Emma Watson – She has been dubbed the emerging Audrey Hepburn of our day, and it’s not hard to see why. Two weeks after the conclusion of the cataclysmic Harry Potter franchise which blasted her to stardom, Emma Watson cut off all of her Hermione hair to shown the world she had more to offer than just Hermione Granger. And show them she did.
Since Harry Potter, Emma Watson has made a long string of movies, deliberately reinventing herself for a wide and wild assortment of genres and character. She has not shied away from anything. From bold, unconventional roles like Nicki in “Bling Ring,” to the celebrated announcement of her role as Belle in Disney’s live-action “Beauty and the Beast,” Emma Watson is unafraid to evolve and try new things.
While other starlets have used scandal or messy break-ups as an arsenal for success, Emma has kept it classy and gained respect with her talent and intelligence. The lucrative success of the Harry Potter franchise made it so that by the time Emma Watson was 18 years old she admitted that she would never have to work again for money. Instead of taking a free pass, Emma Watson went back to school as soon as the last Harry Potter film ended. During May of last year, Emma graduated from Brown with a BA in English literature, a degree she earned while maintaining an active acting career. This value of education translated into trips to Bangladesh and Zambia in an effort to promote education for women around the world.
These humanitarian efforts led her to the role of UN Goodwill Ambassador, launching the HeForShe campaign that garnered the world’s support in the pursuit of gender equality. The campaign went viral and began to change how the world saw feminism. Many male and female celebrities tweeted and shared their support of this campaign, including Taylor Swift.
Although in 2012 the young pop artist had shied away from the term feminist, she shared in an interview with Tout Le Monde En Parle last year how she has changed her stance. Commenting on Emma Watson’s speech, she said, “I wish when I was 12-years-old I had been able to watch a video of my favorite actress explaining in such an intellectual, beautiful, poignant way the definition of feminism. Because I would have understood it. And then earlier on in my life I would have proudly claimed I was a feminist.” This year, the HeForShe campaign has just launched 10x10x10, a pilot initiative to engage governments, corporations, and colleges in continuing the fight for gender equality.
While at a much smaller scale, Emma Watson is also an important advocate for true beauty. Although Emma Watson has graced multiple beauty campaigns, was voted the sexiest woman of 2013, and even won the Elle Style Choice Award last year, she is also anxious to break the illusions of perfection. At the Noah premiere, in a gorgeous Oscar de la Renta dress, she tweeted a reminder to the world, “I did not wake up like this.” Emma Watson has criticized the fashion industry’s unhealthy projections of perfection and in an interview with The Guardian, she describes her excitement for the aging process because women with flaws “are more compelling.” As a global icon, Emma Watson’s example shows women of all ages that intelligence and strength make a woman beautiful.
Perhaps what makes Emma Watson the global icon millennials need, is her allowance for them to watch her face challenges honestly. While normal people don’t have the pressure of becoming successful after ending a 10 year movie franchise, Emma Watson is still a young person seeking to learn, grow, and make a positive impact on the world. In an interview with GQ, Emma Watson spoke of the inadequacy she felt as a Brown student surrounded by brilliant minds and as an actress who never studied acting, yet she completed her degree and has continued to make movies. In her HeForShe speech last year, she acknowledged her lack of qualifications as a Goodwill Ambassador but she firmly stated that the issue was important to her and she has committed. Her achievements are praiseworthy not simply because she accomplished them, but because she has shared important lessons she has learned. Emma Watson is the perfect global icon for millennials because she doesn’t pretend to be one.