You’ve read 18 things about Gal Gadot, Yael Grobglas, and Mila Kunis. Inevitably, our favorite Israeli-American actress, Natalie, is next. (If “Natalie” immediately makes you think of Natalie Portman, you’re in the right place. If it makes you think of the underrated 2012 Bruno Mars song “Natalie,” let’s chat.) Natalie even made an appearance on Mila’s 18 Things To Know: “Funny enough, Natalie Portman, according to Mila, is ‘the one person in the world that both Ashton and I have kissed.’” In Natalie’s 2011 Golden Globes acceptance speech, she thanked “Mila ‘Sweet Lips’ Kunis.” But enough about kissing Mila Kunis….
Yesterday, Natalie was announced the *first* female winner of the Genesis Prize, which is basically the Jewish world’s Nobel Prize. The New York Times reported “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to present the award to Portman at a ceremony in Jerusalem next June.” (Interesting pick, given Natalie’s choice words for Netanyahu in 2015: “I am very, very upset and disappointed that he was re-elected. I find his racist comments horrific.”) The prize grants $1 million to philanthropic programs in honor of Natalie. In response to winning, Natalie said, “I am deeply touched and humbled by this honor. I am proud of my Israeli roots and Jewish heritage; they are crucial parts of who I am.”
Here are 18 other crucial parts of who Natalie is….
1. Natalie was born on her mother’s birthday, June 9. According to a 2002 Rolling Stone profile, this puts her conception on her father’s birthday. Natalie told her parents: “This is the grossest piece of information I’ve ever learned.”
2. Her real name isn’t actually Natalie Portman, but Neta-Lee Hershlag. Portman is her maternal grandmother’s maiden name. In 1984, Natalie and her family immigrated to the United States from Israel when she was only 3 years old.
3. Her first movie, Léon: The Professional, premiered when she was only 12. Natalie admits she struggled in the aftermath of the film’s premiere: “In hindsight, I’m really proud of that film though at the time it was unnerving to find myself being suddenly looked upon as a sexual object when I was still only 12.”
4. She grew up in Long Island, New York and attended Jewish day school at Solomon Schecter in Glen Cove, New York. She entered the Intel Science Talent Search (ahem, cool nerd alert) in high school and graduated from Syosset High School in 1999. Her three best friends are still her best friends from Syosset.
5. Israel (the collective nation?) hopes she will return. When she had a “passionate affair” with Israeli actor Liron Levo, Israeli entertainment site Mako wrote (this is the English translated): “Her affair with his heart stirred the whole country, of course. We all built on the fact that he would return her to our bosom once and for all. Unfortunately, this relationship did not survive the test of time.”
6. But now she is married to Benjamin Millepied, a French ballet dancer who was the choreographer for Black Swan. Natalie and Benjamin have two children: Aleph and Amalia.
7. Natalie is not a morning person, telling Harper’s Bazaar, “If I didn’t have kids or didn’t have to go to work, I’d probably sleep till noon! But I do work and I do have kids, so I’m up and alert.”
8. Like all of us here at Alma, Natalie admits to a deep love for hummus, telling Vogue: “I consume my own weight in hummus every day.” But clearly hummus makes her smart (not like the popular song Humous Metamtem by Nigel Addmore would make you think).
9. Natalie is not just an actress: She is a legit scientist. Her published paper (under Natalie Hershlag) is titled “Frontal lobe activation during object permanence: data from near-infrared spectroscopy.” I don’t know what that means, but it definitely sounds smart.
10. She graduated from Harvard in 2003 with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, saying, “I don’t care if [college] ruins my career. I’d rather be smart than a movie star.”
11. She returned to Harvard in 2015 to deliver the commencement address, sagely telling graduates that no college experience is perfect: “It’s easy now to romanticize my time here, but I had some very difficult times here, too.” She was honest and open about her struggles, how overwhelmed she felt, and her imposter syndrome. A.K.A. she gave the commencement address that said exactly what college graduates need to hear: “If your reasons are your own, your path, even if it’s a strange and clumsy path, will be wholly yours, and you will control the rewards of what you do by making your internal life fulfilling.”
12. Do you remember her SNL Digital Short from 2006, “Natalie Raps”? No? Re-watch ASAP:
13. Her directing debut came when she adapted Amos Oz’s memoir A Tale of Love and Darkness. Portman plays Amos’s mother, and made the choice to film in Hebrew: “It’s got to be a love letter in Hebrew.”
14. Shortly after her directorial debut, the New York Times published the e-mails between Natalie and Jonathan Safran Foer (were you hoping to forget about these? Us too). But Natalie’s self-reflectiveness shined through: “An ex-boyfriend of mine used to call me ‘Moscow,’ because he said I was always looking out the window sadly, like ‘Moscow,’ like some Russian novel or Chekhov play….I have that longing, yearning, it’s-better-over-there tendency…”
15. She wrote the published e-mails while she filmed her upcoming film Annihilation and calls the group of actresses (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thomspon, Tuva Novotny) “so kind and talented and funny.” What we would give for that behind-the-scenes footage…
16. Also in 2016 (a big year for Natalie), critics raved about her performance in Jackie. Natalie was perfect as JFK’s widow. When she re-created scenes of Jackie’s White House tour, I swear, you cannot tell them apart. Natalie told the Los Angeles Times that she rehearsed “the first lady’s televised 1962 White House tour so many times that she could say it in her sleep.” (She should’ve won the Oscar!! Sorry, Emma Stone.)
17. The main questions that people Google about her includes the very strange “Is Keira Knightley related to Natalie Portman?” 🤔🤔🤔
18. Last, some wise words of self-care advice from Natalie: “Give yourself a break – literally and figuratively. We all hold ourselves to such a high standard and it’s a constant balancing act. If you have one bad day, don’t let it define you. There’s always tomorrow. I also think it’s important to carve out time for yourself. It’s easy to forget that but it’s so important.”
OK Natalie, can I take a break from 2017?