5 times Emma Watson has shown us she's so much more than a film star

Emma Watson is rubbing shoulders with Kofi Annan, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, and a host of youth delegates from across the globe who are stepping up as new world leaders this week.

She’s one of the key speakers at the One Young World Summit, which is in Ottawa this year, and will be talking to the conference about an issue close to her heart, gender equality.

This isn’t the first time the Harry Potter actress has impressed us with her credentials outside of Hollywood – here are our top five Emma moments when she turned our idea of celebrities on its head.

1. The time she was an Ivy League graduate.

You’d think becoming a child star would sort you for life and get you out of all of those annoying exams that everyone else has to do to get ahead.

But Emma didn’t see finding international fame as Harry Potter’s Hermione Granger as a reason to opt out of an education, and after sweeping the board with her GCSEs and A-levels, she enrolled as a student at Brown University in the US.

It took her slightly longer than usual to get her BA in English Literature – she started in 2009 and graduated in 2014 – but to be fair, Emma had more on her plate than the recommended reading list.

She took a break midway through the course to concentrate on her film career, completed Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Noah and This Is The End, and even enrolled as a visiting student at Oxford University back in the UK.

The star told The Sunday Times of her uni days: “For a while it was amazing, as the American press afforded me so much privacy.”

And if you thought your freshers’ week was daunting, she added: “On the first day, I walked into the canteen and everyone went completely silent and turned around to look at me. I had to say to myself, ‘It’s okay, you can do this. You just have to take a deep breath and gather your courage’.”

2. The time she inspired the world to champion feminism.

Fresh from finishing her degree in 2014, Emma took the stage to speak to the UN about gender equality in her role as Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women.

She launched the HeForShe campaign, which encouraged men and boys to mark themselves out as feminists, too, and to support levelling the playing field for women, drawing in celebrities including Jared Leto, Russell Crowe, Harry Styles and Tom Hiddleston to the cause.

Telling us about her own experiences during her speech, she said: “I started questioning gender-based assumptions a long time ago. When I was eight, I was confused for being called bossy because I wanted to direct the plays that we would put on for our parents, but the boys were not. When at 14, I started to be sexualised by certain elements of the media. When at 15, my girlfriends started dropping out of sports teams because they didn’t want to appear muscly. When at 18, my male friends were unable to express their feelings.

“I decided that I was a feminist, and this seemed uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word. Women are choosing not to identify as feminists. Apparently, I’m among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating, and anti-men. Unattractive, even.”

She went on: “In my nervousness for this speech and in my moments of doubt, I told myself firmly, ‘If not me, who? If not now, when?’”

3. The time she stuck up for herself over the gender pay gap.

Not everyone was a fan of Emma’s UN speech – people suggested she was out of touch with the hardships of those not living a celebrity lifestyle.

But she was having none of it, and explained in an interview with Esquire exactly why we should all care about the issues she’d addressed.

She said: “We are not supposed to talk about money, because people will think you’re ‘difficult’ or a ‘diva’. But there’s a willingness now to be like, ‘Fine. Call me a ‘diva’, call me a ‘feminazi’, call me ‘difficult’, call me a ‘First World Feminist’, call me whatever you want, it’s not going to stop me from trying to do the right thing and make sure that the right thing happens.

“It doesn’t just affect me. It affects all the other women who are in this with me, and it affects all the other men who are in this with me, too. Hollywood is just a small piece of a gigantic puzzle but it’s in the spotlight. Whether you are a woman on a tea plantation in Kenya, or a stockbroker on Wall Street, or a Hollywood actress, no one is being paid equally.”

She revealed: “I’ve had my arse slapped as I’ve left a room. I’ve felt scared walking home. I’ve had people following me. I don’t talk about these experiences much, because coming from me they’ll sound like a huge deal and I don’t want this to be about me, but most women I know have experienced it and worse.”

4. The time she set up a feminist book club.

Sharing the knowledge, Emma decided she wanted to help all of us join her pursuit of feminism.

Even if you’re not able to take a year off to study like she has, you can join her online book club, Our Shared Shelf, which she runs via bookworm website Goodreads.

She says in the online group: “Dear Readers, as part of my work with UN Women, I have started reading as many books and essays about equality as I can get my hands on. There is so much amazing stuff out there! Funny, inspiring, sad, thought-provoking, empowering! I’ve been discovering so much that, at times, I’ve felt like my head was about to explode… I decided to start a feminist book club, as I want to share what I’m learning and hear your thoughts too.”

To date, the group has over 143,000 members.

5. The time she took a year off from acting to improve her mind.

Earlier this year, Emma gave an interview to Paper magazine where she spoke to author and activist bell hooks, and said that she’d be taking a career break to further her understanding of feminism.

She explained: “I’m taking a year away from acting to focus on two things, really. My own personal development is one… My own personal task is to read a book a week, and also to read [another] book a month as part of my book club. I’m doing a huge amount of reading and study just on my own.

“I almost thought about going and doing a year of gender studies, then I realised that I was learning so much by being on the ground and just speaking with people and doing my reading. That I was learning so much on my own. I actually wanted to keep on the path that I’m on. I’m reading a lot this year, and I want to do a lot of listening.”

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