Biography

Born and raised, at least some of the time, in Manhattan, New York, Jolie’s first memories of her childhood are of when she lived in Paris. Jolie’s father, the legendary musical genius Quincy Jones, had brought his Quincy Jones Big Band to France to perform a jazz musical destined for Broadway. Jolie’s early education was a bilingual French – English experience. Coupled with her biracial and bicultural heritage, her father is African – American /American Indian and her mother is European – American, Jolie is in many ways a truly multicultural child.

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A young Jolie with her mother in the streets of Manhattan.

Jolie’s family life exposed her to many cultures and many people who would have a profound effect on her personal philosophy and life path. Surrounded by living legends such as Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughan, Peggy Lee and Frank Sinatra, Jolie witnessed a world of limitless creative expression, dedication, persistence and possibilities. Her father always said, “If you can see it, you can be it.” As a result of these life experiences, Jolie has a belief system of unlimited possibilities.

Jolie was blessed with a culturally diverse life and feels a deep connection with people of many nationalities. This connection supports her respect for our diverse cultures and her understanding that we are all stronger for our shared experience of being human, the foundation of all of our cultures. Jolie’s early exposure to the diverse world around her made for a very rich and meaningful life with a broad yet intimate view.

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Having fun in the pool with her father in Paris.

Upon returning to the United States with her parents, Jolie continued her multifaceted education at the Professional Children’s School, PS 6 and the progressive New Lincoln School. Her academic education was always enhanced through the study of piano, music and modern dance inspired by June Taylor, Martha Graham and Katherine Dunham.

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At fifteen, on
the cover of Mademoiselle.

In 1964, Jolie was introduced to Eileen Ford, founder of the world-renowned modeling agency, who invited her to join the Ford Models. At the age of fifteen, Jolie was the first African American to adorn the cover of “Mademoiselle” magazine and appear in the pages of “Seventeen Magazine.” Jolie was not just a fashion model but a model for young African American women who finally saw someone who looked like them become part of our fashion culture.

At sixteen Jolie moved to Los Angeles and finished high school while working as an intern at the Hollywood Professional Preschool. Jolie’s love and fascination with children was inspiring her toward a career in education but her busy life acting, singing and modeling, not to mention early motherhood at twenty, deferred that career choice. Jolie juggled life as the mother of two young sons while continuing to work with Max Factor and Revlon on prominent advertising campaigns. Wanting to make motherhood and family life her full-time priority, Jolie moved with her husband and two sons to their home in the Catskill Mountains. Jolie’s spirit of advocacy soon focused on organizing the local chapter of SANE, Citizens for a Sane Nuclear Policy, dedicated to promoting community awareness through conferences and speaker forums. During her years in this rural setting, Jolie continued her artistic life through gardening, painting and sculpture while also serving as the energetic “Den Mom” for the equally energetic Woodstock Cub Scout Troop.

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With her two sons, Donovan (left) and Sunny (right).

In 1984, Jolie and her family moved to London where she studied art at Camden Arts. While in London, Jolie pursued her singing career working with well-known artists such as, Boy George, Jon Anderson, Nick Kamen and Curiosity Killed the Cat.

Returning to Los Angeles, Jolie resumed her studies with acclaimed acting coach and director, Milton Katselas, and continued her music and voice training. In 1987, she joined forces with the internationally recognized Brazilian artist, Ivan Lins, producing two of his albums and managing his international career. Jolie feels a deep connection with Brazilian culture and music: a love first ignited on a trip with her father to an international music contest held in Brazil. The music and culture of Brazil left an indelible impression on Jolie. Brazilian friends often claim her as one of their own since she “must have been Brazilian in another life!”

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Receiving the Environmental Media Association Best Video Award for the Take it Back Foundation’s “Yakety Yak — Take it Back!” music video, presented by Herbie Hancock and Sting.

In 1998 as an outgrowth of her membership in The Hollywood Women’s Political Committee, Jolie was a founding member of the Earth Communications Office. The organization’s goal was to act through the media as a bridge for the environmental community and the public. Embracing a national recycling campaign, Jolie later formed her own non-profit environmental organization, The Take It Back Foundation. The foundation’s mission is to educate and mobilize children to take responsibility for their environment. As president of the foundation, Jolie participated in the Earth Summit and Global Forum in Rio de Janeiro.

With her sons, Donovan and Sunny, out of school and on their way, Jolie again returned her focus to her musical career performing with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra with her father conducting. In her solo debut at the Jazz Bakery, Jolie received rave reviews comparing her to Julie London and Anita Baker. During her engagement at the Cinegrill, Los Angeles Times Music Critic, Don Heckman, compared her “articulate expressiveness to Nancy Wilson blended into the warm candor of Ella Fitzgerald.”

– by Pat Kunkle

 

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