Angelina Jolie Raises Pollinator Awareness With Bee-Covered Portrait


Today is World Bee Day, and actress and humanitarian Angelina Jolie has teamed up with National Geographic for a striking celebration.

To raise awareness about these important pollinators and the efforts to save them, Jolie was photographed for the magazine covered in bees.

“Pollinators of course are extremely vital to our life and our environment. And so we have to understand scientifically what happens if we lose them,” Jolie said in an interview about the shoot with National Geographic’s Indira Lakshmanan. “This is something we can work to solve.”

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World Bee Day is a holiday designated by the UN to honor bees and other pollinators while raising awareness about the threats they face and the ways they can contribute to sustainable development. Pollinators are essential to propagating nearly 90 percent of wild flowering plants and more than 75 percent of food crops. However, they are at risk from industrial agriculture, pesticides, land-use change and the climate crisis. Almost 35 percent of invertebrate pollinators, including bees, are now at risk from extinction.

“Sometimes a lot of these issues feel so overwhelming,” Jolie told Lakshmanan. “But then there are these simple truths and we just stick to them. When we’re losing species, animal or plant, it is destroying something. It is breaking apart the fabric of all the things that we depend on. We’re all smart enough to know that these pieces are very, very interconnected and very crucial.”

However, Jolie isn’t only drawing attention to problems, but also solutions. She has recently been named the “godmother” for Women For Bees, a joint project from UNESCO and French-cosmetics house Guerlain that seeks to train women in the art of beekeeping. Beginning in June, ten women from five biosphere reserves will receive a 30-day accelerated training course. This will continue for five years, until 50 women are trained. By 2025, the women will have built 2,500 native beehives and protected 125 million bees, National Geographic explained.

“With so much we are worried about around the world and so many people feeling overwhelmed with bad news,” Jolie told National Geographic, “this is one [problem] that we can manage.”

To call attention to this vital work, Jolie wanted to be photographed covered in bees. Realizing this vision fell to photographer Dan Winters, himself an amateur beekeeper, who chose to copy the technique used by Richard Avedon in a famous 1981 photograph of a bald and bare-chested beekeeper covered in bees.

Winters used the same pheromone as Avedon to attract the bees to Jolie, he explained in an Instagram post. The set was kept quiet and dark to calm the insects, and everyone else wore protective gear.

“Angelina stood perfectly still, covered in bees for 18 minutes without a sting,” Winters said. “Being around bees is always an experience that leaves me in awe. I think this shoot was also an awe-inspiring event for all who were present — and our offering for World Bee Day has its own roots in photographic history.”

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