She was a rural farm girl from South Africa who took Hollywood by storm. Maybe. Maybe not. There is the official, according-to-Charlize story. And sometimes, just sometimes, it is totally at odds with reality. The thing about Charlize Theron is that for years she lied about how her South African father died. And, reportedly, she also "misrepresented" the physical abuse she claimed to have suffered at his hands. That honor probably belongs to her mother Gerda, by Charlize's own admissions. One way or another, both she and her mother Gerda, were determined that she would get out of South Africa. But the problem was that she had not even finished high school, so the only things she had going for her was her tall, statuesque body and that gorgeous face. So, she left home as a teenager and went to Milan on a modeling gig, then drifted over to New York and studied ballet until injuries sidelined her.
Then we get to "happily ever after" and the tale of teenage Charlize, toting a tattered suitcase and with all of $400 in her pocket, buying a one-way ticket out of New York to Hollywood. She was "discovered" by agent, John Crosby. And the rest is history. But the intriguing thing is this: If you talk to Charlize and her mother, you get one story. If you talk to her father's family or read Killer Women, you get a completely different tale. And the story told from John Crosby's point of view also gives us a different picture. And that idyllic childhood on a farm? Well, it sounds good, doesn't it? Here are 15 secrets from Charlize's childhood she probably would prefer you didn't know.
15 The Thing About Gerda: Discipline Or Abuse?
Charlize and her mother Gerda, have said her father Charles was abusive. But the facts? According to Chris Karsten's Charlize: Life's a Helluva Ride, the young Charlize once went to school with imprints of Disney cartoon characters on her thigh after Gerda had whacked her with a hanger with cartoon cut-outs on it. Why? She had disobeyed Gerda and eaten soup while wearing her school uniform and, even worse, had spilled soup onto her clothes. It makes some uncomfortable to hear the adult Charlize say that she "deserved it" because she had been disobedient. She even thanks her mother for what many would call abuse.
Her aunt Elsa tells the tale of stopping Gerda from laying into Charlize because the girl had forgotten to condition her hair after swimming in a swimming pool. Apparently, she whacked the school girl with whatever was to hand, from shoes to belts.
14 Tales Of An Idyllic Childhood: My Best Friend Was A Goat
And his name was Bok. The goat, that is. This is all part of rural idyll that Charlize recounts as her memories of early childhood. They lived on a farm. Well, actually it was a tiny smallholding attached to the burgeoning heavy road haulage and building equipment rental business Gerda and Charles ran. Asphalt, concrete kind of a rural idyll. In that far away land, barefoot kids rode donkeys to school and swam in the ocean. Well, that version omits the golf cart Charles Theron got to ferry his little princess back and forth on the school run. And the fact that the ocean oasis was shark infested. And Charles and Gerda? Probably a marriage made in hell. He was sociable and outgoing. She was reserved and determined to break free of South Africa's racist, sexist mindset and, according to some, a chip firmly and permanently attached to that shoulder.
13 The Lies About Her Father's Death
It was the swinging 60s and Charles Theron had fallen hard for the young Gerda Maritz. Her family didn't much care for her dangerously short, underwear revealing, mini-skirts. Plus, she had rebelled and left home and ended up living with Charles' family. They married when she was 18 years-old and Charlize, their only child, came along a few years later in 1975. Fast forward fifteen or so years to June of 1991, and he was dead. And for years and years, the model and budding actress maintained the story of a rural, idyllic childhood, saying that her father had been killed in a car crash. That was simply not the case. For whatever reason, it was a lie, a misrepresentation. Then, the story broke: Charlize's mother Gerda had shot and killed her husband. To the surprise of some, she was never prosecuted. It was then that the seemingly permanent rift between Charlize and her mother and her father's relatives ripped the once close family unit apart. More of that later.
12 Jail Bait Teen Model
In the 1990s, there weren't many tickets out of South Africa for a girl like Charlize. Education? Forget it. She didn't even finish high school. So, when a modeling competition gave the teen a chance to go to Milan and model, she got up and left home for Italy and the beginnings of fame and fortune, mostly living on her own. Jeremy Gordin, the former editor of South African Playboy, tells the tale of his early encounter with the teenage model and her mom. According to South Africa's Mail & Guardian, "In 1994, she and her mother, Gerda, walked into his office to present her portfolio with a view to securing a spot as the magazine’s first Playmate. Gordin was about to break the news that the publisher had rejected her as 'clearly not well-endowed enough' when she whipped off her T-shirt, under which she wore no bra." She got the job. How proud mom must have been.
11 The Trashing Of Charles Theron
By the time teenage model Charlize posed for a series of provocative, edgy black and white shots, Charles Theron had been dead for several years. And the story put out (by guess who) was that he had been physically abusive to both his wife and daughter. Mother and daughter told (and still tell) the tale of an alcoholic and abusive man with a nasty, violent streak, a man who would disappear for days on end. The story from his family? If anybody had a violent streak, it was Gerda. Charlize has since backtracked on the abuse story and claimed the abuse she suffered at the hands of her father was only "verbal". And his family's view? If there was a sharp-tongued, likely-to-lash-out parent, it was (you guessed it) Gerda. And we already know about Gerda's paid up membership in the "spare the rod spoil the child" brigade.
10 The Killing Of Her Father - The Movie Star Version
Gerda and Charlize were a kind of joined-at-the-hip dynamic duo who preferred going to the movies over Charles' love of socializing with his friends and family. It's June of 1991 and 15-year-old Charlize's version of what happened on the night Charles died goes something like this: She had just come back home from boarding school and that night in June of 1991, Charles came home drunk, shouting and threatening to kill both Charlize and her mother. Gerda grabbed a gun and (she and Charlize say) shot in self-defense. That was their story and they are, to this day, still sticking to it. Strangely, Charlize's statement to police went missing for a time and only resurfaced when a writer started researching the case. Cover up, some have said. The case was never prosecuted.
9 The Killing Of Her Father - Killer Women Version
South African writer Chris Karsten, published Killer Women: Fatal South African Females in 2007. And one of the stories he tells is of the killing of Charles Theron. Aided and abetted by the Theron family, he tells the tale of a meek and mild-manner man who was under the thumb of his wife, a man who adored his daughter, worked hard, albeit one that enjoyed a drink or two or three. His family thinks he suspected Gerda of having an affair. And on that night in June, they admit there were words between the two, but deny the tale of the drunken, gun wielding man intent on murder. Danie, Theron's brother, who was there and was himself shot in the hand, has even claimed that (at one point) Gerda shot the prostrate Charles in the back. And Charlize? According to The Daily Mail, the star wouldn't even speak to her dying grandmother. A very different version of the story she told Oprah, Diane Sawyer and on and on. The truth? Who knows.
8 The Nerdy Outsider
The thing about budding stars is that they usually start early on that trail to fame and fortune. And Charlize, very early on, had dancing lessons and was entering modeling competitions. Listen to some and you will believe mama Gerda was there to firmly nudge her golden girl onto some stage somewhere. Her ticket out. Charlize was reportedly something of an outsider at school, a nerdy type with funny looking glasses who sometimes fell foul of the mean girls. She was not popular and, according to Charlize, the boys were definitely not beating a path to her door. Back then, she resented her mother's being so hard on her. Was downright angry in fact. And now? Mom can do no wrong.
7 Should Her Mother Have Been Charged?
Some say the fact that part of the file on Charles Theron's shooting disappeared is suspicious in and of itself. The story told by Charlize and Gerda is at odds with what Danie Theron and other members of his family say happened. Writer Chris Karsten was told that Gerda had threatened the Theron clan with a lawsuit if they talked. And for a long time, they didn't. Eventually, Charles' siblings, Elsa and Danie, talked, as did their mother Bettie. According to them, they didn't press hard for a prosecution because of Charlize. She had just lost her father and needed her mother. They finally spoke out, they say, because they think Charles' reputation has been unfairly dragged through the mud. Sadly, both by Charlize and Gerda. Charlize, The Daily Mail reported, was furious they had talked to the press.
6 Gerda Was Grooming Charlize For Great Things
At 4-years-old, Charlize wanted to dance. So Gerda got her dancing lessons. When she wanted to draw, Gerda got her art lessons. Reports are that daddy Charles ferried his princess back and forth to school in a motorized cart. While the marriage remained a battle ground, nothing was too good for young Charlize. Gerda's goal was to shape the young girl into a star. At what? Did it matter? Just a star at something would do. She was hard on the girl. Some say too hard with physical punishment. Some say that from an early age Charlize had a pushy stage mom behind her, moving her forward. That's certainly the opinion of the Therons, who talk of Gerda's temper and demands, not to mention stories of physical punishment.
5 A Thing For Older Men
Girls who lose their fathers, one way or another, often compensate by seeking solace in the arms or whatever of much older men. And the very young Charlize was heard to say she would never date a man under thirty. So, was that what the whole Sean Penn thing was about? Some say yes. He is just about old enough to be her father. And in some ways the hell-raising, hard drinking, said to be abusive, Penn was just so much like her father that no one, other than her shrink, could understand why Charlize would go for a Charles Theron II. But she did and they dated for 18 months. By the way, Gerda didn't like him. Duh, no surprise there.
4 Support For Apartheid?
Charlize grew up in a South Africa with a brutal, restrictive segregation policy known as "apartheid". The whites were in charge. Totally and completely. She has said her family did not support the brutal regime, because they employed blacks. Some have said that fact means nothing. Every white business looking for cheap labor employed blacks. And according to Dailykos, after apartheid was abolished in 1994, she "praised" apartheid and said "there is no more hope for white South Africans" now that apartheid was over. The site claimed this was in 1996, shortly after she had arrived in Los Angeles and she "was sleeping around... she didn't have a job." Their words.
3 A Spot Of OCD And Therapy
Well, with everything that has gone down in her life, it's no surprise that she's got issues. She's said the whole thing with her childhood, apartheid, the African AIDS epidemic and her father has given her a definite need for therapy. Why? She has anger. And what might be called a love/hate relationship with her native land. Not to mention a non-existent relationship with her father's family. And more childhood baggage in the form of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). She is prone to constantly tidying and checking on things. And now she's got two young adopted kids on her and her nannies' and staff's and mother's considerable number of hands, it must be crazy at her place. Don't call me crazy.
2 The Curse Of Her Childhood Home
Life was pretty comfortable for the young Charlize. Long of limb and with a certain s*xy vibe, she was reportedly adored by her mother and father. In spite of the friction between her parents and rows with his family, the family lived a middle class existence in rural Benoni where Gerda and Charles fought and ran their business in equal measure. That is until 1991 when Gerda shot and killed Charles Theron there. She shot him four times, all in the cause of self-defense. And 21 years later, the new owner, Barry Newland was attacked and tortured to death by a gang of house invader thieves there.
1 Swimming With Sharks
Charlize has talked of swimming in the ocean and happy childhood days spent at the beach with her mother and father. Only thing was, those waters were shark infested and, on a pretty regular basis, eagle-eye lifeguards sounded the alarm and pulled everyone out of the water. Gerda was, by Charlize's own account of her childhood, intolerant of weakness, telling her distraught daughter whose ruler had been stolen to steal it back. So even as a teenager Charlize was ready for that big shark-infested pond that is Hollywood. Remember when the teenage Charlize was discovered by the agent John Crosby? Well, she was in a bank at the time pitching a fit because they wouldn't cash her check. She signed with the guy. And then, when her career started taking off, she fired him unceremoniously. Like mother, like daughter.
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