Natalie Portman (Natalie Portman born Natalie Hershlag; Hebrew: June 9, 1981) is an actress with dual American and Israeli citizenship. Her first role was as an orphan taken in by a hitman in the 1994 action film Léon: The Professional, but mainstream success came when she was cast as Padmé Amidala in the Star Wars prequel trilogy (released in 1999, 2002 and 2005). In 1999, she enrolled at Harvard University to study psychology while still working as an actress. She completed her bachelor’s degree in 2003. In 2001, Portman opened in New York City’s Public Theater production of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull. In 2005, Portman won a Golden Globe Award and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the drama Closer. She won a Constellation Award for Best Female Performance and a Saturn Award for Best Actress for her starring role in V for Vendetta (2006). She played leading roles in the historical dramas Goya’s Ghosts (2006) and The Other Boleyn Girl (2008). In May 2008, she served as the youngest member of the 61st Annual Cannes Film Festival jury. Portman’s directorial debut, Eve, opened the 65th Venice International Film Festival’s shorts competition in 2008. Portman directed a segment of the collective film New York, I Love You. Portman is also known for her portrayal as Jane Foster, the love interest of Marvel superhero Thor, in the film adaptation Thor (2011), and its sequel, Thor: The Dark World (2013). In 2010, Portman starred in the psychological thriller Black Swan. Her performance received critical praise and earned her a second Golden Globe Award, the Screen Actors Guild Award, the BAFTA Award, the Broadcast Film Critics Association Award and the Academy Award for Best Actress in 2011.
Portman, who is an advocate for animal rights, has been a vegetarian since childhood. She became a vegan in 2009 after reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals. She does not eat animal products or wear fur, feathers, or leather. “All of my shoes are from Target and Stella McCartney,” she has said. In 2007, she launched her own brand of vegan footwear. During her pregnancy in 2011, Portman went off her vegan diet and returned to vegetarianism.
In 2007, Portman traveled to Rwanda with Jack Hanna, to film the documentary Gorillas on the Brink. Later, at a naming ceremony, Portman christened a baby gorilla Gukina, which means “to play.” Portman has been an advocate of environmental causes since childhood, when she joined an environmental song and dance troupe known as World Patrol Kids. She is also a member of the One Voice movement.
Portman has also supported antipoverty activities. In 2004 and 2005, she traveled to Uganda, Guatemala, and Ecuador as the Ambassador of Hope for FINCA International, an organization that promotes micro-lending to help finance women-owned businesses in developing countries. In an interview conducted backstage at the Live 8 concert in Philadelphia and appearing on the PBS program Foreign Exchange with Fareed Zakaria, she discussed microfinance. Host Fareed Zakaria said that he was “generally wary of celebrities with fashionable causes,” but included the segment with Portman because “she really knew her stuff. In the “Voices” segment of the April 29, 2007, episode of the ABC Sunday morning program This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Portman discussed her work with FINCA and how it can benefit women and children in Third World countries. In fall 2007, she visited several university campuses, including Harvard, USC, UCLA, UC Berkeley, Stanford, Princeton, New York University, and Columbia, to inspire students with the power of microfinance and to encourage them to join the Village Banking Campaign to help families and communities lift themselves out of poverty. Portman is a supporter of the Democratic Party, and in the 2004 presidential race she campaigned for the Democratic nominee, Senator John Kerry. In the 2008 presidential election, Portman supported Senator Hillary Clinton of New York in the Democratic primaries. She later campaigned for the eventual Democratic nominee, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, during the general election. In a 2008 interview, she also stated: “I even like John McCain. I disagree with his war stance—which is a really big deal—but I think he’s a very moral person.”
In 2010, Portman’s activist work and popularity with young people earned her a nomination for VH1’s Do Something Awards, which is dedicated to honoring individuals who do good. In 2011, Portman and her then fiancé Benjamin Millepied were among the signers of a petition to President Obama in support of same-sex marriage. Portman supported Obama’s re-election campaign. In January 2011, Portman became an ambassador of Free The Children, an international charity and educational partner, spearheading their Power of a Girl campaign. She hosted a contest challenging girls in North America to fundraise for one of Free The Children’s all-girls schools in Kenya. As incentives for the contest winner, she offered her designer Rodarte dress, worn at the red carpet premier of Black Swan, along with tickets to her next premier.
Free The Children’s all-girls school was also the beneficiary of proceeds from sales of Nude Grege #169, the lipstick Portman designed for Christian Dior. It was announced in May 2012 that Portman would be working with watch designer Richard Mille to develop a limited-edition timepiece with proceeds supporting Free The Children.