Angelina Jolie Has Always Controlled Her Own Narrative & Her Divorce Is No Different
It's been hard to get away from Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt divorce headlines, which is probably not what the actress wanted. After the story broke, Jolie was quick to release an official statement on the break up, explaining the "decision was made for the health of the family" and that "she will not be commenting" on the divorce. She instead asked for privacy for her and her family during this time. Of course, this statement got people trying to guess what went wrong with Brangelina, but Jolie wasn't interested in offering up any details. Instead, the actress, filmmaker, human rights activist, Special Envoy to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and a visiting professor at the London School of Economics was already on to the next thing. This wasn't hard, since Jolie has many next things to move on to. Through that statement, the actress took control of the story — her story — rather than allow it to be defined by the media.
Jolie has always seemed to be one step ahead of the gossip mill. Stories about her will break, but she has proven time and time again that she can shift the focus to whatever she prefers with a statement or a well-timed photo.
Rolling Stone reported in a 2014 piece on paparazzi that, after adopting 7-month-old son Maddox in 2002 from a Cambodian orphanage, Jolie had "carefully orchestrated a photo shoot with an approved pap that repositioned her image from troubled goth to responsible adult." Up until then, most people knew her as the wild child Oscar winning daughter of Jon Voight, who had once worn a vial of her husband Billy Bob Thornton's blood and had kissed her brother on the red carpet. But, with one photo, whether it was actually staged or not, she changed how the world saw her and moved closer to being perceived as the humanitarian we know now.
Jolie has historically refused to be taken advantage by the news cycle; instead, she has led it. After giving birth to Shiloh, her first biological daughter with Pitt, in 2006, she knew that the paparazzi would be following them everywhere in hopes to get a photo. That's why Jolie sold the first baby photo to Getty Images. It started a bidding war that PEOPLE won after reportedly paying $4.1 million, which Jolie then donated to an undisclosed charity. She would do the same thing two years later after her twins Vivienne and Knox were born. Their baby photos were reportedly bought for $14 million by PEOPLE, making them the most expensive celebrity pictures ever sold. Jolie again donated the money to charity. Instead of letting others profit off of her, she found a way to ensure that those in need profited.
In 2008, The New York Times talked about Jolie's "carefully orchestrated image" citing that, in that issue of PEOPLE, the interview didn't once mention their portmanteau couple name, but instead focused on Jolie and Pitt's humanitarian efforts. PEOPLE denied that there was any stipulation on the interview, but the example lends itself to the Times' assessment of Jolie's relationship with the media. In their opinion, all celebrities want to be in control of their image, but Jolie manages to accomplish it with "a determination, a self-reliance and a degree of success that is particularly notable." Also, without a publicist to run damage control, rare in Hollywood. The New York Times says her skill is her ability to change the story.
This is something she famously did when she first started dating Pitt in 2005. Back then, she was portrayed as the "other woman," who stole Pitt away from his then wife Jennifer Aniston. Instead of trying to convince people she wasn't this person via interview, she chose to focus on her charity work. The paps would want to snag a photo of her, yes, but, if they did, they would have to come to her in Pakistan, where she visited camps housing Afghan refugees, and Kashmir, where she visited with earthquake victims. “Presto, they come out looking like serious people who have transformed a silly press obsession into a sincere attempt to help the needy,” Michael Levine, a celebrity publicist and author, told The New York Times, making it sound like it was magic when it was really just good public relations on behalf of Jolie.
There's no doubt Jolie takes her charity work seriously. Even now, as the spotlight is on her divorce, she's trying to put the focus back on the Syrian refugee crisis. Her quick response to the divorce news put a bit of an expiration date on the whole thing. This Hollywood divorce may be the biggest news today, but, with a statement from Jolie already out there, the excitement around this internet breaking news is sure to wane. Her ability to work the system is why Buzzfeed has already declared that "Brangelina Is Dead, Long Live Angelina." She has never sat back and let things just happen. She instead takes charge, doing all she can to change the conversation to one she prefers. Or, more specifically, one that isn't really about her. As Buzzfeed put it, through Jolie's career, she has run a "perfect publicity game by seeming like she wasn’t playing one at all."
And, while rumors fly that Pitt is under investigation for child abuse (a rumor that the LAPD has denied), it's clear that Jolie will weather this storm with her usual amount of dignity and grace. She has already released her two cents on the subject of her divorce, as has Brad Pitt, whose own statement to PEOPLE, said that "what matters most now is the well-being of our kids." There's nothing else she really needs to say; she made sure of that.
Jolie certainly didn't let the media use her relationship with, and then marriage to, Brad Pitt define her, so there's no way in hell she's going to let this divorce and the lawsuit surrounding it become her defining characteristic. She will move on, just as the rest of us will, to the next story that Jolie wants to tell.