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31 May 2010

The NS Interview: Sienna Miller

“People often forget that celebrities are no different”.

By Sophie Elmhirst

Does the press scrutiny that you are subject to frustrate you?
Of course, but I also understand that a certain amount goes with the territory. What I hope to do is to use my visibility to make a positive difference in the world, not in the press.

How do you make that difference?
I have always done work in the charitable sector, and like to think that I always will. I also find that I need to balance the world I live in with something humanitarian, for my own sanity, if nothing else.

Which charities do you work with, and why?
I got involved with International Medical Corps (IMC) through a friend who attended a benefit of theirs in Los Angeles. I had heard about the virtual epidemic of brutal rape in Congo and, once I saw them in action and realised that there are so many emergencies around the world where they are doing life-saving work, I decided that I wanted to help.

You travelled to Haiti. What were your impressions of the country?
The people are incredibly resilient and have a wonderful spirit. Obviously, the city of Port-au-Prince is in trauma, and seeing the devastation first hand was shocking.

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What needs to happen?
Supplies are limited and IMC people are working in incredibly difficult conditions, so money genuinely equates to the ability to save lives.

You also went to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Why does it get so little attention?
Congo has been a problem for such a long time that perhaps people have given up. Africa is riddled with so many problems that it is hard to know where to begin.

Why do we forget so quickly about these disaster-stricken countries?
I think that it is difficult for all of us, after an inevitable media saturation, to continue seeing heartbreaking images of a country in need. I don’t blame the media. It is a human condition to feel overwhelmed.

People can be cynical about celebrity support of charities. How do you respond?
People become involved with charities because the cause is resonant and personal for them, and because they want to bring about some meaningful change. People often forget that celebrities are no different. What is different is that they have the power and ability to use their position to shine a light on causes and issues that might otherwise have been ignored.

What impact have you had personally?
When I have spoken out for IMC, they have noticed spikes in web traffic and donations. So, while it is easy for people to be cynical, if I see it translating positively for the organisation, I will continue to do the work, regardless.

Do you feel that the press and the public judge celebrities too readily?
There are blogging sites that are scrutinised by both young and impressionable people which are creating and encouraging this negativity. Some of those in a position of media power make it seem acceptable to judge people they have never met, using “information” that is ­often not true.

What effect do you think such a culture has on young people?
It really worries me to think that there is a generation of haters being groomed by these essentially faceless and reckless people.

If you weren’t an actress, what would you be doing?
Archaeology?

Do you vote?
Since learning about the suffragettes, I vowed I would always vote. And I did, but won’t say for whom .

Which political figure inspires you?
Nelson Mandela, for obvious reasons.

Where’s home?
London.

What are you reading at the moment, and why?
A book called A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore, because I am in a book club, and that was recommended to us!

Is there a plan?
A vague one, but I still try to live as spontaneously as possible. It’s difficult to be an actor and make plans.

Is there anything you regret?
Of course, but I have found regret to be a rather useless emotion. Live and learn and try to grow, if you know what I mean.

Are we all doomed?
Absolutely not. We are part of a generation that can and will change this world. It’s an exciting and pivotal time to be alive.

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