Is an American actress, producer, and entrepreneur. The recipient of various accolades, including an Academy Award, two Golden Globe Awards, a British Academy Film Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and a Primetime Emmy Award, she is one of the highest-paid actresses in the world as of 2019. Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2006 and 2015, and Forbes listed her among the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women in 2019.
Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, Witherspoon began her career as a teenager, making her screen debut in The Man in the Moon (1991). Following a leading role opposite Mark Wahlberg in Fear (1996), her breakthrough came in 1999 with a supporting role in Cruel Intentions, and for her portrayal of Tracy Flick in the black comedy Election. She gained wider recognition for her role as Elle Woods in the comedy Legally Blonde (2001) and its 2003 sequel, and for her starring role in the romantic comedy Sweet Home Alabama (2002). In 2005, she garnered critical acclaim for her portrayal of June Carter Cash in the biographical musical film Walk the Line, which won her the Academy Award for Best Actress.
Witherspoon then starred in several critically and commercially unsuccessful comedies, during which her sole box-office success was the romantic drama Water for Elephants (2011). She made a comeback by producing and starring as Cheryl Strayed in the drama Wild (2014), which earned her a second nomination for Best Actress at the Academy Awards. Witherspoon has since begun work in television, by producing and starring in the HBO drama series Big Little Lies (2017–2019), the Apple TV+ drama series The Morning Show (2019–present), and the Hulu miniseries Little Fires Everywhere (2020). For the first of these, she won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Limited Series.
Witherspoon also owns a clothing company, Draper James, and she is actively involved in children’s and women’s advocacy organizations. She serves on the board of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) and was named Global Ambassador of Avon Products in 2007, serving as honorary chair of the charitable Avon Foundation dedicated to women’s causes. In 2000, she co-founded production company Type A Films, which has since merged with Hello Sunshine, a media firm that Witherspoon also co-founded in 2016. Hello Sunshine, focused on female-led stories, has produced many films and television series.
Early Life and Education
Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon was born on March 22, 1976, at Southern Baptist Hospital, in New Orleans, Louisiana, while her father, John Draper Witherspoon, was a student at Tulane University medical school. Her father was born in Georgia and served as a lieutenant in the United States Army Reserve. He was in private practice as an otolaryngologist until 2012. Her mother, Mary Elizabeth “Betty” Witherspoon (née Reese), is from Harriman, Tennessee. Betty Witherspoon earned three degrees in total, including a Ph.D. in pediatric nursing. She became a professor of nursing at Vanderbilt University. Witherspoon has claimed descent from Scottish-born John Witherspoon, who signed the United States Declaration of Independence; however, this claim has not been verified by the Society of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence genealogists. Her parents are still legally married, although they separated in 1996.
Witherspoon was raised as an Episcopalian and has said she is proud of the “definitive Southern upbringing” which she received. She said that it gave her “a sense of family and tradition” and taught her about “being conscientious about people’s feelings, being polite, being responsible and never taking for granted what you have in your life”. At the age of seven, Witherspoon was selected as a model for a florist’s television advertisements, which motivated her to take acting lessons. At age eleven, she took first place in the Ten-State Talent Fair. Witherspoon received high grades in school, loved reading, and considered herself “a big dork who read loads of books”. On mentioning her love for books, she said, “I get crazy in a bookstore. It makes my heart beat hard because I want to buy everything.” She has been described as a “multi-achiever” and was given the nickname “Little Type A” by her parents. Witherspoon attended middle school at Harding Academy and graduated from the all-girls Harpeth Hall School in Nashville, during which time she was a cheerleader. She later attended Stanford University as an English literature major but left the school prior to completing her studies to pursue an acting career.
Witherspoon met actor Ryan Phillippe at her 21st birthday party in March 1997. The pair became engaged in December 1998 and married on June 5, 1999, at Old Wide Awake Plantation near Charleston, South Carolina. They have two children together, daughter, Ava Elizabeth Phillippe, born on September 9, 1999, and son, Deacon Reese Phillippe, born on October 23, 2003. In October 2006, Witherspoon and Phillippe announced their separation.
In February 2010, Witherspoon was reported to be dating Jim Toth, a talent agent and co-head of motion picture talent at Creative Artists Agency, where she is a client. They announced their engagement that December, and married on March 26, 2011, in Ojai, California, at Libbey Ranch, Witherspoon’s country estate, which she later sold. The couple has a son together, Tennessee James Toth, born on September 27, 2012. In 2013, Witherspoon was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, after Toth was stopped for suspicion of driving under the influence. She pleaded no contest to obstruction of an officer and was required to pay court costs.
Relationship: seventh cousin twice removed descending
Rosa Marie Miles
Hubert Newt Miles
Guy Raymond Miles
Martha Ingersoll Coleman
Oliver Newton Draper
William Gilbert Draper
Dorothea Anne Draper
John Draper Witherspoon
Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon