Southern Duchess Ashley Judd

Her body of acting work has been met with great acclaim. She has been nominated for numerous awards, including the Emmy and the Golden Globe. As a veteran of TV, stage and film and the daughter and sister of the famous singing/songwriting country musicians Naomi and Wynonna Judd, Ashley Judd has led a life steeped in celebrity.

She has spent time all over the world, starring in a long list of movies and TV shows—even appearing on Broadway, where she portrayed one of the most iconic Southern characters of the American theater: Maggie in Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

If you asked her, though, she would probably describe herself first as woman from a long line of Eastern Kentuckians. “I’m a proud hillbilly who traces my family back at least eight generations in our beloved mountains,” she explains.

Judd could easily choose her next acting-career moves from a myriad of choices. But she opts to put acting on the back-burner mostly, making a life of activism a top priority—wielding the power of her fame to help those less fortunate than her and to bring awareness to injustices she sees at home and abroad. She is a much-sought-after public speaker and she uses her soapbox often to promote the idea that faith and spiritual practice play an important role in righting social wrongs.

Among many others, a cause close to her heart is stopping the socially and environmentally destructive practice of mountain-top mining in the South. “I am proud to stand with Eastern Kentuckians . . . to bring overdue justice for the people of Appalachia,” she writes in an op-ed piece in the Washington-based newspaper The Hill. She points out that “there’s so much potential today, right now, for Eastern Kentucky to . . . bravely lead the way to a new energy economy in this country.” And, she says with chagrin, because of mountain-top mining, “Eight hundred mountains are simply gone. It is inconceivable that this would be permitted in the Rockies or the Sierra Nevadas.” She has traveled, literally, around the world, visiting grassroots programs that focus on causes she also cares about: poverty alleviation, public health, human rights and social justice.

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