Angelina Jolie's may be raising her daughters in the public spotlight, but she's constantly reminding them that there's a whole lot more important in life than a red carpet. In the latest cover story for Elle, the actress and humanitarian said she encourages her children to follow in her footsteps with a life of service and solidarity with other women. "I tell my daughters, 'What sets you apart is what you are willing to do for others,'" she told the magazine. "'Anyone can put on a dress and makeup. It’s your mind that will define you. Find out who you are, what you think, and what you stand for. And fight for others to have those same freedoms. A life of service is worth living.'"
Jolie shared this advice as part of a joint interview with former Secretary of State John Kerry, during which they discussed women's rights, sexual violence, climate change, war, and the importance of International Women's Day (March 8). Earlier in the conversation, she gave readers an insight into what prompted her calling as a humanitarian. "I was quite anti-politics when I was young," she shared. "I started working on human-rights issues and meeting refugees and survivors mostly because I wanted to learn. I also had this romantic idea that I would get my boots on and be a humanitarian."
"But at a certain point, you realize that’s not enough," she added. "You have to find the root of the problem. And that, so often, brings you back to the law and politics. For instance, I kept meeting refugees who were survivors of systematic rape—rape used as a weapon. Yet there were virtually no convictions. It fired me up to start working with governments and lawmakers. When it comes down to it, we still treat violence against women as a lesser crime."
To combat this widespread belief, Jolie and Kerry agreed that existing laws and misconceptions will have to be corrected. "When I was a young prosecutor, a lot of people didn’t believe that violence against women was a crime," Kerry said. "We tried to chip away at that old thinking by expanding counseling programs for rape victims and hiring and promoting more women prosecutors."
"That’s exactly it: changing thinking as well as laws," Jolie added. "I think of how hard women fought to get us to where we are today. Everything counts, from the way you hold yourself in your daily life and educate yourself on your own rights, to solidarity with other women around the world."
This sense of solidarity is evident in how the Oscar winner and UNHCR special envoy encourages her kids to accompany her on humanitarian missions around the world. In January, two of her children, Zahara and Shiloh, asked if they could go with her to a camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan. “[My daughters] spent time today speaking and playing with children their own age who have been forced from their homes, whose family members have been killed or have disappeared, and who are struggling with trauma and illness,” she said at a news conference then, “but who at the end of the day are just children, with the same hopes and rights as children in any other nation.”