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Angelina Jolie: from sex symbol to cancer crusader

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

As an international sex symbol, a mother of six, a UN ambassador and a tattooed tabloid target, Angelina Jolie has never been one to shun the spotlight.

But the A-list Hollywood star's biggest headline grabber to date may be the shock revelation that she had a double mastectomy to cut her risk of breast cancer.

"Life comes with many challenges. The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of," the Oscar-winning actress wrote in The New York Times.

Often pictured in dark shades with her six children and partner Brad Pitt -- the other half of the media phenomenon known as "Brangelina" -- the 37-year-old is Tinseltown royalty, who seemed destined for the limelight from day one.

Born in Los Angeles on June 4, 1975, Jolie's mother was actress Marcheline Bertrand, who died of ovarian cancer in 2007 at the relatively young age of 56.

Her father is Oscar-winner Jon Voight, with whom she made her movie debut in the 1982 "Lookin to Get Out" -- but it was not until the 1993 "Cyborg 2" that her career fully got going.

Further roles in "Without Evidence" and "Hackers" -- one the set of which Jolie met her first husband, British actor Jonny Lee Miller -- followed.

While her performances began attracting attention, she started getting formal kudos for her work in two made-for-television movies -- 1997's biopic "George Wallace" and 1998's "Gia," based on the life of supermodel Gia Carangi.

Jolie won back-to-back Golden Globes for the roles, and subsequently appeared in "Pushing Tin," Mike Newell's 1999 comedy drama, and thriller "The Bone Collector" with Denzel Washington.

But her meteoric rise to stardom truly began when she took home an Oscar for best supporting actress for her portrayal of a rebellious woman in a mental institution in 1999's "Girl, Interrupted."

It also signaled the start of a tabloid fixation with Jolie, who has delighted gossip columnists by declarations of bisexuality and quirky behavior such as wearing a vial of her second husband Billy Bob Thornton's blood around her neck during their 2000-2003 marriage.

The red carpet darling went on to gain quick popular success, especially when she slipped on shorts and the tight-fitting T-shirt of the video game heroine in "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" (2001).

A sex symbol was born, with Jolie splashed on the covers of magazines and feeding masculine fantasies with declarations such as "You're young, you're drunk, you're in bed, you have knives... shit happens."

However, it was her relationship with Pitt -- whom she fell in love with on the set of 2005 action film "Mr & Mrs Smith" -- that created the "Brangelina" cult.

Twice married and divorced, Jolie adopted her first child, Cambodian-born Maddox, in 2002.

In May 2006, Jolie gave birth to daughter Shiloh in Namibia, where Pitt and Jolie found fairly isolated privacy. And in 2008 Jolie had twins: Knox Leon and Vivienne Marcheline. The power couple also have two other adopted children -- Pax, from Vietnam, and Zahara from Ethiopia.

Jolie has devoted significant time to reaching out to those in need, serving as goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees since 2001. In 2012, she was promoted to special envoy and has visited refugees around the world, from Syria to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.

She has said her humanitarian work had made into "a better person" and, together with Pitt, she has given away millions of dollars to charity.

Between her role as a mother and her outreach obligations Jolie has kept focused on her film career, appearing as the widow of assassinated journalist Daniel Pearl in "A Mighty Heart" in 2007 and a professional killer in "Wanted" in 2008.

She was nominated for another Academy Award, this time as leading actress, for her work in the Clint Eastwood drama "Changeling" (2008), based on the true story of Christine Collins, a woman in 1920s Los Angeles whose child goes missing and is then plunged into a Kafka-esque fight against the authorities.

Jolie made her directorial debut in 2011 with "In the Land of Blood and Honey," an unflinching drama about rape as a weapon of war in wartime Bosnia, saying she hoped to use cinema as a force for reconciliation.

She has scaled back her film work in recent years, voicing a character in animated hit "Kung Fu Panda" and its sequels, and appearing in action film "Salt."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130514/angelina-jolie-sex-symbol-cancer-crusader