Oprah: I agree. But what's worth honoring—and I do mean the word honor—is that by society's definition, not just your own feelings about yourself, you are a beautiful woman. It's a reality.

Charlize: It's not something I'm comfortable with.

Oprah: Well, I think you need to get comfortable with it. A multibillionaire once said to me, "Wealthy men and pretty women never hear the truth." What do you think?

Charlize: I'm going to raise my hand and say, "Not true." As long as I have my mother next to me, I will always hear the truth. In South Africa, you develop a thick skin early on. That's true in every country where there's great hardship. When life is really difficult, there's less time for sensitivity. You've got to survive. You've got to stand up and go on with your life. That's the South African way.

Oprah: Something just clicked for me. Because your identity was formed in a place where life wasn't American-style comfortable, you have a healthy attitude about your own beauty.

Charlize: Yes.

Oprah: If you'd been raised in this country, you would have had your mother and everybody in every store talking about what a pretty little girl you were.

Charlize: I witness that here in America. I also see friends raising their kids without discipline. The kids rule. In South Africa, it's a much harder life because survival is so at the core of everything. It's a farm life. That's partly why in the beginning of my career, I was so uncomfortable being cast as a sex bomb. Well, at first, I was comfortable in that—I was very comfortable in my own sexuality. And I thought, These people exist, so I'm going to play them. But when I started talking about how comfortable I was with that, people thought I was a freak. And I was like, "Wow." I wasn't raised to think any of that stuff was bad. But at the same time, I knew that wasn't the only thing I wanted to do. People said, "You can't play the girl who gets left by her boyfriend."

Oprah: You fit into the pretty girl box.

Charlize: It's not a fun box to be in.

Oprah: What's a more interesting box for you?

Charlize: Life. Everything around the box.

Oprah: Is there still a lot of emphasis on the way you look?

Charlize: Monster killed that. I've made sure that puppy's gone to bed.

Oprah: How did you get the role in Monster?

Charlize: For the first time ever, something came to me that was different from how people saw me. Patty Jenkins wrote the script with me in mind.


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