Charlize Theron is many things: an accomplished actor, an intelligent force, a statuesque beauty, a charity powerhouse, a mother to five-year-old son Jackson, a United Nations Messenger of Peace, and somebody committed to creating a better world in her native South Africa while living in her adopted home of America. In her own words, women can be complex and contradictory, something she doesn’t shy away from in her work both on and off the screen. Having witnessed domestic violence first-hand growing up in South Africa – her mother shot and killed her father in self-defence – she is outspoken on the subject, as well as her belief that HIV can be eradicated, something she is aiming for through her charity, Africa Outreach.
Prior to the launch of her latest campaign for Dior’s fragrance J’Adore, which she has fronted for the past ten years, and before shooting in South Africa opposite Javier Bardem and directed by her partner, Sean Penn, Theron spoke to WISH in Paris about her passions and peeves, and all that makes up a modern woman. You turn 40 next year – how do you feel about that? Oh, alright! I turned 39 in August. And I’ve enjoyed it. Maybe 50 will be different, but not to sound all egotistical, I like looking in the mirror. And I look at these campaigns we do and I feel like that’s me. It's not some kind of mechanised, plastic version of me. What makes you say yes or no to a project? There’s no recipe to it. If you treat it that way you’ll be disappointed. There’s no way I could have foreseen this J'Adore campaign for example. And there’s no way that I could have foreseen making movies like or
For me, what’s been really great is the mystery – not knowing how I’m going to respond to the roles or projects I’m offered. When you get too stuck in your ways you miss opportunities that come your way. Sometimes you simply need to take a leap of faith instead of trying to making sense of it all. What do you enjoy most about your work? To simplify, I get to do something that I really love. I get to do something that doesn’t feel like a job. I think that’s the greatest gift that you can have. It doesn’t mean that you’re not working and it certainly doesn't mean you’re not working hard, but it doesn’t feel like torture. What appeals to you about the long-running J’Adore campaigns? The idea that we have to keep asking questions and that we don’t necessarily have all the answers. I like that exploration of what the J’Adore woman is, or just what a woman is, and feel it's something that will continue to evolve for Dior. It's actually looking at women for what they are – all their complexities and all their flaws and all their layers and all their beauty and all of their contradictions. That part of it really interests me and I think it's made a good marriage between how I feel about being a woman and being a part of the campaign. I don’t know if I could have done this if there wasn’t that grander element to it. Are you very involved in the process? Yeah, right from the beginning. There was no need for me to do anything like this unless I felt there was going to be an element of creativity; being part of the creation of something. I’m so lucky in my life to have a job that really utilises so much of who I am. The only reason for me to do this was if there was really something significant to say; to be part of something greater than simply a one-dimensional beauty campaign. What are the defining characteristics of the J’Adore woman? A bit like life, I think it's really about the journey. It’s not about labelling or taking the easy road – which I think a lot of beauty campaigns do – and saying, ‘beauty is this’, ‘beauty is that’, ‘if you’re this, you’re beautiful’, ‘if you’re that, you’re beautiful’. I believe there’s something incredibly brave about Dior taking the risk of presenting a woman who goes against luxury, at least at first. So we start the campaign with her stripping off beautiful jewellery and a beautiful Dior dress and walking over it. I mean, what other fashion house would allow that? They’d say you can’t do that, you can’t step over a couture dress, that’s disrespectful. But Dior did it. Now it's evolved to what it is today, to where she doesn’t have to step over the dress. She can actually wear a gold, abundant dress with sequins, high heels and all the trimmings and see what the future holds for her.