Charlize Theron is fearless and fabulous at 41.
By Nadine Bubeck
She’s a South African-American bombshell, known for an enticing, magnetic on-air charisma and charm. Charlize Theron is an all-around winner, having scored Academy Awards, Golden Globes, and Screen Actor Guild Awards. The adoptive mother of two resides in Los Angeles, balancing Hollywood and motherhood to perfection. And her upbringing comes straight from a movie.
Theron was born in Benoni, in the then Transvaal Province of South Africa. She was an only child of Dutch, French, and German decent, and grew up on her parents’ farm near Johannesburg.
According to reports, in 1991, her father, an alleged alcoholic, physically attacked her mother and threatened their family while drunk. As a result, her mother shot and killed him. She didn’t face charges because the killing was deemed self-defense.
When asked about the incident, Theron commented: “I was always Mama’s girl, and I always felt like her protector.”
After admittedly not “fitting in” in primary school, Theron was sent to boarding school and began her studies at the National School of the Arts in Johannesburg. While being groomed in English, her first language was Afrikaans.
Theron was born with the stars on her side; at 16 years old, she scored a modeling contract and moved to Milan, Italy, with her mom. She spent a year living a little girl’s dream: modeling throughout Europe before moving to New York City. There, she pursued ballet, but that career was cut short due to injury.
As recalled in 2008: “I went to New York for three days to model, and then I spent a winter in New York in a friend’s windowless basement apartment. I was broke, I was taking class at the Joffrey Ballet, and my knees gave out. I realized I couldn’t dance anymore, and I went into a major depression My mom came over from South Africa and said, ‘Either you figure out what to do next or you come home, because you can sulk in South Africa’.”
Well put, mama. Theron did not choose the latter.
At 19, Charlize’s mom bought her a one-way ticket to La-La land, and apparently Hollywood had their eyes on the young blond. One day, she went to a bank to cash a check her mother had sent to help with rent, and when the teller refused to cash it, Theron threw a fit. Low and behold, talent agent John Crosby had been waiting behind her, gave Theron a business card, and subsequently introduced her to casting agents. While Crosby was later fired, he was her first encounter with gaining stardom.
After a few months in Los Angeles, Charlize made her film debut with a non-speaking role in Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest, followed by her first speaking role (1996) in 2 Days in the Valley. Bigger roles then trickled in, as her career exploded in hits like The Devil’s Advocate (1997), Mighty Joe Young (1998) and The Cider House Rules (1999). She was deemed “White Hot Venus” as cover model in the January 1999 issue of Vanity Fair, and also appeared in Playboy.
The year 2000 was a busy one for the booming actress––she starred in: Reindeer Games, The Yards, The Legend of Bagger Vance, Men of Honor, and Sweet November. She quickly became Hollywood’s “it girl” of the time.
In 2003, Charlize scored a role that gained her awards and genuine notoriety; Monster. Film critic Roger Ebert called it “One of the greatest performances in the history of cinema.”
She starred as a serial killer, resulting in being the first South African to win an Oscar for Best Actress. And in 2006, she made the list of the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood.
On fame, Theron was quoted saying: “I don’t believe in charmed lives. I think that tragedy is part of the lesson you learn to lift yourself up, to pick yourself up, and to move on.”
Stardom and success clearly followed Charlize, because she went on to win a Primetime Emmy for her work in the HBO film The Life and Death of Peter Sellers. She also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and did voiceover work in the Aeon Flux video game. Her diverse career speaks for itself: a farm girl turned talented, rich, famous, and fabulous.
But another philanthropic side of Charlize was destined to be fulfilled. In 2008, the was asked to be a UN Messenger of Peace by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. This, thanks to her “Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project” (CTAOP), an effort to support African youth in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The project is committed to supporting community-engaged organizations that address the key drivers of AIDS, and although the geographic scope of CTAOP is Sub-Saharan Africa, the primary concentration has mostly been Charlize’s home country of South Africa.
She has also shared quite a vocal voice in women’s rights, pro-choice rallies, and is an active member of PETA. In addition, she’s a strong supporter of same-sex marriage, publicly stating she wouldn’t tie the knot until same-sex marriage is legal in the United States.
But, of course, her most recent most important role has been morphing into motherhood. Theron adopted a boy in 2012, and in 2015, a little girl.
“I live a very simple life. I don’t have to make these giant movies. I don’t have a yacht or a private plane. As long as I can maintain this life, which is pretty low-maintenance and simple, then all of a sudden you don’t have to worry about all that stuff. It’s such a blessed place to be in. I don’t have to take a job to pay a mortgage on a house that I can’t afford. My life comes first, then my job. I’m incredibly lucky to be in a position where I don’t have to work all the time to live.”
With modeling, acting, philanthropy, and motherhood on her resume, Charlize has also gained recognition with international endorsements. You’ve seen the commercials for Christian Dior. Yep, that’s your multi-million-dollar success story, Ms. Charlize Theron.