The post previous to this one was about Jennifer Lopez who, back in the early 2000s, was the entertainer most closely associated with a very 2000s word – multihyphenate. She was singing and dancing and acting and she had a clothing line and, and, and, and, and. Everyone is a multihyphenate now, but back then, it was JLo who really introduced that word to the wider culture.
I mention this because in her new interview with WSJ., Angelina Jolie for the first time – at least that I remember – is referring to herself as a multihyphenate. Here’s how she put it:
“I’m very hyphenated.”
And she’s not wrong. She’s an actor, she’s a writer, director, philanthropist, professor, author, and now she’s a fashion designer. Atelier Jolie opens today in New York City which why the WSJ. feature dropped yesterday.
This isn’t new, of course. Angelina has long been a multihyphenate, it’s just interesting to hear her use the term that way in a discussion about how she engages with her celebrity. Because, like JLo, Angelina is in a very small cohort of women who are very, very, very famous, and have been for quite some time, and as she says:
“I’ve just been around so long, and there’s been everything said.”
And this is true, everything HAS been said, so everyone thinks they know her. But of course we don’t really know her. Or, as she puts it, and to borrow again from JLo, we perhaps only want to know her as she was… then. And not as she is… now.
“The public—meaning, in her case, essentially the entire outside world—has given her a career, she says. “They’ve also chosen how they want you. Since I was young, people liked the part of me that’s pretty tough and maybe a bit wild—that’s the part that I think people enjoy,” she says. “I’m not the one [who] you want to hear about my pain or my sadness. You know, that’s not entertaining.”
But for almost a decade now, there has been pain and sadness. In almost all of her interviews, when she gives them, she talks about healing, and how she and her children have been moving through a process of healing. Healing, by the way, is not linear, it’s often not quick, and there’s also not one way to do it. She’s right, though, when she says that people don’t want to hear this from her. They show up in my inbox every time she’s profiled in a magazine, all like “how many times do we have to listen to her talking about the past and the pain etc etc. Get over it”. I’ll probably get a few of those messages today. Which tells you how far we still have to go when we’re talking about mental health and recovery and trauma and, once again, the unrealistic expectations we put on women to be exactly the right combination of strong and vulnerable – even though whatever that combination is remains a mystery. It’s like I said earlier in my JLo post: you’re either too much or not enough.
As Angelina tells WSJ., Atelier Jolie is her effort to reconnect with her creative spirit while also bridging the project with her other philanthropic priorities. And even though some of the other quotes in the piece, about her children and her relationships, are making bigger headlines, for me the comment that jumped out the most was what she said about what success might look like – as an entrepreneur who is just launching a new initiative, saying this, at least to me, in WSJ., is kinda radical:
“I’ll probably lose money, maybe even for a while. If I can eventually put into practice some things that I think are improvements and I just break even, that’s a huge victory.”
Lose money?! Breaking even would be a victory?
Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I find this refreshing because we’ve seen, over the last few years, the rise and fall of so many tech grifters. Like Elizabeth Holmes and more recently Sam Bankman-Fried, people who come in with all kinds of hype and taking big swings and making big promises only to crash and burn. Now here’s Angelina telling WSJ. on the even of the launch of her fashion collective that she’ll “probably lose money”….which… is realistic! A lot of businesses lose money at the start! Of course you do. You don’t have clients yet! You’ve just sunk all kinds of cash into the preparation of it and the marketing and the hiring etc, that’s how it’s supposed to work and then you keep building. But that’s not the sales pitch that comes out of these environments, and certainly not the sales pitch that comes out of a blowhard town like Hollywood. And Angelina, who was born and raised there, would know about that. There are a couple of times in this WSJ. interview where she alludes to the pretention of Hollywood and how it’s never appealed to her.
That’s ironic too. Because, of course, Angelina is a classic Hollywood Movie Star, the kind they just don’t make anymore. But maybe that’s why she’s so enduring, and alluring, and still so enigmatic. I mean look at her, modelling her own clothes (this is a GREAT jacket) – there’s only one Angelina Jolie.