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Commencement

Natalie Portman ’03 Named Class Day Speaker

4.23.15

Natalie Portman ’03

Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman ’03 will be the principal guest speaker for seniors celebrating Class Day in Tercentenary Theatre on May 27, Harvard College officials have announced. She was chosen after a subcommittee of eight class marshals considered speaker suggestions based on a senior-class survey, and then extended the invitation to speak.

Born in Israel in 1981, Portman grew up on Long Island, New York, where she began modeling at age 11. (She was discovered by a Revlon model scout in a local pizza parlor, and is currently “Miss Dior” in a new international campaign for the luxury-goods company.) Her film debut came in The Professional (1994), and she became widely known after she was cast as Padmé Amidala in the Star Wars prequel trilogy (1999, 2002, and 2005). Portman studied psychology at Harvard while continuing her career, and in 2005 she won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Closer, co-starring Clive Owens, Julia Roberts, and Jude Law, according to biography.com. In 2010, she won a Best Actress Oscar for her role as a troubled dancer in Black Swan, a part for which she reportedly lost more than 20 pounds. She will star in the forthcoming film Knight of Cups, about a screenwriter living in Los Angeles trying to make sense of the strange events occurring around him. Most recently, Portman wrote, directed, and acted in A Tale of Love and Darkness, which will premiere at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. 

Portman, a vegan and animal-rights activist, is also an advocate for many social causes, including serving as Ambassador of Hope for the Foundation for International Community Assistance, a nonprofit microfinance organization that strives to alleviate poverty. In February 2015, she was among other Harvard alumni (including Robert F. Kennedy Jr. ’76, Darren Aronofsky ’91, and Susan Faludi ’81, RI ’09), who wrote an open letter to the University demanding that it divest its endowment holdings in coal, gas, and oil companies.

“Through the wide array of her achievements both on and off the screen, Natalie Portman has left an imprint on our cultural consciousness,” said Class Marshal Bob Wu ’15 in a press release. “And as an alumna of the College, she’s uniquely positioned to help us reflect on our experiences over the past four years. We can’t wait to host her later this spring.”

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