From Hermione to U.N. Heroine: Emma Watson’s ‘Badass’ Transformation

The actress impressed observers with a powerful U.N. speech on gender inequality. Expect this ‘goodwill ambassador’s’ profile to only increase.

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Emma Watson delivered a particularly well-received speech at the United Nations headquarters on Saturday. Vanity Fair called it “game-changing.” The Huffington Post and E! Online both called it “powerful.” Jezebel declared her a “badass.”

In July, it was announced that the 24-year-old British actress (star of The Bling Ring, This Is the End, Noah, and the Harry Potter flicks) had been appointed as a UN Women goodwill ambassador to work on the HeForShe campaign. (The announcement drew enough traffic to crash the UN Women website and caused the site technical difficulties for 12 hours.) Her speech on Saturday focused on gender equality and feminism, and called on men and boys to join in the fight.

“I was appointed six months ago and the more I have spoken about feminism the more I have realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating,” Watson said. “If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop…I want men to take up this mantle. So their daughters, sisters and mothers can be free from prejudice but also so that their sons have permission to be vulnerable and human too—reclaim those parts of themselves they abandoned and in doing so be a more true and complete version of themselves.”

You can read the prepared remarks here, and watch the whole speech below:

Watson’s past humanitarian efforts include working with the Campaign for Female Education, and promoting fair trade in Bangladesh (PDF). As a goodwill ambassador, Watson also stopped by Uruguay’s legislature earlier this month to discuss women’s participation in politics. Her new colleagues at the UN say that her future work will include supporting the efforts of young women across UN Women’s strategic pillars, which include ending violence against women and economic empowerment.

“We can decide early next year where her next trip will be,” UN Women’s Elizabeth Nyamayaro told The Daily Beast. Nyamayaro was the one who offered Watson the ambassadorship, and has handled her relationship with the UN ever since.

UN Women has high hopes for Watson—to the point where they want to make her their next celebrity human-rights powerhouse.

“She was very clear about why she agreed to my offer, and she said that she almost sees this as a career,” Nyamayaro said. “She wants the work to speak for itself before she starts talking [to the press]. You will be seeing more and more of her in a way that you haven’t seen since Angelina Jolie.”

Jolie serves as a special envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and has worked on issues such as preventing the use of mass rape as a weapon of war. So Watson is hardly the first world-famous actress to try to accomplish big things with the UN or in human-rights advocacy—and it sounds like Hermione Granger is ready to go all-in.

“You might be thinking who is this Harry Potter girl, and what is she doing up on stage at the UN?” Watson said on Saturday. “It’s a good question and trust me, I have been asking myself the same thing. I don’t know if I am qualified to be here. All I know is that I care about this problem. And I want to make it better.”