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George Magazine
April 2000
Save the World Awards


Tired of shallow celebs whose idea of a good deed is a charity cocktail party? Here are 10 activists who aren't just acting. They're fighting for their causes-no matter what.


Gillian Anderson doesn't pretend that she got into show business to make a difference in anyone's life but her own. "For many years I was so self-focused," she says. But soon after she landed her first job, portraying Dana Scully on The X-Files, "it became clear to me that people can come from nothing and make something of themselves. That was my experience; it was important for me to share that."

She- or, at least, the character she portrays- was already inspiring viewers, particularly young girls. Watching Anderson triumph week after week as a hyperconfident FBI woman inspired them to put up Web sites with names like Order of the Blesssed St. Scully the Enigmatic. And they wrote letters of thanks filled with statements such as "You saved my life." The implied responsibility at first overwhelmed her. "Then I realized I have an opportunity." Her fan base, and her own passions, made her a natural match for the Feminish Majority Foundation, and organization that advocates political, economic, and social quality for women.

Anderson became a spokesperson for FMF in 1996, during its fight against Proposition 209, an anti-affirmative action initiative in California. At rallies she warned of the detrimental effects on women's advancement. Ultimately, 209 passed by a slim margin and is in effect even though it is being challenged in the courts. "It was key to have people like Gillian involved," says FMF national coordinator Katherine Spillar, "because the proponents of 209 didn't want to talk about its impact on women." Anderson, says Spillar, doesn't shy from "tough issues like violence against women's health clinics and gender aparatheid in Afghanistan." At 31, she is part of a new generation of youn, feminist performers- Sarah Jessica Parker, Tori Amos, and Laura Dern among them- who have taken the reins from '70's icons such as Jane Fonda and Marlo Thomas. Besides her work for feminism, Anderson also raises money to fund research into neurofibromatosis, a disease that grows tumors on nerve tissue. Her younger brother Aaron is battling the disease.

"I'm not much of a public person, and I have mixed feelings about the celebrity aspect of the business I'm in," Anderson says. "The only true benefit is when one can be of service."

Transcript appears courtesy of George Magazine.

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