How Reese Witherspoon Grew From a Cliché Blonde Into a Big Movie Boss and Started Making Films Especially for Women
Reese Witherspoon is on the list of the 100 most powerful women on the planet, according to Forbes. What’s more important is that she didn’t inherit her money or her power, but she actually built it all by herself.
We at Bright Side decided to take a look at the life path of the actress we love and find out how she became the symbol of feminism and a beacon for women from all around the world. And in the bonus, we’ll tell you about the role we’re going to see her in very soon.
Reese convinced everyone that they should follow their dreams.
Laura Jeanne Reese was born in 1976 in New Orleans. At the age of 7, she was cast for a commercial for a flower boutique and when she was 11, she won a talent contest. And even though Reese attended a drama school, her biggest passion was education, “I was a dork that read all the time, and in bookstores, I’d lose my mind: I wanted to buy everything.” When the future star was 15, she got really lucky: when she and her friends went to the casting of The Man in the Moon to be extras, the producers liked her so much that she got the main part.
In her first role as Dani, Reese instantly won the hearts of not only the viewers, but also the critics. She was even nominated for the prestigious Young Artist Award. She graduated from the all-girls’ Harpeth Hall School in Nashville, where she was a cheerleader during her time there. Then, she attended Stanford University as an English literature major. But after a year of studies, she decided to change her life completely: despite protests from her family and friends, she left college to start her acting career. And now we know it was the right decision.
She proved that children are not an obstacle but a source of inspiration.
In 1997, at a party for her 21st birthday, a dashing young man appeared — actor Ryan Phillippe. Young and happy, in 1999, they went to the casting of the drama Cruel Intentions, which was an adaptation of the novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses. They both got the roles.
After the premiere of the film, the couple got married, and in September 1999, Reese gave birth to her daughter Ava Phillippe. The actress said that this time was pretty hard for her, “You can’t go out without thinking of another person. You can’t go get your groceries without thinking about another person. You don’t think about whether you’re cold or hot; you think about your kid and whether they’re cold or hot. If you want to be a mom and that’s important to you, you should have every right to do that. Don’t put it off because of all the things that seem like a barrier. You’re going to figure it out.”
In Los Angeles, Reese didn’t have family or friends. She went to a yoga class and found support in her new friends that helped her with Ava. The actress remembers that time with a smile, “I had to grow up really fast and figure out what woman I wanted to be for my daughter. For example, once I was told to dress sexy for a meeting with a studio boss. And you’re 23, you have a baby at home, you need the money, and you’re being told that by people who know what they’re doing. Oh God, if somebody told my daughter to do that, she’d be like, I really hope you’re joking.”
Even though people expected the young mom to be out of the business loop for several years, Ava actually gave her power. In 2000, she set up her company called Type A Films. And the name was chosen for a reason — it’s a reference to the school nickname Reese had for always being an A-student. Reese continued to appear at castings and raise her children: in 2003, Ava had a brother, Deacon Phillippe.
Her marriage ended in 2008. Going through a rough divorce, the actress surprised the public, who wanted details. But her behavior was quite unusual. She didn’t make a show of it and she ended all the gossiping by saying, "I’m not interested in the fallacy of the Hollywood relationship: “We have perfect children who never cry, we never have problems, we never argue, we’re always best friends. That’s just not true. We’re normal people with normal problems. We are saddened to announce that Reese and Ryan have decided to formally separate. They remain committed to their family and we ask that you respect their privacy.”
She proved that it’s possible to achieve everything by working hard.
In 2001, Reese got the part of the beautiful law student, Elle Woods, in Legally Blonde, which was a turning point in her career. Thanks to this part, the entire world knew who Reese was and her Golden Globe nomination only solidified her success.
And then she had other great roles: the ghost of a girl in the romantic comedy, Just Like Heaven and the elegant girl in Water for Elephants. The actress got an amazing number of awards for the film Walk the Line, where she portrayed the second wife of Johnny Cash. She won an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and a BAFTA for Best Actress.
Her romantic life also got better: in 2011, Reese married casting agent Jim Toth and one year later, she had her third child — son Tennessee James Toth. The couple is still happily married.
She showed that if you don’t like the rules of the game, create your own rules.
Despite the number of offers she was getting, the actress felt that Hollywood producers weren’t really interested in the fate of women: there were very few films for them and about them. And the scripts were terrible: women were nothing more than decorations. Reese remembers, “I was sick of seeing scripts where there was one female role, poorly written, and yet every actress in town wanted the part because there was nothing else.”
Witherspoon decided to do what she felt was the right thing: make Hollywood play by her rules. In 2012, Reese set up her own production company to produce projects about strong women.
The actress also started a talk show, Shine On with Reese, where she interviewed successful women to find out how they achieved their goals. In order to make the role of women in the industry even stronger, Witherspoon started the Filmmaker Lab project to teach teenage girls how to create movies.
As promised, Reese started making movies for women all around the world: they watch the films, empathize with the characters, and recognize themselves. This is what happened with the movie Wild, based on real events. The story is about a writer that decides to walk a long distance in order to learn to live again, figure some things out, and get through a divorce and her mother’s death. Reese was great in the lead role.
The actress actually walked 1,100 miles by herself and repeated what Cheryl Strayed, her prototype, did. She cried, she had bloody calluses, and the crew was filming all of it. For this role, she was nominated for an Oscar again. So, from a cute-looking actress who had roles in romantic comedies, she grew into a serious dramatic actress. Later, Hello Sunshine, her production company, filmed the TV series The Morning Show. This story of a news anchor was full of tragedy and became one of the most discussed events in the industry in 2019.
Thanks to Hello Sunshine, we have the movies Gone Girl and the TV series Big Little Lies. Witherspoon did all of this with one goal in mind — change the role of women in the modern world.
“There was a Columbia University study that concluded that a woman with ambitious traits seemed selfish and less worthy of being hired than a man with the same traits, which made me wonder, what the heck is wrong with being ambitious? I have been ambitious all my life. In fact, I vividly remember telling my third grade teacher that I wanted to be the first female president of the United States. Ambition is simply a drive inside of you—it’s having a curiosity or a new idea and the desire to pursue it. It’s been exciting for me to watch women in my business secure some major wins.” — Reese says.
She taught people to fight for their rights.
The actress is fighting studio bosses for equality, trying to stop sexual harassment at the workplace, she wants women to have the same equal working conditions as men and she consults with young actresses. Witherspoon says, “I always tended to be outspoken with my opinions. Whether they were appropriate or not.”
She made books popular again.
Reese probably thought that she needed to pay homage to her second passion — literature, so she founded an online book club. Now, it has more than 1.7 million subscribers.
Once a month, Reese chooses the books for the club and tells the subscribers about them. Some books instantly become bestsellers. The same happened in 2017 when the actress chose Little Fires Everywhere as the book of the month. The novel became a hit and she decided to make a TV series based on it that aired in March 2020.
She demonstrated that life after 40 is just beginning.
When Reese was 37 years old, her finance consultant told her, “You need to start saving. You need to start saving right now, because you’re going to be making drastically less money in your 40s.” 3 years later, she became the third highest-paid actress in the world and she fired her consultant. “I believe in abundance, I believe creativity is endless,” she says.
In 2017, her career took a new turn and she became popular again when the TV series Big Little Lies was released. Every episode was watched by roughly 8.5 million people.
Witherspoon portrayed one of the main characters — Madeline Martha Mackenzie, an activist that tries to be the best at everything and also figure out her own personal issues. Reese worked with Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, Shailene Woodley, Zoe Kravitz, and Alexander Skarsgård.
Aside from her active public and creative life, the actress takes part in different charity organizations.
Bonus: We’ll see the next part of Legally Blonde.
In 2018, the actress hinted on her Instagram account that she’d started preparing for the third installment of the Legally Blonde franchise. She told journalists, “I want to discover what age means to that character.” And when she was asked about the story, she said, “So much fun. So full of fashion. So full of awesome feminist ideas.” We’re looking forward to seeing the trailer.
While writing this article, we studied the biography of Reese, along with many articles and news stories about her. And the most amazing thing is that there is no gossip around her at all. Only news about her helping someone, fighting for someone’s rights, and her plans for the future.
Her movies became a beacon for women across the world, they made them believe in themselves and look at their lives from a different angle. Little Fires Everywhere, Big Little Lies, and Wild were huge breakthroughs. This is why we admire this wise woman and this great actress who shows us that anything can be achieved through hard work. There is always a chance to be heard. And the rules can be changed. We wish Reese luck and we’re always eager to see her new work.
What do you think about Reese Witherspoon? Do you like her roles in movies and TV series?