Charlize Theron is a South African-born actress, best known for her roles in such films as North Country and Monster, for which she won an Academy Award.

Actress and philanthropist Charlize Theron Born on August 7, 1975, in rural Benoni, South Africa, to co-owners of a road construction company, Charles and Gerda. The Afrikaans-speaking family lived on a working farm outside of Johannesburg, and although Theron’s childhood chores included tending livestock, her passion for dance became evident early on. To foster her artistic leanings, Theron began ballet lessons at age six. Her parents encouraged her burgeoning talent, and by age 12, she was sent to a Johannesburg boarding school to study dance. At 16, Theron entered a Johannesburg modeling contest, which she won. She soon traveled to Italy, where she won the International New Model Today competition, and began a modeling career in earnest. After traveling to New York at the age of 18, she left high fashion to attempt a career in dance. Her studies with the Joffrey Ballet were curtailed by severe knee injuries, forcing her to abandon her first calling.

Theron decided to pursue acting instead, and moved to Los Angeles. She soon found, however, that her Afrikaner accent was a barrier in landing speaking roles. Watching hours of television, she strove to hide her South African roots with perfect American inflections.

She made her acting debut in a small role in Children of the Corn III (1995). Soon after, larger parts followed in 2 Days in the Valley (1996) and That Thing You Do! (1996). As Theron became more of a Hollywood presence, she was cast alongside Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves in The Devil’s Advocate (1997). Her turn as Reeves’ suicidal wife earned her another brief but memorable part in Woody Allen’s Celebrity (1998), and a starring role in Disney’s remake of Mighty Joe Young (1998).

In 1999, Theron landed a string of roles in notable films, including The Astronaut’s Wife opposite Johnny Depp, and The Cider House Rules with Tobey Maguire. In 2001, she reteamed with Reeves for the tearjerker Sweet November, and two years later she starred opposite Mark Wahlberg in the heist thriller The Italian Job (2003). However, her performance in 2003’s Monster—a biopic about serial killer Aileen Wuornos—earned her widespread respect. Theron’s gripping performance won her both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. In 2008, Theron announced she’d become a U.S. citizen. The actress still maintains her South African citizenship. Charlize Theron chairs the Charlize africa outreach organization, the organization helps African youths keep themselves safe from HIV through grant giving, networking, and spotlighting the work of the community-based organizations supported. She has not only succeeded internationally but remain a role model for both aspiring actors and talented youths of South Africa.

Charlize Theron is a noteworthy South African that has not allowed the issues of her past hold her down, she inspires the many generations that are aspiring to be great. We see greatness everywhere but the exceptional icons that do extra, become the very pillar that makes us proudly South African. We saluate Charlize Theron, Our Local Icon for March 2015 Icon.