Humanitarian, director and award-winning actress Angelina Jolie speaks on being female, a mother, and the face of a major French fragrance Mon Guerlain.
What does femininity mean to you?
So many different things. There is not one version of femininity. It means different things at different times and in different places. It can be a certain softness and grace, but it is also women marching or fighting for their rights or the rights of others.
At what age did you feel the most at ease with your femininity?
When I first became a mother, and now. That sense of ease grows and changes with each passing year and each stage in life. For me, it is about learning to accept yourself and what life brings.
You are the spokesperson of French fragrance Mon Guerlain, we often hear about femininity “à la française”, how would you define it?
Classic, refined, understated elegance combined with strength of mind and character. Poise.
How would you explain this outdated idea that femininity fades after 40 whereas men get better with age?
It is just simply not true. Wisdom, understanding, clarity of thought – all the things that come with age – are also beautiful and feminine qualities. I’d like to think we all get better with age, men and women.
Which female lead role has you played that represents femininity?
A Mighty Heart, because Marianne is a woman I admire and learn from. She has overcome so much with strength and grace.
Women have never had to take on so many roles at once: mother, lover, businesswoman etc, how to be everything all at once?
Women have always taken on a lot, and we are prepared to take on much more. It’s in our nature. But we need to remember to take care of ourselves too.
How can a perfume represent femininity?
By lending itself to your every mood, and escaping definition. That is what I love about Mon Guerlain.
How can a woman be truly at ease with her femininity when she is pulled in so many different directions: be beautiful, sexy yet don’t give in to the dictates of fashion and male dominant society?
There is nothing more attractive than someone being fully themselves, without inhibition, in whatever form that takes. 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.
Are femininity and feminism incompatible?
Equality is not about us all being the same, it is about the freedom to make our own choices and live our own lives fully, not at the expense of men, but alongside men. It is not about taking each other down but building each other up. I think it is not said enough how much we need the men in our lives to be strong and capable and the best they can be.
Can we imagine a society where men and women will be equal but where a woman won’t become like a man?
How do we introduce/educate children about feminism?
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. 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 is not what defines them. It is their strength and their example.
What would you like your girls to learn/take from your femininity?
To be themselves, fully. But honestly, they teach me, every single day. They are each so different, yet each in their own way is such a strong character.
If there was one core value you would like your children to transmit to their children, what would it be?
Freedom and kindness.
You’ve been committed for many years, how do you keep your dreams alive?
It’s not always easy. 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.
Guerlain has been working for the last 10 years to protect biodiversity and the planet. What relationship do you have with the environment, ecology, what are you passing down to your children?
We have projects helping to protect the environment in Cambodia and Namibia. In our family, we often talk about how it is all connected – wildlife, the environment, and the wellbeing of people. To protect one you have to protect all. The beautiful thing is that we can each do our part in different ways.