This morning, the New York Times published a powerful essay by Angelina Jolie, in which the actress explains her choice to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to reduce her risk of cancer.
Two years ago, Jolie wrote an op-ed for the paper of record about undergoing a preventative double mastectomy after being diagnosed with the BRCA1 gene mutation, which is strongly linked to breast and ovarian cancer.
Jolie's mother, Marcheline Bertrand, died of ovarian cancer at 56 in 2007.
"It is not easy to make these decisions. But it is possible to take control and tackle head-on any health issue," Jolie writes of her recent surgery. "You can seek advice, learn about the options and make choices that are right for you. Knowledge is power."
Indeed it is: There's been an astounding 40 percent spike in BRCA testing since Jolie's mastectomy story was published. By sharing her own painful experiences, the Academy Award winner — who's also Hollywood's highest paid actress — has done something incredibly important, raising awareness for cancer prevention while preaching empathy and self-empowerment for those afflicted.
Writing these op-eds no doubt required a great deal of courage, and we admire her very much for that. Here are eight more reasons why Angelina Jolie is arguably the bravest celebrity in Hollywood.
1. She's a tireless humanitarian
Jolie, pictured greeting Yazidi refugees in Khanke, Iraq earlier this year, became a fervent supporter of human rights after an "eye-opening" experience filming Lara Croft: Tomb Raider in Cambodia. From 2001 to 2012, she served as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, for which office she is now a Special Envoy. Her role is far from ceremonial: Jolie has personally embarked on 50 UN field missions around the world, visiting war zones like Darfur and Kabul.
2. She makes movies with a message
Angelina Jolie starred in 2007's A Mighty Heart, which chronicled Mariane Pearl's search for her husband, reporter Daniel Pearl, following his abduction (and eventual murder) by a militant group in Pakistan. The actress has also proved eager to effect change from behind the camera. In 2011, she made her directorial debut with In the Land of Blood and Honey, a gritty portrayal of the Bosnian War that Jolie also wrote and produced.
3. She's an outspoken feminist
Jolie has made the rights of women around the world a special focus of her advocacy. She spearheaded a British campaign against sexual violence in military conflict and helped launch an academic research program centered on increasing accountability for violence against women, particularly during wartime, at the London School of Economics.
She's also used her personal platform to make powerful statements about female self-image. "On a personal note, I do not feel any less of a woman," Jolie wrote of her mastectomy in 2013. "I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity."
4. She's open about her troubled adolescence
Jolie, pictured above at age 22, has spoken frankly about her struggles with emotional instability in her teens and early twenties, a period marred by self-harm, suicide attempts, and drug abuse, as well as her tumultuous relationship with her father, actor Jon Voight.
5. She's open about her sexual orientation
Jolie, who dated model Jenny Shimizu in the '90s, hasn't shied away from discussing her bisexuality with the press.
"I wanted people to know that I'd been with a woman," Jolie once told British GQ. "I spoke about [my sexual orientation] because I'd discovered something wonderful and I thought people should know my experience was very real, very normal."
6. She wears her tattoos proudly on the red carpet
Jolie has more than a dozen tattoos, including a Buddhist prayer and the geographical coordinates of the birthplaces of her six children and husband Brad Pitt.
7. She lets John be John
Jolie's oldest biological child, born Shiloh, reportedly expressed to Brad and Angelina the desire to be known as John instead. Jolie and Pitt have happily obliged, just as they've supported their adorable eight-year-old's preference for suits and other traditionally boyish clothing.
8. She doesn't have a publicist
Jolie, who famously does without the services of a publicist, has managed to revamp her image from a troubled wild child to a global human rights advocate in the course of just a decade. That's truly extraordinary.
Molly Fitzpatrick is senior editor of Fusion's Pop & Culture section. Her interests include movies about movies, TV shows about TV shows, and movies about TV shows, but not so much TV shows about movies.