I’ve never been a huge fan of Angelina Jolie. It’s not that I dislike her at all, and have always thought her beautiful, but she’s never been an actress that I have had a particular affection for.
However, my admiration for her has risen ten-fold in the last month since her very brave admission that she has undergone a double mastectomy. Jolie made the decision to have the preventative surgery after finding out that she carries a mutation of the BRCA1 gene which sharply increases her risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
"My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in the case of each woman," Jolie has written. "Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could. I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy."
Last weekend, Jolie appeared in public for the first time since her surgery, when she appeared alongside long term partner Brad Pitt at the UK premiere of his new film. She looked as stunning as ever and talked openly to the media about how great she’s feeling and how she’s pleased that her admission has opened up the talk about women’s health and the issues surrounding breast and ovarian cancer. And that of course is why I now admire Jolie so much - because she is using her celebrity status to truly inspire and help women across the world who might be facing similar health problems.
I’m sure I’m not alone in that I teach my little girl that fame should only be desired and achieved on the back of talent and hard work. But unfortunately in today’s society there is a glut of completely talentless individuals who want fame for fame’s sake and for purely selfish reasons, and sadly some of them manage to achieve it. And it is often these people who we see taking up the space on the front pages as they become famous, and even more so when they fall from grace (if they indeed had any grace before their fall). And it can be very easy to get caught up in that popular media sport of ritual annihilation once their celebrity moment has passed.
And so it is very inspiring to see Angelina Jolie on the front pages. To see an actress and celebrity truly using her fame for some good. Of course she is already well known for her humanitarian work, but I think her admission about her surgery is more powerful than any other charity work she has undertaken, because she is speaking directly to half of the population. She is telling women across the world, that absolutely anyone can be affected by breast and ovarian cancer. That although it is a terrifying illness, sometimes preventative measures can be used to dramatically reduce the likelihood of getting these awful diseases. And if she can help other women come to terms with a difficult decision like this - by talking honestly and openly about it, and by turning up on the red carpet looking as beautiful and radiant as ever - then she has truly done an amazing thing and I hugely admire her for it. I wish all celebrities used their fame in such an admirable, courageous and positive way.
NOTE TO SELF: Celebrity really doesn’t have to be selfish.