By Caroline Sawtelle
On the surface, many view Charlize Theron as a white, all-American, well-known actor. However, her true background spans much deeper than what many see on the surface. Hidden diversity in Hollywood is more prevalent than many recognize and she holds a plethora of hidden diversity within her identity.
Theron was born and raised in South Africa. She comes from a rural town called Benoni. Growing up with her Afrikaner family in this town, the actor was raised speaking her native language of Afrikaans. Theron’s family originates from Dutch, French and German roots.
Theron eventually moved to the United States in 1994 at only 18 to pursue her career in acting. She started off in Hollywood with extremely humble beginnings, living off scraps and fighting to make it in such a competitive industry. However, with her drive, determination and willpower, Theron prevailed. Now she can be seen in a multitude of films with a variety of roles.
Theron and her cultural fluidity
Theron is a Third Culture Adult (TCA) because of her move to the United States and immersion in U.S. culture after her formative years at the age of 18. Her identity had already been established with her South African culture, but she immigrated to the U.S. in order to pursue her career as an actor, which she now does.
Her cultural mobility and activism
While Theron is now a naturalized U.S. citizen, the star still holds her citizenship in her native country of South Africa — straddling two homes. This attachment to both countries holds true in Theron’s work. She is also an activist for her home country, especially focusing on the HIV/AIDS crisis among youth in South Africa. She even has her own foundation to help this cause called the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project (CTAOP). This activism continues to tie her to her original home and Theron uses her successes to improve some of the most pressing issues facing South Africa.
Theron’s hidden diversity as an actor
Being a white individual in the United States, she is generally viewed to be an English-speaking, U.S.-born actor.
While interviewing one longtime Charlize Theron fan, Mindy Sawtelle, on her knowledge surrounding the star’s cultural background, Sawtelle explains how she “never knew she was from South Africa,” adding: “I know she has some sort of an accent, but I don’t think I would ever assume it was from South Africa — maybe Australian or New Zealand,” and after discussing her native language, exclaiming “I would never guess she spoke Afrikaans fluently! That is really incredible.”
Although not many outsiders or fans know of her background, Theron is proud of her roots. The interview included below showcases this hidden diversity by discussing with a fan her place of origin and seeing the shock and naivety of the fan. Theron continues to hold her South African roots close to her identity and role as an actor and an activist.