Many think of Natalie Portman in regards to her many roles in big movies like “Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace” or “Thor.” What fans may not realize is Portman is much more than just an A-list celebrity.
Portman has been vocal about many social issues and the importance of education for young girls. Even when she first began acting, she still valued her education more.
Portman was born on June 9, 1981 in Jerusalem, Israel. Her birth name is Natalie Hershlag and she later changed it to Portman when she began acting.
Her mother is from the United States while her father is from Israel. According to an article in moving.com, the two met at Ohio State University in the U.S. Several year later, they married in Israel. When Portman was born, she had dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship.
At three years old, Portman and her family moved back to the U.S. They moved from Washington, DC to Connecticut before settling in Long Island, New York.
At the age of 11, a representative for Revlon cosmetics discovered Portman and urged her to become a model. Biography.com says that Portman found the career to be too mundane and instead focused on acting.
Portman’s years as an actress
Portman got her first acting job in a movie called “The Professional” by Luc Besson in 1994. But her big breakout role came in 1999 in George Lucas’ “Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace.”
Her newfound international recognition from the Star Wars movies didn’t stop her from pursuing a degree. Portman graduated from Harvard University with a degree in Psychology in 2003. And she went back to Israel to attend the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for graduate school.
According to Moving.com, she told Fox News Network that she’d “rather be smart than be a movie star.”
After acting in other films, Portman got her second big break with her role in Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan.” She won an Academy Award for Best Actress and a Golden Globe for her portrayal as Nina the ballerina.
More recently, Portman starred alongside Chris Hemsworth as the female lead in “Thor” and “Thor: The Dark World.” She also received a Golden Globe and Oscar nomination for her role as First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in “Jackie.”
Portman’s passion for activism
Along with being a successful actress, Portman has also been vocal about social and political issues that she cares about.
A blog in openlysecular.org says that Portman is an ambassador for two organizations: Foundation for International Community Assistance International and Free the Children now known as WE Charity.
Foundation for International Community Assistance International’s mission is: “To alleviate poverty through lasting solutions that help people build assets, create jobs and raise their standard of living.”
And WE Charity’s website says that “WE Charity carries the power of WE globally, empowering communities to lift themselves out of poverty through our holistic, sustainable international development model, WE Villages.”
Helping women in STEM
Along with being an ambassador for these two organizations, Portman also partnered with Marvel in 2013 to create the Ultimate Mentor Adventure.
According to Womenandhollywood.com, the Ultimate Mentor Adventure is “a mentor program/contest that gives girls the opportunities to interview women working in science, technology, engineering and math.”
After the interviews, the girls made a five-minute video where they talked about their experiences interviewing the women in STEM. They also said why they love science and what they need to be successful in their own STEM career.
Portman’s character in the “Thor” movies, Jane Foster, an astrophysicist, inspired her to create the contest. After the contest, one winner got a trip to Los Angeles to attend a screening of “Thor: The Dark World.”
Rejecting the 2018 Genesis Prize in Israel
In 2018, Portman won the Genesis Prize and was invited to attend the ceremony in Israel. She declined the invitation.
The Genesis Prize is an “annual one-million-dollar award that celebrates Jewish talent and achievement by honoring individuals for their professional accomplishments, commitment to Jewish values, and contribution to improving the world.”
There was a lot of speculation as to why Portman declined the invitation. A New York Times article, titled “Natalie Portman Backs Out of Israeli Award Ceremony,” says that at first, Portman didn’t put out any statement about her decision. This lead many to believe that she declined because of the deadly protests happening in Israel along the Gaza border.
Eventually, Portman took to Instagram for a statement.
My decision not to attend the Genesis Prize ceremony has been mischaracterized by others. Let me speak for myself. I chose not to attend because I did not want to appear as endorsing Benjamin Netanyahu.
The New York Times article said that Portman’s now-deleted post stirred up a lot of supporters and backlash.
Omar Barghouti, a co-founder of the B.D.S. movement, said in an email to the New York Times, “This latest rebuff to Israeli cultural events and accolades, coming from an Israeli-American superstar, is arguably one of the strongest indicators yet of how toxic the Israel Brand has become, even in some liberal circles in Hollywood.”
Meanwhile, a member of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s party said that Portman should be stripped of her Israeli citizenship. He also called for Israelis to boycott her movies.
Despite all the negative comments, Portman continues to voice her opinions for social and political issues that she finds important.