From the breakthrough role of a lifetime as Hermione Granger, "the brightest witch of her age," in the Harry Potter film franchise to her turn as bookish Belle in the live-action adaptation of Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Emma Watson has built herself a career playing clever women. The real-life Brown University graduate has a sharp mind and strong voice of her own, which she employs in interviews, on social media, and at various United Nations events in her capacity as UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. Though she's no slacker when it comes to winning celebrity style points, she's more than a fashion icon: to plenty of fans, she's a role model with a good head on her shoulders, and the heart to match. To celebrate her birthday (she was born on April 15, 1990), here are some of her most powerful quotes.
1. ON EMBRACING STRENGTH
"I feel like young girls are told they have to be a princess, and be delicate and fragile, and that's bulls**t. I identify much more with the idea of being a warrior, being a fighter. If I was going to be a princess, I'd be a warrior princess, definitely. I think women are scared of feeling powerful and strong and brave sometimes. I think you’ve got to embrace it."
— From a July 2011 press conference
2. ON SELF-DETERMINATION
“I don't want other people to decide who I am. I want to decide that for myself.”
— From a 2009 interview with Elle
3. ON DREAMING BIG
"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."
4. ON SCREWING UP ONCE IN A WHILE
"I don’t want the fear of failure to stop me from doing what I really care about."
5. ON SCREWING UP, PART TWO
"You only learn from experience, so as much as someone can tell you things, you have to go out there and make your own mistakes in order to learn."
6. ON PATIENTLY WORKING TOWARD CHANGE
"Don't expect change to happen overnight, even if its not always visible it's making more impact than you think"
7. ON WHAT TO DO WITH A B.A. IN ENGLISH
"I’ve been very fulfilled by my studies. English has helped me think in an analytical way. It’s helped me see the world from new perspectives. Diving into these stories and characters has given richness to my own life. And now, when I read scripts or look at stories, I have these references for a larger understanding of humanity. I’m sure it will make my job as an actress more interesting."
8. ON PHOTOSHOP AND IMPERFECTIONS
"With airbrushing and digital manipulation, fashion can project an unobtainable image that’s dangerously unhealthy. I’m excited about the aging process. I’m more interested in women who aren’t perfect. They’re more compelling."
9. ON PLAYING BY HER OWN RULES
“All I can do is follow my instincts, because I'll never please everyone.”
10. ON DEFYING SEXIST STEREOTYPES
11. ON RE-READING BOOKS
"I like books that aren't just lovely but that have memories in themselves. Just like playing a song, picking up a book again that has memories can take you back to another place or another time."
12. ON BELIEVING IN, AND BEING, YOURSELF
"Becoming yourself is really hard and confusing, and it’s a process. 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."
13. ON NATURAL BEAUTY
"I truly, truly believe that beauty is something that comes from within. You can only really look beautiful if you feel beautiful on the inside. It shows through your face, the way you move and the way you hold yourself."
14. ON LOVING AND LEARNING
"When I started dating I had this kind of Romeo and Juliet, fateful romantic idea about love which was almost that you were a victim and there was a lot of pain involved and that was how it should be. Shakespeare said the course of true love never did run smooth, and I had this sense that it had to be painful. It was such a revelation [...] to realize that it shouldn’t be that way and that you get to choose who you love and who you decide to give your heart to.
"It sounds like a cliché but I also learnt that you’re not going to fall for the right person until you really love yourself and feel good about how you are. Well, that was revelatory to me.”
15. ON COURAGE
"There's nothing wrong with being afraid. It's not the absence of fear; it's overcoming it. Sometimes you've got to blast through and have faith."
— From a July 2011 press conference
16. ON CELEBRATING LIFE’S LITTLE ACCOMPLISHMENTS
"I never feel so accomplished as when I open a tough jar."
This story was first published in 2016.