|(Photo: Tommaso Boddi/Contributor)|
Staff Writer Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.
My 11-year-old son came home on Saturday night covered in green slime. As an attendee at the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards, he was sprayed with plenty of the neon-colored goop, and he saw a bevy of celebrities.
While big-name presenters and performers like Zendaya and Iggy Azalea are hot in youth pop culture, when I asked him who he was most excited about having seen, he didn’t hesitate. “Angelina Jolie,” he said. “Definitely Angelina Jolie - she was just amazing.”
What made Jolie stand out? The actor, who attended the show with her two daughters, Zahara and Shiloh, won the award for favorite villain for her portrayal of the title character in Maleficent. And the empowering speech she gave while she accepted her prize was an inspiring ode to all the kids who feel pressure to conform - and who are often bullied when they don’t.
“I want to say that when I was little, like Maleficent, I was told that I was different,” Jolie told the crowd of screaming tweens. “And I felt out of place - and too loud, too full of fire, never good at sitting still, never good at fitting in. And then one day I realized something - something I hope you all realize. Different is good. So, don’t fit in. Don’t sit still. Don’t ever try to be less than what you are. And when someone tells you that you are different, smile and hold your head up and be proud.”
The kid-centered show was Jolie’s first public appearance since revealing on Tuesday in a New York Times op-ed that she’d had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed because her doctors told her she was showing early signs of cancer.
Two years ago, Jolie sparked debate in the breast cancer community over preventive surgeries when she similarly wrote about having had a double mastectomy because she had tested positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation. Her mother, grandmother, and an aunt all died from cancer, and her message of staying true to yourself is evident in her most recent essay.
“I did not do this solely because I carry the BRCA1 gene mutation, and I want other women to hear this,” she wrote. “There is more than one way to deal with any health issue. The most important thing is to learn about the options and choose what is right for you personally.”
That message of choosing your own path seems to be what Jolie carried with her to the Kids’ Choice Awards. She closed her speech with a little wink and a smile. “And as your villain,” she told the screaming crowd, “I would say, cause a little trouble. It is good for you.”