Academy Award-winning actress Natalie Portman flew to the Cayman Islands recently to speak at the 2019 Cayman Alternative Investment Summit (CAIS) at the Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa in Grand Cayman. For the sixth consecutive year, CAIS brought together over 80 industry experts and 500-plus thought-leaders, creating a forum to discuss issues and forecasts in the global alternative investment space.
Last year, attendees heard from two-time Academy Award-nominee and Grammy Award-winner Will Smith. Prior to Smith, Hollywood actor and former Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger, as well as comedian and talk show host Jay Leno and now-Duchess of Sussex and former American actress Meghan Markle also made appearances at CAIS. The focus of CAIS19, “Tech-Tonic Shift: Innovation in Alternative Investments,” led the way for conversations around the future of artificial intelligence, the power of the robotics revolution, how innovation will drive the client’s overall experience, emerging markets and how to best change the dynamics of giving in a globalised world.
These discussions set the stage for Portman, the conference’s first female keynote speaker, who chose to use the opportunity as a platform to speak to her successes in the film industry, her involvement in philanthropy, the importance of corporations making a positive global impact and breaking through the glass ceiling of gender inequality in the workplace.
Becoming Natalie Portman
Long before Portman became the powerhouse actress, producer, director and social activist that we know today, she was a young and ambitious Israeli girl named Neta-Lee Hershlag. She moved to the United States at the tender age of 3 with her parents, temporarily residing in Washington, D.C., and Connecticut before finally settling in Long Island, New York, in 1990.
Four short years later, at 12 years old, she made her first film debut as “Mathilda” in Léon: The Professional, adopting her grandmother’s maiden name — Portman — as her stage name. She hasn’t looked back since.
Today, Portman has starred in 47 films and short films, of which she produced six. In 2010, Portman swept the stage, so to speak, after walking away with an Academy Award, a British Academy Film Award, a Golden Globe Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award, all for her spell-binding performance as “Nina” in the psychological thriller Black Swan. Her performance as First Lady Jackie Kennedy in the 2016 biographical drama Jackie was yet another major motion film in which Portman was nominated for all four leading awards, as well as countless other award nominations and winnings for various other leading and supporting roles.
A Philanthropic Heart
Despite her full film career and commitments as a wife and mother of two sons, one thing has remained steadfast in Portman’s life: philanthropy.
Time and again, Portman has shown her love of and support to several charities and causes focusing on at-risk and disadvantaged youth, the environment, animals, AIDS and HIV, homelessness and hunger, literacy and voter education. She is an active ambassador of WE Charity, an international charity that helps families lift themselves out of poverty by empowering young people through WE schools and equipping them with the tools to create transformative social change.
She has travelled the world extensively in support of these movements, participating in documentary films about endangered gorillas, promoting micro-lending to entrepreneurial women in developing countries and acting as a voice for women and young girls in the recent #MeToo movement. In 2010, her popularity even earned her a nomination for VH1’s Do Something Award.
Portman’s early start in the film industry and long career have exposed her to both the good and bad aspects of the business.
In a People magazine article published in December 2018, she commented: “the pressure of being in the spotlight is particularly intense for young women trying to figure out who they are versus who others want them to be.”
That realisation, combined with the widespread allegations surrounding the #MeToo movement in Hollywood, was the driving force behind Time’s Up, an organisation launched in January 2018 by Portman and A-List celebrities Jennifer Aniston, Shonda Rhimes, Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon and hundreds of other influential women in Hollywood to protect women from sexual harassment and assault. Though, thankfully, never a victim herself, Portman has been a victim to many micro transgressions over time.
In the one year since its launch, Time’s Up has been a catalyst for change and has led the way for many #MeToo events, not only for women but also for people of colour, members of the LGBTQ community and persons with disabilities. Her efforts have also caused the movement to grow into other industries beyond Hollywood.