Jennifer Lawrence

Ever so likeable, ever so fierce, she has taken over Hollywood. Not only are people impressed by her ability to capture attention on-screen, but off-screen as well. She has a matter-of-fact vibe, and is unapologetic in her bold statements and strange jokes.

Jennifer Lawrence has never been the actress that takes the easy way out. She doesn’t sign up for huge blockbusters hoping to rake in the biggest amount of money. She doesn’t read scripts that settle for boring monotony and cliché utterings of repetition. She instead goes for the indies, the tales of a powerful female heroine, and of course, the downright shocking. Her very first role was at nine years old when she played a prostitute in a church play in her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. The determination to give all to her role was noted back then, with family friends telling her mother, “We don’t know if we should congratulate you or not, because your kid’s a great prostitute.”

She is one of the highest-paid actors right now, with Forbes listing her as the third highest paid actress in the world for 2017. In total, she has brought home three Golden Globes, one Oscar, a Saturn Award for Best Actress, and countless others with 115 wins and 170 nominations in total. Lawrence is one of the most successful actresses of our time despite having no previous acting training or schooling. This solidifies her place in the world of cinema, as she believes that to stay on top, you have to keep working hard at what you do. She doesn’t take many breaks. “I don’t like waking up with nothing to do or going to sleep without accomplishing anything,” Lawrence said. “That really depresses me.”

Sticking true to this statement, she hasn’t taken any vacations recently. In fact, she just finished her newest film Mother! which was released in theaters this past September. The movie, directed by Darren Aronofsky, is a psychological thriller that is chockfull of analytical themes and allegories. It’s a film that has caused great controversy, with people declaring that you will either hate it or love it, with no in between. Prepare for an intense, dark movie that aims to get into your head—It even affected Jennifer herself as she was filming.

“I had to go to a darker place than I’ve ever been in my life . . . I didn’t know if I’d be able to come out OK,” Lawrence confessed.

In fact, it affected her in such a dramatic way that she ended up in the hospital. She was filming one of the most intense scenes she had ever done, when she lost control, hyperventilated and dislocated a rib. “I have oxygen tubes in my nostrils, and Darren’s like, ‘It was out of focus; we’ve got to do it again.’ And I was just like, ‘Go f**k yourself,’” Lawrence recalls. She claims that she wouldn’t work with director Aronofsky on another film; although she is grateful for the experience, she doesn’t think she would be able to go through it all again.

Surprisingly, Jennifer didn’t always have a passion for acting. Although she dabbled in theater during school, she wanted to become a doctor. It wasn’t until a family vacation in New York City that her fate as an actress dawned on her. She was innocently strolling the city streets with her mother, when a stranger asked to take her picture. “I had no idea that that was creepy [at the time],” she said, and so she agreed, allowing the man to take her picture. He then took down her mother’s number to stay in contact. The very next day her phone rang, and soon after, she was reading her first script.

“I read the script and it was the first time I had that feeling like ‘I understand this. This is the first time I’ve ever understood anything,’” Lawrence reminisced.

She had discovered her calling and no one could take it from her. Her parents were the “opposite of stage parents” as they didn’t really approve of her acting dream. But as she protested and expressed to them how much she wanted to do it, they allowed her to, upon one condition: she must finish high school. And that she did, finishing high school two years early with a G.E.D., and a 3.9 GPA. She spent the following summer in New York to finally begin her acting career, starring in a small MTV commercial and even landing a part in the movie The Devil You Know.

As more calls requesting her filed in, the idea of moving to Los Angeles became inevitable to ignore. And so, rather than moving back to her birthplace of Louisville, Kentucky, the Lawrence family moved to L.A. She soon landed a part that was an important step in her acting career: TBS’s The Bill Engvall Show. Her role as the wisecracking daughter on this show allowed her to pick and choose which movie roles she wanted to play, as she had the show to fall back on. Thanks to this advantage, she starred in the 2008 movies The Poker House and The Burning Plain.

She thanks her stubborn, determined 14-year-old self for her success, saying, “I just kind of had this blind, stupid drive that really only a 14-year-old could have, of just knowing that it was going to happen…failure [wasn’t] an option.” And it was that “blind, stupid drive” that stood within her, allowing her to land the role of Ree in Winter’s Bone. This 2010 indie film ended up being a huge success that helped pioneer the rest of her career. At just 19, her breakthrough role in the film earned her nominations for an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and a Screen Actors Guild Award. Thereafter, Lawrence became even more desired in the movie world, with directors wanting to cast her left and right. It wasn’t long before she snagged her role as Mystique in X-Men: First Class, claiming the franchise under her belt. This was a big step for Jennifer. She had basically solidified herself in guaranteed money-making territory with a movie that was bound to continue on for years to come.

Then came the year that she was on fire…literally. In 2012, Lawrence landed the role as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, the movie-adaptation of the wildly popular books by Suzanne Collins. It is said to be one of the highest-grossing movies ever; making over $407 million at the domestic box office. The story follows teenage Katniss as she fended for herself in a survival-of- the-fittest game where teens were to either kill or be killed. In the movie, as Katniss completes one of her many public appearances, she comes out with an attention-grabbing outfit. Her costume was on fire; she stood tall as her chariot rode her through the crowd, their eyes wide with wonder. It was a powerful moment in the movie, as Katniss is known as a fearless person who speaks up for her rights and eventually forms a resistance against the inhumane, government-controlled games.

Lawrence isn’t far-off from her tenacious character in this movie. She relates to Katniss in that she believes in being head-strong, saying what you need to stay, and sticking up for what is right. You don’t need a flaming cape to be the girl on fire. This is what Lawrence did back in 2015 when she used her voice to stand up for unequal pay. The Sony hack piqued the interest of people all over the world, but particularly in Hollywood, as it revealed a wage gap that hadn’t been disclosed before. Jennifer was surprised by her own gap in pay for her work in the critically-acclaimed film American Hustle, where she realized that she had been paid less than her male counterparts.

She wrote an essay that was published in Lena Dunham’s feminist newsletter Lenny. In the letter, Lawrence discusses the gender wage gap and blames herself for not being more assertive in demanding higher pay. She reflects on how she wanted to say something, but felt intimidated by the thought of not being “liked” or seeming “difficult.” She pushes back against this now, claiming that women need to surpass this fear.

“I’m over trying to find the ‘adorable’ way to state my opinion and still be likable,” Lawrence wrote. “… I don’t think I’ve ever worked for a man in charge who spent time contemplating what angle he should use to have his voice heard. It’s just heard.”

You can hear the fiery passion that Lawrence has concerning the subject in the letter, where she doesn’t hold back. She truly tapped into her inner Katniss, which is ultimately a part of her now, by deciding to speak out and promises to continue to speak up for what is right. She won’t allow herself to be intimidated into silence anymore.

Her persistence paid off, as she went on to make an impressive cash flow with three more X-Men movies, two Hunger Games movies, and her 2016 movie: Passengers. The latter marks Lawrence’s 20th film, which is surprising considering that it took her only eight years to reach that number. Thanks to her go-getter mentality and her ability to captivate viewers on-screen, she isn’t going to disappear from the world of cinema anytime soon. Expect to see her in many more movies, as she already has three films occupying her agenda for the next couple of years with Red Sparrow being her next release in March 2018. And if you can’t make it to the theater to see her dominate the big screen, you’ll certainly see her on the small screen, lighting up the room and giving as many no-filter interviews as she can.

By Selene Rivera