THE US$4 Bil­lion Ques­tion

SHE'S STILL ONE OF HOL­LY­WOOD'S BIG­GEST PULLS, ONE OF THE WORLD'S MOST BEAU­TI­FUL PEOPLE, FACE OF A FRENCH FASH­ION ICON AND A HAPPY FAM­ILY WOMAN. AND SHE NEVER EVEN WANTED TO ACT. HERE'S TO JU­LIA ROBERTS – AND THE BEST BACK-UP CA­REER IN MOD­ERN HIS­TORY

Emirates Woman - - Coverstory/Julia Roberts - Writ­ten By Sean Wil­liams

Ju­lia Roberts never wanted to be an ac­tress: her fam­ily treaded the boards and be­sides, she much pre­ferred spend­ing time with wildlife. Sure, she played a mean clar­inet. But band prac­tice aside, Roberts was com­mit­ted to an­i­mals. The self-con­fessed ' coaster' and na­tive of a small town in north­ern Ge­or­gia would never have guessed that less than three decades later she'd be one of Hol­ly­wood's big­gest stars and owner of a glob­ally recog­nised face used to sell one of France's best-loved cos­met­ics brands. No. But it was all to come, af­ter Roberts fig­ured she had "an in­abil­ity to deal with sci­ence on a brainiac kind of level" and slipped into a lu­cra­tive sec­ond ca­reer.

The love for an­i­mals wasn't lost. In 2000 Roberts tripped to cen­tral Asia, where, in the green, reedy steppe of sub-Siberian Mon­go­lia, she shot a doc­u­men­tary on the majesty of the Mon­go­lian mus­tang – Prze­wal­ski's Horse – for PBS. By then she was no longer the boy-shy band camp nerd but a global star, de­spite re­peated pleas that she was still an "ut­terly aver­age to­tal geek". At the turn of the 21st century Ju­lia Roberts was a house­hold name; a Hol­ly­wood heavy­weight and vet­eran of a rock 'n' roll ro­mance-turned-sour.

Aver­age she may have been, but aver­age, come 2000, Roberts most def­i­nitely was not. Hers is a ca­reer that shot up early and just kept on go­ing. "Ju­lia Roberts: that's a movie star," said Kate Winslet once. This is the story of a woman who has be­come a by­word for fame. But, of course, it wasn't al­ways that way.

Ju­lia Roberts was born in Smyrna, a town of 50,000 on the banks of Ge­or­gia's bu­colic Chat­tanoochee River and nes­tled deep in the Bi­ble Belt. Mum and dad, Betty Lou and Wal­ter, were play­wrights and ac­tors who founded a work­shop in the nearby me­trop­o­lis of At­lanta. Roberts' el­der brother (Eric) and younger sis­ter (Lisa) would both go on to forge suc­cess­ful ca­reers in Hol­ly­wood. But de­spite Ju­lia's un­con­cern for act­ing she'd be­come the best-known of the three.

That tra­jec­tory be­gan when she left high school in 1985 and, throw­ing aside her dream of work­ing as a

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