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November 11, 2013

Natural Wonder: Julia Roberts

Julia Roberts has been stealing scenes for more than two decades, and this month is no different with an Oscar-worthy performance in the dark comedy August: Osage County. Here, she talks to friend, director, and collaborator Ryan Murphy about holding her own against Meryl Streep, the pleasures of being a grown-up, and the perils of social media.


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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Cedric Buchet

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ROBERTS' career has been storied and blessed. Based on box-office receipts alone ($2.6 billion for 40 films), she is one of the most popular, if not the most popular, female movie stars of all time. And one forgets how much is still ahead for her. She is a legend, like Katharine Hepburn and Streep, one who has already influenced a new generation the way Streep influenced her. I ask her what her advice is to the new crop of women coming up. She pauses. "Good luck, darling." And she laughs again.

Then she gets serious when asked if an actress can have a career like hers anymore. "It's not the same business," she replies. "It's really different. And the Internet has so much to do with that." No surprise she's not on social media—"It's kind of like cotton candy: It looks so appealing and you just can't resist getting in there, and then you just end up with sticky fingers and it lasted an instant"—or that she never Googles herself: "I have too much potential for collapse." She elaborates: "There's an anonymity that makes people feel safe to participate in hatefulness. I like a good old-fashioned fistfight if people are pissed off at each other. I just feel like if you're really mad and want to have a fight, then put your dukes up."

She's far more interested in philanthropy—she's on the advisory board of Gucci's Chime for Change women's initiative and is a curator for crowdfunding site Catapult. She's also a global ambassador for the U.N. Foundation's Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. "I had interviewed Hillary Clinton [for OWN], who has become a personal hero to me—who she is and her convictions as a woman and mother and a humanitarian," Roberts explains. "She let me sit in on a meeting as a fly on the wall, but I'm a person who can't not say anything for too long. It's about women taking care of their families and what an incredible challenge it is for a myriad of reasons, and how fixable it can be. I saw a picture of a woman with a baby on her back, just like I would be with one of my babes on my hip, cooking at the stove. Her hut is full of toxic smoke, and that child is in tremendous peril. It's my privilege and honor to cook three meals a day for my family, and it's a luxury on a level that I didn't even realize, because it can be relentless for me on some days. You have pride in how you take care of your family."

And she does, as she rises to pick up her children from school. When I tell her she looks beautiful, she says, "I feel super kind of happy, which I think translates to pretty, because my husband is home."


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