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Imagine, for a second, Angelina Jolie without Brad Pitt; Jennifer Lawrence without the goofiness; or Jaden and Willow Smith without the bizarre quotes. Emma Watson's famous speech before the United Nations in September 2014 was almost missing something just as essential.
Watson revealed in a new interview with Porter magazine that her courageous speech about feminism, as she launched the HeforShe gender equality campaign, would have been delivered differently if she’d listened to others.
“I was encouraged not to use the word ‘feminism’ because people felt that it was alienating and separating and the whole idea of the speech was to include as many people as possible,” the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador told the magazine. “But I thought long and hard and ultimately felt that it was just the right thing to do. If women are terrified to use the word, how on earth are men supposed to start using it?"
Of course, the Brown University grad ended up spending some of her time on the microphone directly addressing the word that’s so difficult for people to say.
"I was appointed as Goodwill Ambassador for U.N. Women six months ago and the more I’ve spoken about feminism, the more I have realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating,” the Harry Potter actress told an audience that included U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. “If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop."
"Feminism is, by definition, the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities,” she explained. “It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes."
The speech was well received, and Watson has continued to champion the HeforShe initiative even as she works in an industry that’s far from gender equal. Watson’s willingness to ignore outside advice is indicative of her confidence at this stage of her life.
”[I’ve] spent more than half of my life pretending to be someone else,“ she told Porter. "While my contemporaries were dying their hair and figuring out who they were, I was figuring out who Hermione was and how best to portray her. Now at 25 for the first time in my life I feel like I have a sense of self that I’m comfortable with. I actually do have things that I want to say and I want to be my most authentic self.”
She added, “I don’t want there to be a big separation between the public and the private person. It’s definitely the harder road to tread, but without a doubt, ultimately the most rewarding."
Watson also name-checked her fellow British actress and Harry Potter co-star Emma Thompson.
"It sounds like a ridiculous thing to say, but I’m very interested in truth, in finding ways to be messy and unsure and flawed and incredible and great and my fullest self, all wrapped into one,” Watson said. “When you watch the work of someone like actress Emma Thompson, you feel like you’re seeing something true, and I aspire to that."
Watson is working with her role model on her latest project, a live action version of Disney's Beauty and the Beast, that’s set to be released in 2017. She’ll play Belle, while Thompson is Mrs. Potts.