Charlize Theron, modern glamour star and model
Charlize Theron is a South African American actress, model and Vogue cover girl.
Born in Benoni near Johannesburg, South Africa in 1975, Theron grew up on her family’s farm with her parents Gerba Maritz and Charles Theron.
She attended a local primary school where she has said she did not feel she fitted in. “I wore really nerdy glasses because I was blind as could be and the boys didn’t like [me],” she told People magazine in 2011. “I actually got a lot of the mean girl stuff from the ages of 7 to 12. I was pretty much a mess in primary school.”
A talented ballet dancer, she attended the National School of the Arts in Johannesburg aged 13.
In 1991, when she was 15, her alcoholic father was shot dead by her mother in an act of self-defence. Her mother never faced any charges for the shooting.
In the same year, Theron won a local modelling competition which resulted in her moving to Milan to work. However, her focus remained on ballet. “Even though I was modelling, I always thought of myself as a dancer. I had the capability to be a bigger model than I was. They were always telling me, ‘Lose five pounds and you’ll be a supermodel.’ But I saw modelling like waitressing – it was a way to pay for another career, and that career was dance,” she told the New York Times in 2008.
Aged 19 she moved to New York where she attended the Joffrey Ballet School, until a knee injury meant she had to abandon her dream of becoming a professional dancer. “I realised I couldn’t dance anymore, and I went into a major depression. My mom came over from South Africa and said, ‘Either you figure out what to do next or you come home, because you can sulk in South Africa,’” she told the New York Times in 2008.
Theron decided to pursue a career in acting following her injury. Her mother gave her a one-way ticket to Los Angeles, and Theron set about getting work. She was discovered by her first agent, John Crosby, in a Hollywood Boulevard bank whilst having an argument over a cheque with one of the tellers.
She initially struggled to gain parts, with her South African accent becoming an obstacle. “I never really spoke English without a South African accent, so I had to fundamentally relearn English as an American,” she told the New York Times in 2008. “Casting agents told me, ‘If you don’t learn to speak English, it’s not going to happen.’ To this day, all my friends have the job of correcting me.”
Theron won her first significant role in the 1997 film The Devil’s Advocate, and main parts in box offices successes Mighty Joe Young and The Cider House Rules followed soon after.
She became recognised worldwide in 2003 following her role as Aileen Wuornos in Monster. Her portrayal of the real-life lesbian serial killer won her not only critical acclaim but the Oscar and a Golden Globe awards for Best Actress. The part required Theron to gain 40 pounds and wear heavy prosthetics, transforming her into the troubled Wuornos, who was executed in 2002. The role propelled Theron to international fame and saw her become one of Hollywood’s highest paid actresses.
The following year, she became the face of the Christian Dior perfume J’adore, appearing in print and television advertisements worldwide. As of 2012, she remains in this role.
Theron is an active member of PETA, and in 2004 she appeared in an advert for the organisation alongside her pet dog.
In 2007, she founded the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project (CTAOP) which works to keep African children safe from HIV/AIDS. In December 2009, CTAOP and Toms shoes partnered to create a limited edition unisex shoe. The shoe was made from vegan materials and inspired by the African baobab tree, the silhouette of which was embroidered on blue and orange canvas. Ten-thousand pairs were given to destitute children, and a portion of the proceeds went to CTAOP.
It was announced in March 2012 that Theron had adopted an African-American boy named Jackson. In a statement to Us Weekly, her representative said: “Charlize Theron has adopted a child. She is the proud mom of a healthy baby boy named Jackson.”
Theron appeared on the May 2012 cover of British Vogue. In the accompanying issue she spoke of her new role as mother. “I’ve always been very honest in saying I wanted a family,” she said.
She will next appear as Queen Ravenna in Snow White and the Huntsman.