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November 13, 2006

Ashley Judd: The Good Fight

As the global ambassador of YouthAIDS, actress Ashley Judd has stepped into the role of a lifetime: a knowledgeable, caring, committed crusader hell-bent on making a difference.

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ashley judd

Ashley Judd

Photo Credit: Ruven Afanador

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The plight of the sick in Kenya and Cape Town was far from our minds as Beyoncé shook her curvy bits so furiously, lashing the stage with her locks like a girl on fire. The hard-to-surprise crowd — the international fashion press, among others — couldn't help but surge forth, unaccustomed to anything this full-bodied and overt. In time, Leonardo DiCaprio would also take the stage here at London's Brompton Hall, as would Bono, Elle MacPherson, Kim Cattrall, and that beacon of philanthropy, 50 Cent. The event was Giorgio Armani's One Night Only party, an unveiling of his crazy-sleek 2007 spring/summer line — as well as a showcase for Bono and Bobby Shriver's AIDS-fighting Red campaign. As jaded sylphs glided beneath mirror balls, cosmopolitans held aloft, occasionally nibbling from the small bowls of risotto provided to the crowd of 1500, it was hard not to contemplate the clashing marriage of glamour and good causes. But then clarity itself seemed to cleave the air in the form of one clean, strong, steady voice. When Ashley Judd materialized before the mic, shaking nothing but our sense of complacent passivity as she told us about children who have sex to survive until, of course, it kills them, the room grew still — the crowd rapt for the first and only time that night. She had a mysterious air of serenity and certainty.

Four hours earlier, Judd and I had met in Hyde Park for a stroll before coming upon a commodious, womanly, welcoming tree into which she immediately climbed. So I joined her, and there we had a chat about death, sex, faith, hope, and what's involved in trying to save the world.

MC: Back in 2002, you got involved with YouthAIDS when your old buddy Bono lobbied you to do so. I guess one doesn't say no to Bono...
AJ: I was shooting Twisted in San Francisco, and he started calling and Bobby started calling, and they were tag-teaming me in a really heavy-duty way. And at the same time this woman Kate Roberts, the founder of YouthAIDS, sent me a letter — they were two separate parties, each unaware that the other was asking me to do the exact same thing.

MC: It doesn't sound like you were hesitant.
AJ: In terms of getting involved with the struggle against HIV/AIDS, that was totally a natural fit. I was more trepidatious with regard to YouthAIDS because I thought, Oh my gosh, this organization — where do they get their money from? Is it blood money? Are there any secret right-wing Nazis involved —

MC: Covertly working an agenda?
AJ: Yeah. Do they have programs in one of these 65 countries that would really be in contrast to my personal values? I kind of cringe thinking about this letter I wrote to Kate, because it was just like Women's Studies 101 — like, you know, Who are the people with whom you associate, and I can't be affiliated with you if you work with misogynists. I just absolutely went off in this letter.


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