A star. So beautiful it almost hurts to look at her, an Academy Award-winning actress, critically acclaimed director, screenwriter, married to People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” Brad Pitt. She can choose châteaux in France or mansions wherever she pleases, thank you very much. The rest of us can feel so small.
And now, trailblazer Angelina Jolie Pitt, 39, is all over the news again, but this time it’s not for anything glamorous; it’s for an op-ed letter in The New York Times published Tuesday, March 24. “Angelina Jolie Pitt: Diary of a Surgery” began:
“Two years ago I wrote about my choice to have a preventive double mastectomy. A simple blood test had revealed that I carried a mutation in the BRCA1 gene. It gave me an estimated 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer.”
This week’s op-ed describes another prophylactic surgery. This time, Jolie Pitt had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed. She describes her process of educating herself and making the decisions she has made. She talks about other women and other options. It is yet another humanitarian act.
Pitt flew to her side from France hours after she told him about the test. Swoon, swoon.
“The beautiful thing about such moments in life,” Jolie Pitt wrote, “is that there is so much clarity. You know what you live for and what matters.”
The response to her 2013 piece about her mastectomy created such a wave — women worldwide went for genetic testing — it was coined the “Angelina Jolie effect.” This letter is expected to create a similar wave. Go, Angelina! Thank you for using your celebrity to help so many women.
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You know, before I began interviewing A-listers, I had this notion that celebrities were super-human. Their charisma and fame made them important, more significant than the rest of us. Maybe if I got close enough, stardust would sprinkle on me.
With that attitude, it’s no wonder so many celebs feel isolated and slide mentally off the deep end. Being too long on a pedestal can make a person feel like a freak, longing to be “normal.” It’s safe to assume that all people crave true-blue friends, not sycophants asking for favors and funds toward their next project.
I often see Sarah Jessica Parker walking with her kids in Greenwich Village, paparazzi two blocks ahead staking out the spot for the money shot — the perfect Getty image. The kids cry and cover their faces. The cameramen couldn’t care less and view celebs as public property.
The delusional layperson’s attitude toward stars is stalker-ish or, at the very least, insensitive. Have you ever seen Jimmy Kimmel’s “Mean Tweets?” Celebrities read vicious tweets a la TMZ-style or In Touch magazine. It’s hilarious, but creepy.
Movie stars often tell me they don’t read reviews. The up-and-coming, soon-to-be-somebody do, but seasoned stars don’t want that noise in their head — niggling doubts eating wormholes in their confidence.
We love Alec Baldwin until we hate him. When Sean Penn, in “The Gunman,” ripples his muscles better than most 20-year-olds, he’s mocked for vanity and a midlife crisis. Madonna is praised for her bod and mocked for it.
When stars are too successful, insecure masses get jealous and spiteful. Photos run rampant on Instagram. Captions say they wear the worst fashions. God forbid a star puts on weight or loses too much. The headlines say they’re pregnant or having an anorexia breakdown. Even their acts of charity are ridiculed and labeled publicity stunts. When a celebrity is hit by life in a way that leaves them vulnerable, nasty fans circle like buzzards.
Thankfully, there are also fans who appreciate it when insanely successful people take time out to give back to the world. I wouldn’t want Jolie’s “glamorous” life. I don’t want to parent one kid, much less six. I don’t want to travel the world for work. I don’t want to be ridiculed by the press. And I’d never have the energy to write, direct, act in films while visiting double digits of countries as a humanitarian spokesperson. Did you know the Jolie Pitts have donated millions to charities? In just one year, they gave more than $8 million.
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In the wildfire of press this week about Jolie Pitt’s letter in the Times, one quote stood out to me. Dr. Robert DeBernardo, a gynecologic oncologist at the Cleveland Clinic’s Ob/Gyn & Women’s Health Institute said, “My hat is off to her. She is doing a lot of good for women worldwide by raising awareness of BRCA testing and options women have.”
My hat is off to her, too. We should all be so generous of spirit.
Dorri Olds is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.