Maria Bello is an internationally renowned actor, women's rights activist, and the co-founder of We Advance, a women's movement and NGO based in Cité Soleil, Haiti. Having starred in over 30 movies (including “Coyote Ugly,” “A History of Violence,” and “The Cooler”), Bello has won Golden Globe and New York Film Critics awards and nominations.
Bello was born in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Her father is Italian American and her mother is Polish American. She grew up in a working-class Roman Catholic family and attended Villanova University, where she majored in peace and justice education and worked at the Women's Law Project in Philadelphia.
Bello founded her first NGO, The Dream Yard Drama Project, in 1997 and travelled around the world to Bosnia, Kenya, Botswana, Bhutan, Nepal, and many other countries interviewing women about their lives, hopes, and dreams. Since 2008, she has worked in Haiti with Artists for Peace and Justice and Femmes en Democratie. Additionally, Bello raised funds and produced a women's media campaign for the 2010 elections and spearheaded the opening of the women's clinic in the Petionville Camp immediately following the earthquake. She is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative and works on gender policy within the Haiti Action Network.
Bello was named Goodwill Ambassador for Women in Haiti and along with Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, she leads a committee for women's empowerment, social business, and poverty alleviation in President Martelly's Council for Investments in Haiti. She is also building the first women's co-op bakery in Marigaux, Haiti, along with her Haitian colleagues.
Maria Bello was named a Vital Voices Global Ambassador for women and participated in the first ever Vital Voices/Bank of America International Women's Conference in Haiti. In 2012, she was a keynote speaker at the State Department's Forum on Impact Investing and was awarded the Starkey Foundation's So the World May Hear Award. She speaks around the world on social impact investing, Haiti, and the "new women's revolution."
She published a book, Whatever...Love Is Love: Questioning the Labels We Give Ourselves in 2015.
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