2007 Honoree

Mira Sorvino

“It is mind boggling that here’s this thing that has been going on and on and on and there has been public outcry about it hundreds of thousands of people have died and continue to die.

The Consummate Fighter
Don’t be fooled by her beautiful face, amazing figure, and beautific demeanor; when Oscar winner Mira Sorvino wakes up in the morning, she means business. Her conscience takes over with a hard fought plan.
By Susana Rasmussen
Photography by Francis Hills

“It has been a very, very, very fascinating and weird journey.. Prejudice has always been my personal hot button, I guess.”

To all you critics out there, naysayers who ireist that members of the Hollywood celebrity scene only devote themselves to charity at press worthy red carpet events between cocktail hours and VIP parties we give you the perfect reputation in Mrs. Sorvino. No doubt about it, she is not your ultra sassy Hollywood candy floss. Mira is known for her long resume flush with characters in a broad span of critically acclaimed movies, comedy to horror to action to drama: Quiz Show, Norma Jean and Marilyn, Mighty Aphrodite, Summer of Sam, Beautiful Girls, The Replacement Killers, Mimic, The Grey Zone, Leningrad, and the Lifetimes series Human Trafficking. She forever dispels the myth that an intelligent, raw, sexy woman must settle or seduce the paparazzi to succeed in Hollywood yet at the same time not living her life as a stoic, sexless, mercenary. She excels by embracing her myriad interests and passions with an air so natural it shows us how a role model can truly define power.

I saw down to brunch on the westside with this pretty, fresh-faced blonde and while anticipating her arrival, I thought how complicated can it be to grab coffee with “Romy”, famed [faux] inventress of Post-it notes [think Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion). However, not only does this curious, commited activist have both a Harvard issued diploma and an Academy Award to amament her mantle, she also has the trust of famed activist group Amnesty International seating her as the Influental Chair of their Stop the Violence Against Women campaign. Additionally, she hots concents with her “friends” Incubies and Tom Marello [frontman for Rage Against the Machine] to raise awareness about the genocide in Darfur. She is fluent in Chinese and French. When trying to connect the dots in my mind, I asked this Jersey retive about her fascination with Chinese culture. “I had always been interested in China since I was about 8 or 9 when I had read The Good Earth, and then my best friend in middle school was Chinese American and her family would take me all over the place: to Chinatown and the Peking Opera and all that. I had a real affinity for Chinese culture, I don’t know why. If you believe in reincarnation, which I don’t, but if I did it would make sense that I was Chinese in another life. I just had this real love for it, calling for it.”

Now, how is it that a middle class girl from Jersey grows up to embrace a steadfast commitment to fighting genocide and sex trafficking? “Prejudice has always been my personal hot button, I guess.” She takes a break to laugh at herself. “Of course everybody hates genocide, everybody doesn’t like racism, but it’s just been the one sort of motivating issue that I’ve been involved in for I don’t know how many years.” From witnessing anti-African sentiment towards black foreign exchange students while studying and researching her senior thesis in China (for which she was awarded the Thomas T. Hoopes Prize at Harvard] when she heard such racist remarks as “Balck devils go home leave our women alone” and though she was a somewhat of a self admitted “odd duck” as a single white woman studying and teaching in China. “I was like ‘what?’ It was a very strange combination with the voice of social protest including anti-black sentiment. They had such a small black population. I was really surprised and I wondered what this was all about.” The experience sparked something within this fiercely independent student and ever since she hasn’t abandoned her quest for peace.

And with the current violent state of international affairs, there was no way Mira would settle to be a spectator. As soon as she learned of the genocide in Darfar she insisted on getting involved. Last September she spoke to Congress, insisting that we take action now that the violence there has been on the lips of everyone (including the UN and president George W Bush) as official genocide. “It is mind boggling that here’s this thing that has been going on and on and on and there has been public outcry about it hundreds of thousands of people have died and continue to die. It’s amazing how long this has continued and people allow it to continue.” It is clear from the combination of her eloquent approach, her natural intelligence (this is an actress who insists on writing her own speeches) and charm that she is the likely spokesperson for any agency lobbying for international peace. And her role with Amnesty International’s Stop the Violence Against Women Act, to Mira, was all a retural progression. “Part of the conflict in Darfur is that they were using rape as a tool of war. In the prison camps, women have to leave the prision camps to get firewood and fresh water and they are ambushed by the Janjaweed and repeatedly raped and humiliated. It is one of the most disgusting forms of warfare.” It was around this time that Lifetime approached her with the role of ICE officer Kate Morczow in Human Trafficking and her career and philanthropic commitments officially coalessced.

With a rap sheet this diverse and lengthy, we could easily be profiling the president of a NIGo, or a successful Ivy League career academic. Yet Sorvino’s vocation is at that of an actress. And a very varied, successful one at that. In her tender twenties she brought home an Academy Award for her role as Linda Ashe in Woody Allen’s Mighty Aphrodite – interesting that the Hollywood bombshell who currently chairs on a committee to stop sex trafficking won the most highly coveted award in Hollywood for playing, yes, a prostitute. In a comedy, one that we laught at… freely. But Mira shrugs off any link as shawllow and irrelevant. Thought she admits that initially, she was not sure how to portray a prostitute that aspired to work in the pornography industry, based on her own preconceptions about sex work. Yet, after an interview with a schoolteacher-turned-porn star, the empowering side of porn was revealed to her and she shed her personal stereotypes about sex work. And it is clearly obvious that there is a signifciant difference between a prostitute working towards a consensual career in the sex industry and one who has been kidnapped and forced into slavery. Anyone who cannot ascertain that discrepancy may not be able to see the nose on their face [or may be hopelessly aligned with the Religious Right].

Recently, Mira is relentless in her quest for peace, and she has taken a decidedly mature turn with her understandable devotion to her family. She admits that she tracks time via her children’s births and does what she can to limit time away from them (and her handsome younger hubby, actor Christopher Beckus). “When you have little kids you always have to be like ‘argghhh.” With several new films out this fall including humorous Multiple Sarcasms, about an architect trying his hand as a playwright, and the haunting Reservation Road [Mark Ruffalo, Joaquin Phoenix and Jennifer Connelly], about two families intervenes about a child’s accidental death, she is continuing to balance her diverse calendar.

I left brunch only slightly less discombobulated than when I arrived. Just listening to this woman’s activity is utterly exhausting. The truth is there is nowhere near enough space to properly illustrate Mira Sorvino. We cannot truly do her justice. Though she does not have the typical tinseltown sheen, she has real beauty and grace, so much so that she was moved to tears when discussing the specific people that she has witnessed experience violence, war, and persecution. “In every step of your life you have a choice, you can either choose your insights and your call to action or you can ignore them and start sliding. And you’re not sure where that slide’s going to take you.” The truth is I walked away truly moved. She is one Hollywood powerhouse who has the credentials to lend in history books as our second female president, but for now is, simply, an exceptional human being.

“In every step of your life, you have a choice, you can either choose your insights and your call to action or you can ignore them and start sliding.”

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