Tattooed rebel, red carpet queen, goodwill ambassador and anti-cancer warrior: Angelina Jolie is a silver screen beauty with convictions to match, and a record of taking tough decisions without looking back. After a decade in the Hollywood spotlight as one half of the “Brangelina” celebrity couple, the 41-year-old filed this week for divorce from Brad Pitt, it emerged Tuesday.
The split opens a new chapter for the thrice-married mother of six — whose roller-coaster life has taken her from movie star glory to refugee camps in Africa, to a role as an outspoken champion of women’s health.
Jolie was propelled to stardom with her role in 1999’s “Girl, Interrupted,” taking home a best supporting actress Oscar for her portrayal of a rebellious woman in a mental institution.
She went on to play everything from a fairy tale villain (“Maleficent”) to a sexy video game heroine (“Lara Croft: Tomb Raider”) to the widow of murdered American journalist Daniel Pearl (“A Mighty Heart”).
Jolie once flaunted a decidedly punk sensibility, scandalizing the public with declarations of bisexuality and quirky behavior such as wearing a vial of actor Billy Bob Thornton’s blood around her neck during their 2000-2003 marriage.
Her relationship with Pitt became the stuff of speculation in 2004 after they were seen looking cozy on the set of “Mr. & Mrs. Smith.” Pitt announced his split from “Friends” star Jennifer Aniston the following year — and “Brangelina” was born.
The megastars married in France in August 2014 after living together for several years, and have six children together, three of whom are adopted. But Jolie is now better known for her humanitarian work than her tabloid-ready comments. For several years she served as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
In 2012, she was promoted to special envoy and has visited refugees around the world, from Syria to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. Made an honorary dame by Queen Elizabeth II, she has been a vocal advocate for victims of sexual violence in war zones, co-hosting a global summit on conflict rape in London.
Jolie is also one of the world’s most visible advocates in the battle against cancer, having undergone a double mastectomy and removal of her ovaries and fallopian tubes to prevent an aggressive form of the disease that killed her mother, grandmother and aunt.
– Decision to go public –
In both cases, Jolie publicized her surgeries, triggering a global discussion about the pros and cons of the procedures as a preventative measure. Jolie said she made the decision to go public so that other women could learn from her story.
It was with her children in mind that Jolie decided to undergo the surgeries. “I can tell my children they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer,” the actress wrote in the Times after her mastectomy in 2013. “They know that I love them and will do anything to be with them as long as I can.”
Her father is Oscar winner Jon Voight, hailed as one of the finest actors of his generation, who rose to fame after bravura performances in now classic movies like “Midnight Cowboy,” “Deliverance” and the Vietnam drama “Coming Home,” for which he won his Academy Award.
Her mother was an actress who appeared in US television series, but abandoned her film career to raise her two children.
On the other side of the camera lens, Jolie made her directorial debut in 2011 with “In the Land of Blood and Honey,” an unflinching drama about rape as a weapon in wartime Bosnia, saying she hoped to use cinema as a force for reconciliation. Jolie was married twice before, to actors Jonny Lee Miller and Thornton.