At first glance many may think that Natalie Portman is just another typical Hollywood actress, but when you look at the person behind the image, perceptions immediately change.
Natalie Portman was born in Jerusalem, Israel on June 9, 1981 to Avner (a fertility specialist) and Shelley (a full time homemaker). At the age of three she moved to Washington but soon relocated to Syosset, New York, where she spent the rest of her childhood. She concentrated on high school in Syosset, where she was a straight-A student. In 2003 she graduated from Harvard, where she studied Psychology and is currently pursuing graduate studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
At the age of 11 she was spotted by an agent searching for a child model, which started off her acting career. Six months later at age 12, she debuted in the critically acclaimed film Léon (1994), directed by Luc Besson. Portman became a leading lady when she landed the role of Queen/Senator Amidala for Star Wars Episode I, II, and III. This helped her win roles in such films as Anywhere But Here (1999), Where the Heart Is (2000), Garden State (2003), and Closer (2004).
Natalie has been a strict vegetarian since she was 9, after seeing a demonstration of laser surgery on a chicken at a medical conference with her father. She does not eat meat of any kind but does eat eggs and drinks at least one glass of skim milk every day. She avoids gelatin and cheeses that contain rennet (a milk-curdling enzyme taken from the stomach of small farm animals like calves or sheep). “I’ve been a vegetarian since I was about nine. I just feel like you can’t make a hierarchy among different beings in the value of life. Obviously, I don’t take that too far. If I had to decide between saving an ant and a person, I’d certainly save the person.”
While attending Harvard, Natalie discussed being a vegetarian in college: “I definitely gained my Freshman 15. I didn’t mind weight so much as I did feeling unhealthy. The dining hall was really messing with me. The vegetarian option was usually, like, tofu in oil sauce, and I really didn’t like anything, so I’d ended up eating the vegetarian meal and the pasta and the peanut butter and jelly. One of the best things to come out of living off campus is I can cook for myself. I’ve been working out more regularly, too. My first two years I’d get extremely depressed in the winter – such bad weather, so much work. I usually run three or four times a week now. Pretty boring, but it’s so worth is. It’s done wonders for my mood.”
Aside from acting, Natalie volunteers for the micro-finance organization FINCA, which gives loans to females in third-world countries, and she's visited Uganda and Guatemala as part of her duties. She says, "There are women my age with 10 kids on a dollar a day, with inadequate food and water and medicine, and everyone is dying of AIDS and malaria. Many of these women are illiterate and have to sign their loan checks with a fingerprint and yet they are running successful businesses, paying their loans back on time and sending their kids to university from the money they make from their businesses. It's humbling." Natalie also helped with the Democratic Presidential Campaign for John Kerry in 2004, demonstrating her support and involvement with American politics. From her pure generosity to her obvious intelligence to her love for animals, Natalie’s natural beauty shines through and is a role model to us all.