Archive for Monday, January 1, 2007

People in the news

January 1, 2007

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Oprah built South African school to feel 'connection'

New York - Frustrated with just donating money to charities, Oprah Winfrey says she built a school for poor girls in South Africa because she wanted to feel closer to the people she was trying to help.

"I really became frustrated with the fact that all I did was write check after check," she told Newsweek magazine. "At a certain point, you want to feel that connection."

Winfrey spent five years and $40 million to build the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls outside Johannesburg.

The school for 12- and 13-year-old girls has 28 buildings on 22 lush acres. The school includes huge fireplaces in every building, a yoga studio, indoor and outdoor theaters and a beauty salon. People criticized her, saying the school is too lavish for such an impoverished country.

"These girls deserve to be surrounded by beauty, and beauty does inspire," she told the magazine. "I wanted this to be a place of honor for them because these girls have never been treated with kindness. They've never been told they are pretty or have wonderful dimples. I wanted to hear those things as a child."

'Babel' actor says Mexican heritage liberates him

Los Angeles - "Babel" actor Gael Garcia Bernal embraces his Mexican identity, saying it has a liberating effect on his expanding career.

"I feel completely free to be whatever," he told the Los Angeles Times. "Actually, if I was an actor from the United States, it would be incredibly hard, because I would be pigeonholed immediately."

Garcia Bernal, 28, said in Mexico any perceived faux pas by a celebrity can draw criticism.

"That's something that in Mexico they pick up a lot on - 'Oh, he didn't give me an autograph, he's lost it.' And it's funny because it's so ephemeral and so trivial," he said.

His legions of fans can look forward to seeing him next year in Hector Babenco's "El Pasado" (The Past), which chronicles a married couple's difficult breakup. He is also set to star in a film by Carlos Cuarón.

The actor has directed his first film, "Deficit," which he describes as a "generational allegory" focusing on young, upper-class Mexicans coping with the country's ongoing socio-economic upheavals.

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