From the importance of being yourself to smashing gender stereotypes, here are some of our favorite quotes from the actress and gender equality activist.
In just two weeks, the live-action Beauty and the Beast will hit theaters, and we’re just as excited as anyone. Not only because one of our fave Disney princesses will be returning to the screen, but also because she’ll be played by badass actress and gender equality activist Emma Watson.
And from what we’ve heard, Belle is coming back more fearless and feminist than ever before. In this version of the classic story, the Disney princess actually has a backstory where she’s the inventor, not her father. According to Entertainment Weekly, this update is largely thanks to Watson, who worked with director Bill Condon to give Belle’s character the empowering makeover.
This new and improved Belle hardly comes as a surprise, considering Watson is a major advocate for women’s rights in the real world as well. In 2014, she was appointed as a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, and later that year she delivered a powerful speech for the HeForShe campaign, encouraging men to help advocate from gender equality. Last year, Watson founded Our Shared Shelf, a virtual feminist book club open to any and all members—she was even spotted surprising lucky commuters in London and NYC with copies of books as a part of her mission.
To celebrate the release of the film and her awesome achievements, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite Watson quotes, which cover everything from the importance of feminism to the value of self-care. Prepare to feel magically inspired!
On the meaning of feminism
"Feminism is not here to dictate to you. It's not prescriptive, it's not dogmatic. All we are here to do is give you a choice. If you want to run for Prime Minister, you can. If you don't, that's wonderful, too. Shave your armpits, don't shave them, wear flats one day, heels the next. These things are so irrelevant and surface to what it is all really about, and I wish people wouldn't get caught up in that." —Elle UK, December 2015
On aspiring to be anything
"I want to be a Renaissance woman. I want to paint, and I want to write, and I want to act, and I want to just do everything." —TIME, November 2010
On why feminism is important
"We [feminists] want to empower women to do exactly what they want, to be true to themselves, to have the opportunities to develop. Women should feel free." —Elle UK, December 2015
On gender stereotypes
"Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong."—HeForShe speech, September 2014
On the fear of failure
"I don’t want the fear of failure to stop me from doing what I really care about." —Vogue, June 2011
On sticking to your beliefs
"I was completely the eager beaver in school, I was the girl in the front of the class who was the first person to put her hand up, and it's often not cool to be the person that puts themself out there, and I've often gotten teased mercilessly, but I found that ultimately if you truly pour your heart into what you believe in—even if it makes you vulnerable—amazing things can and will happen." —2013 MTV Movie Awards, April 2013
On trusting your gut
"All I can do is follow my instincts, because I'll never please everyone." —The Independent, February 2012
On being yourself
"If we stop defining each other by what we are not and start defining ourselves by what we are—we can all be freer." —HeForShe speech, September 2014
On her fashion choices
"I want to feel fabulous and comfortable and sexy and strong and beautiful. And if it’s making you uncomfortable, don’t do it. It’s so sad if you need to go home just because you need to sit down! Moving forward, I’m prioritizing just feeling awesome." —Vanity Fair, November 2015
On doing your own thing
"I don’t want other people to decide who I am. I want to decide that for myself." —Elle, August 2009
On equal rights
"[I] think it is right that as a woman I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decision-making of my country. I think it is right that socially I am afforded the same respect as men." —HeForShe speech, September 2014
On becoming a feminist
"When at 14 I started being sexualized by certain elements of the press. When at 15 my girlfriends started dropping out of their sports teams because they didn’t want to appear “muscly.” When at 18 my male friends were unable to express their feelings. I decided I was a feminist and this seemed uncomplicated to me." —HeForShe speech, September 2014
On being authentic
"I’m very interested in truth, in finding ways to be messy and unsure and flawed and incredible and great and my fullest self, all wrapped into one." —Vanity Fair, November 2015
On the gender spectrum
"It is time that we all see gender as a spectrum instead of two sets of opposing ideals." —HeForShe speech, September 2014
On the character Belle
"[Belle is] absolutely a Disney princess, but she’s not a passive character—she’s in charge of her own destiny." —Vanity Fair, February 2017
On the value of self-care
"What’s the point of achieving great success if you feel like you’re losing your freakin’ mind? I’ve had to say, ‘Guys, I need to go back to school,’ or ‘I just need to go home and hang out with my cats.’ People have looked at me and been like, ‘Is she insane?’ But, actually, it’s the opposite of insane.” —Vanity Fair, February 2017
“Beauty is not long hair, skinny legs, tanned skin or perfect teeth. Believe me. Beauty is the face of who cried and now smiles, beauty is the scar on your knee since you fell when you were a kid, beauty is the circles when love doesn’t let you sleep, beauty is the expression on the face when the alarm rings in the morning, it’s the melted makeup when you have a shower, it’s the laughter when you make a joke you’re the only one who can understand, beauty is meeting his gaze and stopping understanding, beauty is your gaze when you see him, it’s when you cry for all your paranoias, beauty is the lines marked by time. Beauty is what we feel in the inside which also shows outside us. Beauty is the marks that life leaves on us, all the kicks and the caresses the memories leave us. Beauty is letting yourself live.”
—HeforShe Live Conversation With Emma Watson, March 2015