To Tell Their Stories
A glamorous film and stage actress might be the last person you’d expect to be holding the hand of a child in a slum in Mumbai…or traveling to Kenya, South Africa, Thailand, Cambodia and India to talk about condom use, hygiene and sanitation, legal empowerment, or access to micro-financing. She might not be who you’d picture visiting with families in Appalachia whose children draw water as black or red because they don't know creek water is supposed to run clear--or who listens to stories of busted unions and miners with chronic health problems. Ashley Judd is such a person. From horrifying brothels and degrading slums in Third World countries to environmentally ravaged communities here in America, Judd is committed to telling the stories of the people she meets. Judd has been very open about her own struggles, including depression. She believes that mental illness need not be treated with a sense of secrecy or stigma, and that her own journey has made her an even more effective advocate for others facing their own issues. Judd is an impressive presenter, stunning audiences with information that not only educates, but stirs the spirit.
A favorite speaker at women’s conferences and gatherings, Ashley’s honest, moving and always deeply relatable stories yield personal insights and practical tools that can be applied to everyone’s life. Whether it is her own personal story of surviving sexual abuse, her work around the world to end sex trafficking, or her leadership at the forefront of the #MeToo/Times Up movement, Ashley talks about all of it with expertise born of lived experience. As a global activist and advocate, Ashley gives voice to the power women have when their stories are heard.
Ashley speaks expertly and movingly on addiction and other disorders - alcoholism, drug addiction, anorexia and bulimia and other forms of self-harm - based on her years of lived personal experience and having watched for years as family members struggled with these diseases. She can describe the impact of addiction on those who suffer from it, and on their loved ones, as well as the hard but rewarding work involved in individual recovery and the resulting improvement in entire relationship systems. Based on her travels to twenty developing countries, where she has seen alcoholism plaguing entire societies, Ashley can also speak on the role addiction plays in perpetuating inequality, poverty and violence on a global scale.
Ashley grew up with mental illness in her family. Her beloved mother, Naomi, lived for years with undiagnosed and untreated bipolar II and struggles with the illness to this day; her father suffered from depression, and in 2006 Ashley herself went to in-patient treatment to heal emotional pain stemming from unresolved childhood trauma, grief and abuse. There, she learned recovery as a way of life, something she practices on a daily basis. Pushing back against generations of mental illness and the often-dysfunctional behaviors of those who must cope with a loved one’s disease, Ashley speaks with authority on the topic of the mental illness epidemic in our society. She offers personal examples of how her own life was affected, advice on how to love and support those who are ill, and information about evidence-based methods of treatment and how to reduce stigma. Ashley tells an ultimately hopeful story about survival and resilience that everyone can relate to.
In addition to childhood sexual abuse, Ashley is a survivor of childhood neglect and abandonment. Having lived entirely alone for two years as an adolescent, with neither adult supervision nor any outreach from social services, Ashley tells a shocking story of a family in which love was present, but of a child who was nonetheless abused and abandoned. Out of this experience, Ashley has created a vivid account of hope, survival, and ultimately, personal triumph, which explains her profound commitment to child welfare across the globe, including her travel to 20+ developing countries as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Populations Fund. Ashley speaks expertly about the role that individuals, families, communities, organizations, and governments must play in keeping children safe and allowing them to flourish.
Growing up in the Appalachian mountains in a family affected by strip mining, Ashley saw from a young age the catastrophic effects coal mining had not just on the physical environment, but on the surrounding communities where poverty is widespread, and health and social outcomes are often poor. A vocal opponent of mountain top removal coal mining, she has been outspoken on this subject for years. She has also visited mineral mines in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and diamond mines in South Africa, witnessing the environmental devastation as well as the connections between mining, child labor, and local sexual violence.
Related to Ashley’s environmental mission is her love of animals. Previously on the board of Defenders of Wildlife, Ashley was one of the leaders of a high profile campaign opposing the aerial hunting of wolves in Alaska. The endangered bonobos of the Congolese rain forest have also captured her attention and concern. On her trips to the Congo, Ashley lives in a rough camp and follows the bonobos from “nest to nest,” observing their behavior while accompanied by a renowned primatologist.
Connecting all these diverse strands, Ashley tells a wildly diverse and unique environmental story that encompasses our urgent need to transition to sustainable energy sources, the ineffable and necessary benefits of spending time outdoors, and the welfare of human, animal and plant life across the planet.
Known throughout the world as a global activist and humanitarian, Ashley’s passion for advocacy started early. At the age of twenty, Ashley become a campus organizer and voice for social justice causes while attending the University of Kentucky. Hearing a member of the board of trustees use a racial slur during a discussion about divesting the school’s funds from Apartheid South Africa, Ashley, a member of an all-white sorority, reached out to the African American organizations at her school, which resulted in the first ever such alliance. She was responsible for creating and leading a campus-wide classroom walkout protesting his refusal to resign from the board of trustees. As she learned more about everything from Apartheid to political prisoners of conscience, she helped organize marches on the state capital, candlelight vigils, and more, all on behalf of various causes she came to believe in.
Ashley addresses both how to find our passion and make a sustainable difference, and how to live our passions while honoring the differences we may have with others, especially those closest to us.
Ashley Judd is well known for dexterously starring in both box office hits and for turning in unforgettable performances in fine independent films. From her debut in Sundance Film Festival grand jury prize winner, Ruby In Paradise, to Where the Heart Is , Simon Burch, Helen, De-Lovely and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, her films tell very personal stories-- which is exactly what Judd does when she is not making movies. But the stories she tells are not about being a Golden Globe and Emmy-nominated actress or about making People magazine's “50 Most Beautiful People” list three times.
Ashley Judd is a feminist and social justice humanitarian. She has been working internationally, with NGO’S, grass roots organizations, governments, and supranational bodies since 2004. Presently, she serves as Global Goodwill Ambassador for UNFPA, is the Global Ambassador for Population Services International, and also for Polaris Project. She serves on the Advisory Boards of International Center for Research on Women, Apne Aap Worldwide, and Demand Abolition. She is Chairperson of the Women’s Media Center Speech Project: Curbing Abuse, Expanding Freedom. She has also served as a board member for Population Services International (PSI) and as Global Ambassador for YouthAIDS.
She is a graduate of the University of Kentucky, and in 2010, earned a Master of Public Administration (MPA) from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Her paper, Gender Violence, Law and Social Justice won the Dean’s Scholar Award at Harvard Law School.
Ms. Judd speaks on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves.
Judd has traveled the world to do international public health work on all fronts– maternal health, child survival, human rights, family planning, STD and HIV prevention and malaria prevention and treatment. She has experienced firsthand the connection between poverty, illness and gender inequality and how that sets up the pain and degradation that is sex and labor slavery (on which she testified before the General Assembly of the United Nations). Judd says, "The more we hear their stories, the more motivated we are to heal them and the social systems that victimized them in the first place. I believe with all my soul that the art of compassionate witnessing is at the core of global change and peace building."
She has spoken at many prestigious conferences around the world, including the London School of Economics' Family Planning Summit, sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She also hosted a talk with President Clinton on the work of the Clinton Foundation for the London School of Economics. In 2012, she spoke on the floor of the Democratic National Convention as the delegate from Tennessee asked to cast the ballots for the party's nominee for president and vice president. She is also passionate about the environment. An eighth generation Kentuckian, she is an outspoken critic of mountaintop removal coal mining. A proponent of a "green collar" economy, Judd is committed to helping find innovative renewable energy solutions.
She frequently serves as an expert panelist at international conferences, is a sought after public speaker and is a widely published OpEd author, with a diverse and unique social media presence. Her book, All That Is Bitter and Sweet, detailing her visits to grassroots programs in 13 countries, was a New York Times bestseller.
She is well recognized for her work on behalf others. In 2017, she was the recipient of the Muhammad Ali Kentucky Humanitarian Award, and her alma mater, University of Kentucky, established the Ashley T. Judd Distinguished Graduate Fellowship in the Office for Policy Studies on Violence Against Women. She was also featured on the cover of TIME Magazine’s 2017 Person of the Year issue honoring the “The Silence Breakers, “ the thousands of people across the world who have come forward with their experiences of sexual harassment and assault.
Whether it's on behalf of a patient dying from a preventable illness a world away or on behalf a woman struggling with mental illness and abuse, Judd is telling the stories of the vulnerable and the at-risk.
Judd says, "I don't do it because I'm an actor. I do it because I'm a human being."