What’s it like to be back in Los Angeles?
I’m not a big L.A. fan. I’m more a Malibu girl. You can be in Malibu and never see L.A. I love being at the beach. Even in France, I feel the same way about Paris. I prefer Cassis. I need to have one foot in the water — or I feel claustrophobic.
Your series “Baywatch” was made in Malibu. When you’re in town, what memories from the series come to mind?
I see my tower every time I go home — Tower 14, the same one from the series!
How did you get involved with photographer David Yarrow for this exhibition?
I love that he shoots animals in their natural habitats. I was a fan of his for years when he worked with Cindy Crawford and raised a lot of money for charity. He asked me to shoot a photo for him, and all the proceeds will go to my foundation. How could I say no?
Your foundation has been around for 20 years. What are some of your achievements as an activist? What have you been working on recently?
We’ve created animal welfare laws where there were none in many countries. I’ve noticed that when I speak with world leaders, things get done. Even [Russian President Vladimir] Putin stopped importing seal products, so that pretty much stopped the Canadian seal hunt. And so many things that I’ve done with PETA.
Lately, I have been working with my friends in Germany [on] DiEM25, which is a green political movement. We’re trying to get some seats in the European Parliament. I have been speaking at universities. I love to see the emerging of young, really forward-thinking people that are trying to change the E.U. and create democracy in Europe.
Everything is incredibly crazy right now. It’s a very strange world we’re living in. This is why I’ve created a new offshoot of my foundation called Tenure, [based on the principles of an academic tenure,] where I take 10 activists and pay their salaries for a year. Because people that are activists … will care about everything. They don’t just care about one little thing. Animal activists like Paul Watson, for instance — even if the sea dried up, he would fight for something else. So I want to encourage people to be career activists.
Even though activists are getting a bad name and certain governments are afraid of them and investigative journalism, we have to really support the people that are sticking their necks out.
The money that I raise will go to activists risking their lives — anywhere from freedom of speech to people on a boat saving the whales, like Sea Shepherd. I love people that are in the mix. They are not just talking about it, they are warriors. I’m really good at giving money to people who can make an entire initiative out of 5,000 euros/dollars. I also sponsor a lot of first responders.
There are so many things in France I’m doing against animals and circuses. … I have a campaign coming out about anti-Marineland and anti-Sea World, so people [won’t] go to these places.
Do you find it difficult to be taken seriously in your activist efforts because people associate you with your background as an actress?
Even other activists tell me to ‘Be careful. Don’t wear that. Don’t do this because they need it to be taken seriously, and people need to listen to what you’re saying.’ And I say, ‘No, I am who I am.’ Sorry. I don’t want to apologize every day or have to explain to people that I can form a full sentence or give my track record.
But I also get into places where it’s unexpected. I reach an audience that’s important. I have a lot of friends who are intellectuals, but they are preaching to the choir. Whereas, I feel like I need to simplify things and can share the same message but in more of a fun way. Because sometimes activists can be annoying! It’s sexy being an activist and it’s a romantic struggle. I like to encourage people to be engaged in the world.
You have been working to get WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange out of jail. What will that take?
A lot of public support. We really have to get him out of jail. He can’t be extradited to America. They are doing everything they can to destroy his reputation, so people don’t support him. If you see people throughout history, that’s what they do.
Keeping him in the public eye is really important, so he doesn’t get killed. But being alive and in prison — Belmarsh prison is not an easy life — he’s never committed a violent act in his life. He’s very calm, very centered. I really encourage people to look at some of his speeches and the things he talks about. He’s very, very smart and very passionate about justice.
And he’s going to keep doing what he’s doing. He knew he was going to be in danger. Julian told me everything that happened and what was going to happen. It was just a matter of time. So now he needs public outcry — and especially from journalists. It’s crazy the brainwashing that’s gone on and the egos involved. We have to get him out of there for sure.
What are your thoughts on the #MeToo movement and how it has evolved?
There’s good things about it, but as I always say, ‘Action is stronger than a hashtag.” Feminism, for 50 years, gave us a voice. … We’re allowed to be able to talk about the abuse in our lives and we have to take action in the moment. We also have to be careful about destroying lives, like Julian, for instance. I have two boys, so I’m always worried about paralyzing them too.
We still want them to be men, to be chivalrous. We don’t want to be too crazy. This third-wave feminism, I’m not really a fan of that, but I am a feminist. I believe in all the good things that feminism has. But I am going to write a fourth book called ‘Saving Feminism From Feminists.’ I’m working on it.
You’re vegan, right?
Yes, we all have to evolve our habits. You just have to. I think it’s best for the environment. I was vegan for compassionate reasons and then I realized the health benefits. Obviously, it’s all connected to the environment and water and poverty and world hunger. There are so many good things about it. You’re really making a statement if you’re vegan.
Are you going to produce more vegan shoewear?
I’m doing another line. I’m actually opening in Galerie Lafayette doing vegan bags, vegan shoes, vegan Champagne and all sorts of vegan products — mostly with small groups because I want to encourage them as artists as well.
The artists are the freedom fighters of the world. That’s why I love to do it. If I have to do a fundraiser, I’d rather be with artists. They are more courageous when they are supporting an activist like me because I have a lot of friends who are, maybe, a little bit controversial.
By SUSAN HORNIK via www.latimes.com