It’s almost mind-boggling to think that Emma Watson is only 26 years old today. She appears mature beyond her years, or perhaps we can say she exudes an aura of sagacity. Maybe it’s because we’ve watched her outsmart the Hogwarts crew since she was only 10. Or perhaps due to her beyond-her-years wisdom and poise, Emma Watson always exudes a sense of sophistication far exceeding those mere 26 years on this planet. Emma Watson has accumulated a wide array of fans from her roles in iconic films such as Harry Potter, My Week With Marilyn, and The Bling Ring. However, it is the British actress’ dedication to advocating for gender equality that has truly established her as an icon who commands respect far beyond Hollywood. To commemorate Emma’s birthday today, here are some of her most inspiring moments:
1. When She Gave a Powerful Speech at the UN
During her groundbreaking address to the United Nations in September 2014, Watson utilized her inspiring platform to launch “HeForShe”, a movement that seeks to rally one billion men and boys towards advocating for gender equality. All throughout this powerful speech, she clearly established what feminism is all about – an issue that had been too often misunderstood.
“Why is the word such an uncomfortable one? I am from Britain and think it is right that as a woman I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decision-making of my country. I think it is right that socially I am afforded the same respect as men. But sadly I can say that there is no one country in the world where all women can expect to receive these rights.” Dive into Watson’s inspiring discourse right here.
2. When She Graduated From Brown University
Although she was a millionaire at 18 with an impressive career, Watson never stopped learning. She decided to pursue her studies and obtained her degree while still carrying out film projects. It goes to show that no matter how successful one is, there’s always room for growing knowledge in the library!
3. When She Won the 2013 MTV Trailblazer Award
She boldly proclaimed that it was acceptable for a bright, eager young lady to be heard. “Becoming yourself is really hard and confusing, and it’s a process. I was completely the eager beaver in school, I was the girl in the front of the class who was the first person to put her hand up. It’s often not cool to be the person that puts themselves out there, and I’ve often gotten teased mercilessly, but I found that ultimately if you truly pour your heart into what you believe in—even if it makes you vulnerable—amazing things can and will happen.”
4. When She Called Out Davos on Its Lady Problem
At one of the globe’s most important conferences this year, there was an obvious lack of female representation – a disparity not missed by Emma Watson when she bravely confronted this navy blue (or so we can assume) male elephant in the room. “It is my belief that there is a greater understanding than ever that women need to be equal participants in our homes, in our societies, in our governments, and in our work places,” Watson exclaimed.“Women share this planet 50/50 and they are under-represented, their potential astonishingly untapped.”
5. When She Played Hermione
Hats off to the courageous individual who wore that hairstyle on television for so long – Hermione was a true feminist heroine, often rolling her eyes at the boys. We owe it all to Emma Watson for bringing this character to life! “Hermione’s not scared to be clever. I think sometimes really smart girls dumb themselves down a bit, and that’s bad… I’m a bit of a feminist. I’m very competitive and challenging,” she said.
6. When She Thanked Her Mom During Her Facebook Talk
To commemorate International Women’s Day, Emma dedicated an hour of her time to engage in a Q&A at Facebook headquarters in London about gender equality. “She was a single working mother and is also a Type 1 diabetic. So seeing her strength and resilience growing up was really inspiring,” Watson unveiled the answer. “I think she instilled in me—particularly in my teenage years when I was feeling insecure and confused about what my purpose was—she really instilled in me that what I was thinking and what I was doing and what I was saying were ultimately infinitely more important than my physical appearance.”
7. When She Cut Her Hair Off
We’ve all heard the phrase – when you want to make a bold statement, cut off your hair. By doing this, she showed everyone that the “little Hermione” years were over and done with.
8. When She Called You Out for Writing Her Off as a Privileged Actress
Don’t dismiss her as purely affluent and wealthy. “Surely, I’ve been incredibly privileged and I haven’t been held back because I am a girl. Surely, it is therefore my responsibility to make sure other women have access to the same privileges that I have. Surely, it would be bad if I wasn’t doing this, making sure that what I have been lucky enough to receive in my life is extended to others.”
Or an actress who has no knowledge: “You might be thinking who is this Harry Potter girl? And what is she doing up on stage at the U.N. It’s a good question and trust me I have been asking myself the same thing. I don’t know if I am qualified to be here. All I know is that I care about this problem. And I want to make it better.”
9. When She Got Excited About Being Belle in the Upcoming Live-Action Version of Beauty and the Beast
Even though she has made waves by speaking at the UN and motivating millions, people still get excited when they think about their favorite childhood Disney movie. She penned a post on her Facebook page, “It was such a big part of my growing up, it almost feels surreal that I’ll get to dance to ‘Be Our Guest’ and sing ‘Something There.’ My six year old self is on the ceiling—heart bursting. Time to start some singing lessons. I can’t wait for you to see it.”
Photo: Gareth Cattermole / Getty Images