Basic instinct

In a recent post I cited Sharon Stone and Ashley Judd as some of my heroes/reasons for living. I could tell you that I included them because they are drop dead gorgeous, because they are sophisticated and stylish, or because they break bad on screen every time they step in front of a camera, and all of those things are true, but what I love about these two women has little to do with Hollywood or outward appearance. I love them because they care about humanity, plain and simple.

Ashley Judd is the global ambassador for Youth AIDS. In January she went to Africa where she promoted AIDS prevention and visited AIDS-infected children and adults and their families. She held them and hugged them and ate with them and cried with them. You can read her Africa journal here. In an article in SELF magazine she talked of her trip to Africa as a turning point in her life, and of becoming more discerning about how she spends her time and her money. Her resounding message is to do what you can with what you have instead of lamenting that you don’t have what it takes to make a difference.

I have never trusted Naomi Judd’s saccharine demeanor, and Wynonna’s flamboyance does nothing for me, but there is something inherently sweet and sincere about the baby Judd. Maybe it’s the fact that she is an avid Yogi–I don’t think you can truly practice Yoga without intense honesty and self-awareness. Maybe it’s the way she smiles with her whole being. Maybe it’s just that when asked about her own lifestyle by the SELF interviewer she replied, “I buy only what is necessary. I have enough shit already.”

Sharon Stone isn’t quite so down to earth, but these days wherever she goes she raises a large sum of money for charity. Days after last December’s tsunami in Sri Lanka she stood up at a gathering in Switzerland and raised one million dollars for relief efforts. At a recent charity auction she allowed a man to fix a catch that had come loose on her dress–for a fee. She donated the money to the charity. Last week marked the debut of the song she co-wrote for Gulf Coast hurricane relief; “Come Together Now” features numerous musical artists, from Celine Dion to Joss Stone, and every penny made from the single, which can be purchased from iTunes and Rhapsody, goes to Habitat for Humanity and Angel’s Place, a home for terminally ill children in Louisiana. You can listen to the song here, and if you are an AOL subscriber you can watch the video here.

Hearing about Sharon Stone’s charity work is one thing, but seeing it in action is something else entirely. In a live four-minute segment that rivaled every on-screen move she’s ever made, including that famous scene from “Basic Instinct,” she sold the earrings she was wearing to a man in the audience of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” last Friday for AIDS research. Sold them right out of her ears with a signed photo and the promise to giftwrap them herself. For seven thousand dollars. Ellen had merely stated that Sharon was raising money everywhere she went, and her guest replied, “I could do it right now. You want to see?” It was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen on television.

There was a time when I wanted to look like Ashley Judd, to have Sharon Stone’s physique, to have even a fraction of the money one of them makes for acting in a movie. But these days–I like to think of them as my grown-up older and wiser days–I have rearranged my priorities. The truth is, I can be like Ashley Judd and Sharon Stone–on the inside. It’s doubtful that I’ll be taking a trip to Africa anytime soon, and I don’t think the earrings I’m wearing right now would bring a high price from my current audience (9th graders), but there are differences to be made at every turn, and even though I don’t have celebrity to help me with my efforts, I have the same basic tools Sharon and Ashley have: heart, brain, and, yes, instinct.

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