Today we honor and celebrate a powerful woman who embraces the term feminist and stands strong against double standards. Ashley Tyler Ciminella was born in California in 1968 to Naomi and Michael Ciminella. By the time she was in school, her parents had split and her mother took her and her half-sister Wynonna back to her home in Kentucky. The girls were raised with their mother’s birth name, Judd.
Ashley attended a number of schools, graduated, and went to the University of Kentucky. She studied French and women’s studies, including a semester abroad, while she began to develop an interest in acting. Rather than graduating with her class, she drove to L.A. and worked as a waitress while she looked for acting jobs. She found some television work (including a stint on Sisters opposite Swoosie Kurtz) and quickly picked up movie roles. She has worked steadily as an actor for two decades.
During that time, she developed a passion for activism and civil rights. She is an active member of the Board of YouthAIDS. In her travels for that organization she became increasingly aware of the global problems of poverty and has worked tirelessly to engage with organizations and leaders dedicated to broad political and social change. She has worked with Women for Women International and Equality Now and in 2011 joined the Leadership Council of the International Center for Research on Women.
Fully aware of how Hollywood treats older actresses, she also continued her formal education, receiving a a Master in Public Administration degree (MPA) from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 2010. As a well-known celebrity with strong opinions, Judd has frequently come under fire by the Right and the press. She takes what comes and fires back, brilliantly using any attacks as an opportunity to expose hypocrisy and patriarchy.
Judd has indicated some interest in running for the U.S. Senate; she would oppose Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R – KY) in the 2014 election if she runs. The Teahadists are so afraid of her strong, smart presence that they’ve already started the attacks. Karl Rove is running context-free quotes in ads that slam her as an “out-of-touch Hollywood elitist”–elitist theatre, white power and privileged, sounds like Rand Paul to me. Conservative e-rag Daily Caller ran an ugly piece attacking her for having nude scenes in some of her movies. (Strange that Scott Brown’s centerfold spread didn’t seem to matter to them…)
Judd takes it all in stride, simply repeating that she is a feminist and a progressive and that her values translate well to what the people of Kentucky need. Given the hollow grandstanding exhibited by McConnell’s junior counterpart, Rand Paul, someone with real values and a dedication to justice would be a welcome addition. The idea of a Sen. Judd joining Sens. Gillibrand, Warren, and Baldwin is pretty exciting.
No matter what she chooses to do next, we can count on Ashley Judd to stand up for women and for the marginalized everywhere.