I've never really cared much for actress Angelina Jolie. And there are a number of reasons.
First, there was that creepy vial of her then-husband's blood that she used to wear around her neck. Second, the incidents where she made out with her brother in public like it was the most natural thing in the world were equally cringe-worthy. (Eeeeeww.) And still, public behavior aside, her film roles just never seemed to interest me.
But last night, after reading the New York Times OpEd piece Jolie wrote about her decision to have a double mastectomy in an aggressive effort to stave off breast cancer, my feelings about her completely changed.
For me, it wasn't a sympathy pang-- even though my heart goes out to any woman or man who is faced with staring down a cancer diagnosis and their own mortality. It was because Jolie made the courageous choice to go public with her decision when I am sure she had a chorus of advisors encouraging her not to.
Coming out and telling the world she's had both breasts removed is not a prudent career move for a bona fide sex symbol. Moviegoers and the Hollywood powerbrokers who make or break careers can be fickle. But Jolie sent a powerful message about the priorities in her life and her desire to help others with knowledge of her own battle.
This year alone, over 200,000 people will be diagnosed with breast cancer and will face the decision about whether to have genetic testing. A smaller percentage of them will also have to decide what to do when found to have the BRCA 1 gene. For them, Jolie will be a touchtone.
But she will also impact the lives of millions more who will be reminded that surviving cancer in this day and age can be as simple as scheduling a regular mammogram or other relatively painless diagnostic test.
Now that's my kind of movie star.