Angelina Jolie’s latest projects are very close to her heart. First, her new campaign as the face of Mon Guerlain is linked to memories of her beloved mother Marcheline, while her new film First They Killed My Father is closely tied to her son Maddox’s heritage. Angelina sat down exclusively with HELLO! to talk about her passion her latest work and open up about the many roles she has, her health and plans for the future.
You are a mother, Oscar winning actress, director and filmmaker and Special Envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – but you’ve never aligned yourself to a beauty brand before. Why Guerlain?
"Because it was a brand my mother loved, and that I knew from my childhood. It spoke to her, as it does to me, of beauty, history and quality. It's the oldest perfume house in the world, from France, a country I love and feel to connected to and spend time in. As I talked to Guerlain about the artistry they devote to the making of the perfume and the way they work in communities, sourcing their ingredients, the pieces came together and I felt we were a match."
Tell me more about the special Guerlain product that your mother used?
"My mother was a very natural woman. She never spoiled herself, never wore make-up, and wore modest jewelry, but she always had a few special items for when she wanted to feel like a lady. One of those special items – and I remember it because it seemed so elegant – was her Guerlain powder (Ladies in All Climates). I think it speaks of all women having those few special things that make them feel feminine. And so when I was a little girl, I would associate Guerlain with that."
Perfume is often known as 'the invisible tattoo.' Do you identify with this and do you relish the fact that your own tattoos are so beautifully shown in the campaign?
"The tattoos being shown was not a plan, but I was pleased they didn't try to hide them, or turn me into someone I am not."
I understand you had a meeting of minds when you met with the perfumer Thierry Wasser, who created Mon Guerlain.
"We met in Cambodia and spoke about wanting to create something that would be elegant – like Guerlain – and something that I could truly stand by. I needed to be sure it was a scent I loved, or I would not encourage other women to buy it."
Would you consider your beauty regime to be high or low maintenance and why?
"Low. Six kids and no time."
What would you describe as your 'signature makeup'?
"Under eye concealer to cover dark circles."
What would I always find in your handbag?
"Pens, a notebook and random things my kids drop in."
'The sound of my daughter Zahara's laugh makes me happy,' Angelina revealed. 'She is one of those people who laughs with her whole body. Completely open and full of joy' Photo: Alexei Hay for Guerlain
You seem fearless to many women and inspire so many – how do you feel about the aging process and what has informed that attitude?
"Maybe because my last decade has included many health scares and a focus on raising children, I am simply happy to be healthy, and above all that the children are healthy. There is nothing else to fear. It makes life clear."
You are a champion for a global community. Do you believe that we need to champion and celebrate a more diverse vision of beauty?
"Of course. Our diversity is our strength. What a dull and pointless life it would be if everyone was the same."
What do you love about the new scent?
"I love the lavender and jasmine mixed with the sandalwood. I don't like perfumes that are too strong or sweet. I like a fragrance that is earthy and sensual and can be worn at any time."
I hear that when he decided that he wanted to work with you, Laurent Boillot, President of Guerlain, traveled all the way to Cambodia where you were filming to find you.
"I do remember that the day I day I met Laurent in Cambodia, I don't think I had ever been more dirty or smelled more unappealing. We met while I was directing First They Killed My Father, after a day on set in the field, and I reeked of dirt and bug spray. We had a really good laugh trying to decipher the different scents and subtleties of the different notes within the perfume, all the while competing with my jungle-strength bug spray."
— Guerlain (@Guerlain) February 27, 2017
Throughout your career as an actress you have played many different types of women and are the epitome of female strength and glamour. What do you think being feminine means in a modern word?
"I think it is personal to every woman. So many women I know are so completely different from each other. My daughters are. There is no simple description. It is that mystery and diversity. But I suppose femininity is that softer side of ourselves, that we all like to indulge at times."
The campaign for Mon Guerlain is beautiful and was shot in the South of France. Was this important to you?
"It felt natural. It is a region we love in my family and that we have a history with, and it is where Guerlain sources many of their ingredients, including the lavender in Mon Guerlain."
The very next day you gave a speech at the UN Peacekeeping Defense Ministerial in London and the day after you traveled with UNHCR to the Azraq refugee camp in Jordan. What drives and inspires you to work so hard?
"As it has been in my life for many years, one feeds the other. It is a joy to be an artist but it doesn't mean very much unless that work is somehow useful in some way and contributes to others. I am very fortunate that I have the ability to be able to do creative work that can in turn fund development programs and help other people, because just being creative or just making money adds up to a very empty life if it has no purpose."
Guerlain works diligently to ensure that its raw materials are sustainable. Is this something that matters to you?
"Yes of course, it matters to me very much. I discussed this with Guerlain at length, and I did check on the company and their commitment to sustainable development before agreeing to work with them. I am impressed by their strong sense of responsibility towards the communities they work with and towards the environment."
You have donated your entire salary from the campaign to charity. Can you please tell us about the work of your foundation?
"It's work is inspired by our children, and their connections to particular countries. We visit the projects together, and the foundation is growing with them. It is dedicated to education, health and the environment. It began 13 years ago with a TB program in Cambodia, which grew into a program in Ethiopia treating and rehabilitating children and teens with TB. In Namibia our major focus is on conservation and education, funding a wildlife sanctuary, animal rescue program, and healthcare and education for local communities. We are gradually expanding but our focus is very much on enabling local people to develop their own communities and future as well as on rights, particularly for women and children."
You often share your journey with HELLO! and always donate all of your fees to charity. Why it is so meaningful to you?
"The funds will be focused on continuing the work our family has been involved in for years, in Asia and Africa, in [my children] Maddox, Shiloh, Zahara and Pax's countries of birth. We will help more children get an education. We will provide funds for medical equipment and medicine for two clinics that focus on TB and Aids. We will complete the building of a wildlife sanctuary in Namibia for rhinos and elephants. These and many other projects over the years to come are connected. You cannot do only education in an area with no healthcare. Or focus on environment without understanding how the local population is in need, and what are alternative ways to make a living that support not destroy the environment."
You are about to embark on a promotional tour of your film First They Killed My Father, a subject matter that has resonance and personal meaning for you. Tell us a little more about it, and if you enjoy the directing process?
"I felt honored every day for the opportunity to tell the story of Loung Ung and the Cambodian experience during the years of the Khmer Rouge. My sons worked on the film with me, and that made it even more meaningful. Especially as the process of Mad helping in the production was a hands-on education for him in learning more about his birth country. He has a home there and visits to support our Foundation work whenever he can, but it was a very different experience for us to create together, and to become a family with the local crew as we pulled together to tell the story."
It's about the Cambodian genocide, and I hear you worked directly with survivors?
"Most of the crew were survivors of the war. Many were children who lost their family members. We had a therapist on set to help as the scenes brought up real memory and pain. The crew and cast were very brave and emotionally generous. I hope will be appreciated by all, but it was made for Cambodia and by Cambodians. It is why it is not made to be a hard history lesson, but an experience of war through the eyes of a child. Conveying her love of her family and her connection to her country. Above all, her resilience and what made her the extraordinary woman she is today."
What would you like your life to be like in ten years time?
"I imagine I will spend my days traveling from country to country to visit our children, who I expect will live around the world. I think some will be interested in the international work I do, and I would love to partner with them as I continue. I imagine I will be less involved in film and be focused more on family and foreign affairs."
What makes you truly happy?
"The sound of Zahara's laugh. She is one of those people who laughs with her whole body. Completely open and full of joy."
Interview: Nadine Baggott
Photos: Alexei Hay for Guerlain
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