Keynote Speaker Maria Bello

Maria Bello

Actress, Author & Activist

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    English

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Maria Bello is an internationally renowned actor, activist and author of Whatever… Love Is Love. Her book is due out in April 2015 and it is a compelling argument about the fluidity of partnerships, and how families today come in a myriad shapes and sizes. Bello captured the world’s attention with her essay, “Coming Out as a Modern Family” in the New York Times’ popular “Modern Love” column. Her editorial became one of the ten most popular in “Modern Love” history. In the essay, Bello recalled telling her son that she had fallen in love with her best friend, a woman — as well as her instant relief at his easy and immediate acceptance with the phrase, “Whatever, Mom, love is love.” In fact, Bello’s essay became so beloved that she decided to expand upon it in her first book, Whatever… Love is Love.

Whatever… Love is Love is a book that focuses on the labels that we place on ourselves and on others in today’s modern world. Insights she shared in this book encourage readers to accept that many of the old labels are just that—old and outdated, and that the only ones that matter are the ones we accept for ourselves, even if they don’t fit the mold of “typical.” Filled with deeply personal, often funny and even racy stories, Whatever… Love Is Love is not another memoir of an actress. It is a raw, frank and honest book that questions the roles we all play in our lives — filled with insights relevant to all of us.

She also co-founded We Advance, a women’s movement and NGO based in Cité Soleil, Haiti that advocates for women to achieve full political, economic, and social participation. In conjunction with the movement, she founded WeAdvance.org, an online library designed to connect and empower women in Haiti and throughout the world. Bello has starred in over 40 films (including Coyote Ugly, A History of Violence and The Cooler), was nominated for two Golden Globes and won the New York Film Critic Circle Award. In 2009, she was voted one of Variety’s “most powerful women in Hollywood” for her prolific activism. Bello has spoken around the country on social impact investing, the issues in Haiti and women’s, LGBT and human rights. Bello has spoken at high-profile events, including TEDx in Washington D.C., at the ACLU, for Variety, at Vital Voices and much more. In 2012, she was a keynote speaker at the State Department’s “Forum on Impact Investing,” and she doesn’t just talk about causes; she invests in them. Bello is a partner in the online social impact investment firm, Gate Global Impact. Her upcoming speeches include TED Women 2015 and TED Cannes 2015.

Bello’s honesty is why audiences respond so well to her, whether she’s speaking at a TED event or via the New York Times. In her new book, she shares a series of thoughtful answers to provocative questions — dilemmas that she wrestled with as she reexamined her life after a near-fatal illness. Part of her soul searching led to the realization of her feelings for her partner Clare, but also pushed her to think about her sexual identity,  her feelings about spirituality, her relationship with her parents, the highs and lows of her career, her humanitarian work and her worth as a mother. Some of the questions that Bello struggled with include: Am I a Writer? Am I Damaged? Am I Resilient? Am I LGBT? Am I a Bad Girl? Am I a Good Mother? Am I a Feminist? Am I Catholic? Am I Cinderella?

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