Emma Charlotte Duerre Watson was born 15 April 1990 and is an English actress, model, and activist.
She was born in Paris, France, to English lawyers Chris Watson and Jacqueline Luesby. Watson lived in Maisons-Laffitte near Paris until the age of five. Her parents divorced when she was young, and Watson moved to England to live with her mother in Oxfordshire while spending weekends at her father’s house in London. Watson has said she speaks some French, though not as well as she used to. After moving to Oxford with her mother and brother, she attended the Dragon School, remaining there until 2003. From the age of six, she wanted to become an actress, and trained at the Oxford branch of Stagecoach Theatre Arts, a part-time theatre school where she studied singing, dancing, and acting.
By the age of ten, Watson had performed in Stagecoach productions and school plays including Arthur: The Young Years and The Happy Prince, but she had never acted professionally prior to the Harry Potter series. After the Dragon School, Watson moved on to Headington School, Oxford. While on film sets, she and her castmates were tutored for up to five hours a day. In June 2006, she took GCSE school examinations in ten subjects, achieving eight A* and two A grades. In May 2007, she took AS levels in English, Geography, Art, and History of Art. The following year, she dropped History of Art to pursue the three A levels, receiving an A grade in each subject.
Watson took a gap year after leaving school, to film Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows beginning in February 2009, but said she intended to continue her studies and later confirmed that she had chosen Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. In March 2011, after 18 months at the university, Watson announced that she was deferring her course for “a semester or two”, though she attended Worcester College, Oxford during the 2011–12 academic year as part of the Visiting Student Programme.
In an interview on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Watson said just before graduation that it took five years to finish instead of four because, owing to her acting work, she ended up taking two full semesters off. On 25 May 2014, she graduated from Brown University with a bachelor’s degree in English literature. In 2013, she became certified to teach yoga and meditation. As part of this certification, she attended a week-long meditation course at a Canadian facility, in which residents are not allowed to speak, in order to figure out how to be at home with themselves. In an interview with Elle Australia, she said that an uncertain future meant finding a way to always feel safe and at home within oneself. Because she can never rely on a physical place.
In 1999, casting began for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the film adaptation of British author J. K. Rowling’s best-selling novel. Casting agents found Watson through her Oxford theatre teacher, and producers were impressed by her confidence. After eight auditions, producer David Heyman told Watson and fellow applicants Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint that they had been cast in the roles of the school friends Hermione Granger, Harry Potter and Ron Weasley, respectively. Rowling supported Watson from her first screen test–she was part of the cast till the last movie.
After the last Harry Potter film, she took on starring and supporting roles in My Week with Marilyn (2011), The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) and The Bling Ring (2013), made an appearance as an exaggerated version of herself in This Is the End (2013), and played the title character’s adopted daughter in Noah (2014). She went on to star as Belle in the musical romantic fantasy Beauty and the Beast (2017) and Meg March in the coming-of-age film Little Women (2019). Her other film roles include Regression (2015), Colonia (2015), and The Circle (2017).
In 2005, Watson began her modeling career with a photo shoot for Teen Vogue, which made her the youngest person ever to feature on its cover. Three years later, the British press reported that Watson was to replace Keira Knightley as the face of the fashion house Chanel, but this was denied by both parties. In June 2009, following several months of rumours, Watson confirmed that she would be partnering with Burberry as the face of their Autumn/Winter 2009 campaign, for which she received an estimated six-figure fee. She also appeared in Burberry’s 2010 Spring/Summer campaign alongside her brother Alex, musicians George Craig and Matt Gilmour, and model Max Hurd. Watson continued her involvement in fashion advertising when she announced she had been chosen as the face of Lancôme in March 2011.
In September 2009, Watson announced her involvement with People Tree, a fair trade fashion brand. Watson worked as a creative adviser for the company to create a spring line of clothing, which was released in February 2010; the range featured styles inspired by southern France and London.
Watson, who was not paid for the collaboration, admitted that competition for the range was minimal, but argued that fashion is a great way to empower people and give them skills; rather than give cash to charity you can help people by buying the clothes they make and supporting things they take pride in. She thought young people like her are becoming increasingly aware of the humanitarian issues surrounding fast fashion and want to make good choices but there aren’t many options out there. Watson continued her involvement with People Tree, resulting in the release of a 2010 Autumn/Winter collection.
In 2013, Madame Tussauds in London unveiled a wax statue of Watson draped in an Elie Saab haute couture design donated to the museum by the designer.
In June 2020, Watson was appointed to the board of directors of Kering, the owner of various fashion brands such as Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent. Watson will chair Kering’s sustainability committee. Kering boss François-Henri Pinault praised the new board members’ “knowledge and competences, and the multiplicity of their backgrounds and perspectives”.
Watson identifies as a feminist. She has promoted education for girls, traveling to Bangladesh and Zambia to do so. In July 2014, she was appointed an UN Women Goodwill ambassador. That September, an admittedly nervous Watson delivered an address at UN Headquarters in New York City to launch the UN Women campaign HeForShe, which urges men to advocate for gender equality. In that speech she said she began questioning gender-based assumptions at age eight when she was called “bossy” (a trait she has attributed to her being a “perfectionist”) whilst boys were not, and at 14 when she was “sexualized by certain elements of the media”. Watson’s speech also described feminism as “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities” and declared that the perception of “man-hating” is something that “has to stop”. Watson later said she received threats within less than twelve hours of making the speech, prompting her to fight more.
In 2015, Malala Yousafzai told Watson she decided to call herself a feminist after hearing Watson’s speech.
Also in September, Watson made her first country visit as a UN Women Goodwill ambassador to Uruguay where she gave a speech highlighting the need for women’s political participation. In December, the Ms. Foundation for Women named Watson its Feminist Celebrity of 2014, following an online poll. Watson also gave a speech about gender equality in January 2015, at the World Economic Forum’s annual winter meeting.
In January 2016, Watson started a feminist Goodreads book club: Our Shared Shelf. The goal of the club is to share feminist ideas and encourage discussion on the topic. One book is selected per month and is discussed in the last week of that month. The first book to be selected was My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem, whom Watson would later interview that February at the How to: Academy in London.
In February 2016, Watson was appointed visiting fellow at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University.
In July 2019, Watson helped launching a legal advice line for people who have suffered sexual harassment in the workplace. Legal advice is provided by Rights of Women, a charity which works to help women through the law.