When you meet a very famous actress, your immediate instinct might be to ask her about her latest films; you might secretly (or not so secretly) be curious about her love life, what she is wearing, how Hollywood is treating her. Asking her about her views on children’s rights in Afghanistan might not be your first reflex, but with Carey Mulligan, maybe it should.
At A Small World’s Winter Weekend, an annual charity fundraising event the social network throws in Gstaad, Switzerland, the last thing that Mulligan, the guest of honor, wanted to discuss was anything flippant. Instead, in the middle of the Alps, surrounded by celebrities and socialites like Leigh Lezark, Pixie Geldof, and Dianna Agron, 29-year-old Mulligan shared her deep engagement with child protection and her work as an ambassador for Warchild UK.
How did you end up here exactly?
I’m here to represent Warchild UK, a charity for which I’m the ambassador and have been working for a year. My brother was a soldier and when he was stationed in Afghanistan near a girl’s school that was being closed down by the Taliban, he looked to raise money for the school, for things including a new well to provide clean water, and Warchild responded and began working with him.
Is that why you care about children’s rights?
The two things I really care about are protection for children and care for the elderly. When I started getting parts in films and doing a lot of press, I felt inspired by actors who used their platform to raise awareness about things they feel strongly about. So I started working first for the Alzheimer society because my grandmother has Alzheimer’s and it is something I could speak with authority about. As for protection for children, it seemed like such a vast problem that needs so much attention and help. As an actress, it’s great to promote work that you’re proud of. Some of the negative sides include unwanted interest and invasion in your private life, but if you can use the good side of it and get people involved in charities, it’s a massive plus.
You’re acting one day, traveling with Warchild to Congo the next. Doesn’t your life feel schizophrenic? Or on the contrary does it give you balance?
In no small way does it give you perspective on things, which I feel I’ve always had. No one in my family works in the film industry. I’m constantly reminded of the rest of world not being as fortunate as I am, as a lucky person who has done okay in acting—I have a lovely life and a nice job and everything is good for me—but I never forget parts of the world that are struggling. So when I have time off, I investigate that and talk about it.
Do you view yourself as a feminist?
I do. I believe in equality; I feel confident talking about feminism, it’s become a slightly taboo, dirty word in the Western world and people feel nervous about saying it. Celebrity culture has made people afraid of expressing how they feel about things because no one ever wants to say the wrong thing but I’d happily describe myself as a feminist.
How has your social engagement been received by the press?
I generally find that if there is something you are really passionate about, people will listen. But you need to be a bit forthcoming about the charities you want to talk about, people won’t necessarily ask this first off, sometimes you’re more likely to be asked about your skincare regime. I was doing a press junket recently and I was talking about Warchild and the countries we work with, and the next question was ‘How do you keep fit?’. Well, who cares. But I guess I can trade off some of the ‘Who cares?’ questions with cool things.