Freida Pinto’s Tales Out of School

Other Hollywood ingénues are concerned with starting their own fashion lines, being dressed by the right designers, and dishing on makeup and hair tips; 27-year-old Freida Pinto is serious and contemplative by comparison. “I don’t feel super attached to clothes,” she says, then explains that she prefers spending 15 minutes doing her own makeup to having it done for her: “I cannot sit in a chair forever.”

Instead, Pinto is interested in social justice—and in particular, in the international women’s rights movement. “Growing up in Bombay, you read stories in the papers about girls being treated as the subordinate sex; going to school was a luxury,” Pinto remembers. “Everyone should have the basics of food, clothing, and education.”

This weekend sees the release of Girl Rising, a film directed by Oscar-nominated documentarian Richard Robbins, which features nine writers and actresses—including Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, and Selena Gomez—narrating the struggles of real girls around the world to obtain educations despite nearly insurmountable obstacles: child slavery, orphanhood, crushing poverty. Pinto is featured in the film and has been working hard to promote it: she introduced it when it played at Sundance, and she hosted a DJ night in Hollywood several weeks ago in its honor that was attended by the likes of Will Smith and Chloe Grace Moretz. “My goal is to get this to as many people as possible,” she says, acknowledging it can be an emotional thing to watch: “Especially the girls in Afghanistan—[they] moved me to tears.”

Pinto’s commitment to the cause runs deep. She remembers a little girl named Pinky she met when she was a teenager, who begged for money with her family at a traffic light each day. Pinto befriended the girl and attempted to intervene on her behalf, to allow her family to send her to school. “Pinky’s mom didn’t want her to go to school,” Pinto explains. “Her parents needed her to work.”

It’s with girls like Pinky in mind that Pinto works closely with 10×10, the advocacy organization that produced Girl Rising, as well as with Plan International’s “Because I am a Girl” campaign, another movement to further girls’ education. In 10 years, Pinto predicts, “Women will be a lot more outspoken. Women will start feeling worthy, and believe that they can do everything.”