Charlize Theron’s Story Proves That Hard-Working Single Moms Can Have a Beautiful Family Too
Charlize Theron is a prominent actress and producer who rose to fame during the ’90s. She starred in several hit films, such as Monster, The Italian Job, and Mad Max: Furry Road, just to name a few. She has won many prestigious awards and became the first actress from South Africa to win an Oscar. However, not many people know that her early years were marked by a tragedy and difficult childhood.
Theron struggled a lot as a teen, but through all those difficulties she managed to create a happy home and inspire many people.
An unhappy, burdensome upbringing
Charlize Theron was born in South Africa and is the only child of road constructionists Gerda and Charles. Her parents didn’t have a happy marriage and her father was often verbally abusive toward her and her mother. Unfortunately, this mistreatment culminated in an altercation that resulted in her father losing his life.
This has left an emotional scar on Theron, who, at first, had trouble understanding what happened. She stated that she needed some time to make her peace with it, and later on, this would help her to understand how important it is for a child to have a happy home and a safe environment to grow up in.
“I think, for me, it took a long time to sink in, what had really happened because you just don’t think stuff like that will ever happen to you. You always think it happens to somebody else,” admitted Theron.
A new start
Charlize started her education at the National School of the Arts in Johannesburg, a boarding school, when she was 13, as she wanted to continue her ballet studies. However, after the incident, her mother motivated Theron to move to another country and start a new life. She encouraged her to move away from her home and work on herself. Theron shared in an interview that her mother always put her first and cared deeply.
“For her to say go, go make something of your life, go, go do something — that was an extremely brave thing for her to do. Those are the sacrifices, you know, that I think you do for your children, and she always did that. She always put me first.”
Soon after, Theron mustered up all the courage she could and moved to Milan. There, she signed a modeling contract and had the opportunity to travel throughout Europe during that time. However, she later discovered that modeling wasn’t quite what she wanted to do. Although her new job provided for her, Theron said in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that she missed having a creative factor that would drive her work. In fact, she spoke candidly about the single reason she had to work as a model.
“I couldn’t figure out what I had to work hard at to be good at modeling — other than losing 5 pounds,” Theron said. “There’s definitely something artistic about modeling. It just wasn’t artistically satisfying for me because I like to say what’s on my mind.”
And then came New York.
Theron wouldn’t put up with that anymore. She was determined to build a successful career and pave her own path. It was time for the young woman to take fate into her own hands, so she booked a flight to New York and started her studies at the Joffrey Ballet School. She loved dancing, and in one of her interviews, she shared what similarities she noticed between ballet and acting.
“I wasn’t the greatest dancer in terms of technique. But when I went onstage as a dying swan, I became that swan. It was the storytelling aspect that I loved.”
Unfortunately, due to a knee injury, Theron’s journey as a ballerina had come to an end. It was devastating for the dancer, as she realized she couldn’t do what she loved anymore. However, her mom, once again, stood by her side and reminded her that there was always a way to succeed.
“My mom came over from South Africa and said, ’Either you figure out what to do next or you come home because you can sulk in South Africa,’” Theron shared.
That is when her mom gave her the idea to try herself in the film industry because she knew how much Theron loved movies. Her mom bought her a one-way ticket to Los Angeles and encouraged her to go and chase her dreams.
Working in L.A.
As soon as she got off the plane, Theron got into a cab and said to the driver, “Take me to Hollywood.” Little did she know, the place she arrived at wasn’t as chic as it seemed on television. She lived in the worst model apartments that she could find and would often have to clean up the whole room with bleach and some old rags that she scrounged up. Even though her Hollywood starting point wasn’t so glamorous, she was ready for the challenge, and soon, a serious job hunt would ensue.
Although she dreamt of being a successful actress, Theron had to be realistic. To live in Hollywood isn’t cheap, and the small amount of savings she came with were going pretty fast, and the rent and necessities had to be paid. Theron didn’t shy away from work, so she started waiting tables and modeling again.
She was accepting modeling offers that no one else would take since the clothes and photographs weren’t pretty. However, she didn’t care because she knew what her goal was — to pay the rent and buy herself food.
“I told the agency, ’Look, I’m not trying to be a supermodel, and I don’t want to be in magazines. I need 3 grand a day for the next 6 months,” shared Theron.
Simultaneously with her work, Theron briefly went to acting classes. However, it didn’t sit well with her and she realized instinctively that there had to be a better approach to it than the way she was learning.
“I went to a couple that I just couldn’t deal with because though I didn’t know anything about acting, I instinctively knew it shouldn’t be manipulated the way it is in most of the classes,” she shared.
She also noted that her accent was a big problem at the time and casting agents were not happy about it. Since her first language is Afrikaans and she spoke English with a South African accent, she had to relearn American English. Theron said that she still struggles with it sometimes.
“To this day, all my friends have the job of correcting me. They’ll tease me: the movie star just said ’were,’ not ’was.’”
A lucky break in the eleventh hour
Theron was, again, struggling greatly. Her rent was due and she was at a bank, trying to cash the last check she had in her pocket. She was having difficulties with it since it was an out-of-state check from her modeling gig in New York and the bank wouldn’t accept it.
“It’s survival, people. If I didn’t cash that check, I wouldn’t have had a place to sleep that night,” Theron explained in an interview.
She made a scene, pleading and begging the bank teller. However, she was completely unaware that during all of that havoc, she was actually, unknowingly, auditioning for her job. A man came over trying to help, and finally, Theron was able to cash her check. On the way out, he approached her and gave her his card, saying, “If you’re interested, I’ll represent you.”
The gentleman turned out to be John Crosby, who represented John Hurt and Rene Russo and would end up being Theron’s manager.
“If I hadn’t been in the bank that day, I honestly don’t think I’d be here right now. There are so many talented actors who don’t ever get the chance,” Theron revealed.
Success on the big screen
The offers started pouring in and Theron began starring in many movies. However, in 2003, the movie Monster was released, in which Theron played a different character than she usually does. This role would, later on, bring her worldwide recognition and an Academy Award for Best Actress.
It seemed that her dreams were finally coming true — she was doing what she was supposed to do. In one of her interviews, Theron was reminiscing about her beginnings as an actress: “I remember saying to myself if I can go through life paying my rent and putting food on the table, just doing this, that would be amazing.”
Stepping into the world of parenthood
Theron realized that she wasn’t ready to be a parent in her twenties, but she was sure she would eventually want to have kids. Adoption was something she had been contemplating since she was a child.
“I always knew that I would adopt,” she shared in a podcast. “My mom has a letter she saved that I wrote to her when I was 8 years old. In the letter, I ask her if we could, for Christmas, go to an orphanage and adopt a sibling for me.”
Theron was aware of how many children were growing up without a parent’s love and care, and that was probably one of the reasons she was so resolved to adopt. She wanted to be a parent from the bottom of her heart. However, the whole path to becoming a mom was rough. The process took a lot of time, but not just that, it was often heartbreaking because many adoption possibilities fell through. She would get emotionally attached, disappointed, or even crushed when it didn’t work out. But thanks to her professional experiences, Theron developed a thick skin and knew her baby was waiting for her. 2 and half years later, her first daughter finally came into her life.
Theron adopted Jackson in 2012 and another daughter named August in 2015. She encountered many troubles during the adoption process, and many times, things didn’t turn out how she had hoped. However, the first time she saw Jackson, she felt an immediate connection.
“I remember vividly seeing Jackson through a window. My heart just jumped out of my body. It is a visceral, emotional feeling. It’s really incredible,” Theron explained.
Although her second adoption went really smoothly, Theron likes to advise every adoptive parent to be to reach out to people who already went through the experience so they can be better prepared for it.
The actress also said that both of those times were the best moments of her life and that she was beyond happy. When sharing about her experience as a single mom, Theron said that people are still a bit skeptical when it comes to single-parent families.
“It still feels very traditional in the sense that it should be that every child should have a mother and a father. It’s just so unfortunate. I know so many people who would be incredible parents,” she shared.
Theron often praises her mom for being her role model and says that she was a great example of what she could be as a woman. She would look up to her mom, as she was a single mother too, who always encouraged her daughter to go out and chase her dreams. Over the years, her mother played an important role in her life, helping her to become what she is today — a strong woman, a wonderful mother, and overall, a happy person.
Theron said, “I was taught by my mom that you have to speak up; you have to be able to know that when this life is over, you’ll have lived the truth you’re comfortable with and that nothing negative can come from that.”
What do you think about Charlize Theron’s life story? Do you think it’s possible to be a single parent and have a successful career?