to make our own choices and live our own lives fully, not at the expense of men, but alongside men,” she says. “It’s not about taking each other down but building each other up. I think it’s not said enough how much we need the men in our lives to be strong and capable and the best they can be.”
In fact, Jolie believes in the importance of teaching boys and girls their role in creating a society in which men and women can be equals. So how does she introduce the idea of feminism to her own children? “Through strong and diverse female role models, and also a study of the past: understanding how much the freedoms we have had to be fought for and need to be defended, and just how many women live in countries where they aren’t free today,” she says. “Some of the people my children most admire are women who’ve lived through conflict or overcome adversity. They happen to be women, but that’s not what defines them. It’s their strength and their example.”
Jolie — who shares three daughters, Zahara, 13, Shiloh, 12, and Vivienne, 10, with Pitt — also tries to parent by example. The values she most aspires to impart are freedom, kindness and the ability for her daughters to be fully themselves. “But honestly, they teach me, every single day,” she says. “They’re each so different, yet each in their own way is such a strong character.”
Jolie can be seen next in Maleficent 2, reprising her role as the Disney villain, and voicing the character of Stella the elephant in the animated feature The One and Only Ivan. There’s no doubt she will continue her humanitarian work alongside her children, including conservation projects in Cambodia (where her eldest son, Maddox, was born) and Namibia (where daughter Shiloh was born), and in collaboration with Guerlain, which has been working to protect biodiversity and the planet for the last 10 years.
“In our family, we often talk about how it’s all connected – wildlife, the environment and the well-being of people. To protect one, you have to protect all. The beautiful thing is that we can each do our part in different ways. It’s not always easy,” she says, “but I don’t think we ever stop dreaming. Having people in your life who believe in you, want you to succeed and share the same goals – that’s important.”
A BREATH OF FRESH AIR
Like the woman who appears in its campaign, Mon Guerlain Eau de Toilette is an unconventional blend of courage, radiance, sensuality and vulnerability. The fragrance signature combines top notes of tangy mandarin and fresh Carla lavender with sambac jasmine and Vanilla tahitensis. “We wanted to celebrate femininity through this simple and joyful freshness,” says co-creator Delphine Jelk. “Isn’t authenticity the true luxury?”