Mila Kunis has raised over $36 million (€33 million) to support people affected by the war in Ukraine, her native country that she left as a young girl. Kunis and her husband, Ashton Kutcher, have become prominent humanitarian figures in Hollywood, and her efforts have earned recognition from President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who said he was impressed by her determination. She was named one of the most influential people of the year by both Time and People magazines. “She’s a great leader,” said fellow actress Zoe Saldaña. And she recently convinced the makers of World of Warcraft, a video game she reportedly enjoys, to donate part of their revenue from the game to support Ukrainian victims of war.
Little is remembered about Kunis’ early performances. She was better known in the early 2000s for her relationship with Macaulay Culkin than for her on-screen work. However, she later established herself as a prominent figure in Hollywood’s film scene, gaining further fame for her marriage to Kutcher. As Mila Kunis turns 40, the war in Ukraine has added an element of social repute that may even eclipse her movie success.
The actress was born in 1983 in the city of Chernivtsi (southwest Ukraine) when the country was still part of the Soviet Union. She comes from a Jewish family of Holocaust survivors who struggled economically and moved to the United States in 1991 as religious refugees escaping widespread anti-Semitism. Arriving with only $250 in his pocket, her father found work as a pizza delivery driver, so that was their daily dinner for over a year. Young Mila only spoke Russian when she started school in Los Angeles. Struggling with the language barrier, she remembers spending her days in tears. “I didn’t understand the culture. I didn’t understand the people. I didn’t understand the language. My first sentence of my essay to get into college was like, ‘Imagine being blind and deaf at age seven.’ And that’s kind of what it felt like moving to the States,” she said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.
Things started changing quickly for Kunis. Her grandmother used to take her to school and bring candy to help Mila make friends with other kids. To overcome the cultural and language barriers, her parents enrolled Mila in acting classes. Kunis soon started landing occasional TV roles in series like Baywatch and starred in a Barbie doll commercial. When she was only 14, she got her breakout role in That ‘70s Show by lying about her age. But when the truth came out, her performance as Jackie Burkhart was so good, the show had to keep her on board.
When Kunis was 18, she met Macaulay Culkin, who was three years older. Since both had grown up in harsh media glare, the two began a romantic relationship that lasted for nine years, navigating the challenges of fame that eventually led Culkin to step away from the industry. “He was really big. You couldn’t walk down the street with him. Fans would scream when they saw him — they didn’t know how to react,” she said in one interview. Although both have been tight-lipped about their relationship, Kunis publicly held herself responsible for the terrible breakup. “I was an idiot,” she said. Despite being known as ‘the girlfriend,’ by the time Kunis and Culkin separated, her career had taken off with comedic roles in Ted and Family Guy (Kunis voices Meg). Her role as a ballet dancer and paranoid rival to Natalie Portman in Black Swan, earned her kudos from audiences, critics and academics alike.
Black Swan turned Kunis into a sex symbol. Magazines like Esquire and FHM dubbed her “the sexiest woman on the planet,” back when the media still objectified actresses with such rankings. However, she prefers to choose roles that don’t overly sexualize her, and admits to a particular fondness for comedy. “You have to build your career on something more than being number one in FHM’s top 100. Your body is going to falter and then what do you have left?” she said. Kunis published an open letter in 2016, a few months before the #MeToo movement exploded, saying that a producer once told her that she would have to pose half-naked on the cover of a men’s magazine to promote a film. When she refused, the producer reportedly threatened her by saying, “You’ll never work in this town again.” The sexist producer was sorely mistaken.
The actress now shares her life with former co-star Ashton Kutcher, who was previously married to Demi Moore. They got married in 2015 and have two children together: a daughter named Wyatt Isabelle (8) and a son named Dimitri (6). They frequently attract attention from the tabloids in things like their views on daily showers. “If you can see dirt on the kids, wash them. Otherwise, it doesn’t make much sense,” the actress argued. Or their decision not leave an inheritance for their children. But the couple has also thrived in the business world — Kutcher is considered one of the most astute investors in Silicon Valley and was an early backer of Uber, Spotify and Airbnb. Despite claiming disinterest in the business world, Kunis — the daughter of an impoverished Ukrainian immigrant family — has amassed a fortune estimated at $75 million. Maybe this is what people mean when they talk about the American dream.
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