Ashley Judd is an American actress and political activist.
Ashley Judd was born in Granada Hills, Los Angeles. She is the daughter of Naomi Judd, a country music singer and motivational speaker, and Michael Charles Ciminella, a marketing analyst for the horseracing industry. Ashley's elder sister, Wynonna, is also a country music singer. Her paternal grandfather was of Sicilian descent, and her paternal grandmother was a descendant of Mayflower pilgrim William Brewster. At the time of her birth, her mother was unemployed; she did not become well known as a singer until the early 1980s. Judd's parents divorced in 1972. The following year, Ashley’s mother took her back to Kentucky, where Judd spent the majority of her childhood. She also went to school in Marin County, California, as a child.
Judd attended 13 schools before college, including the Sayre School (Lexington, Kentucky), Paul G. Blazer High School (Ashland, Kentucky) and Franklin High School in Tennessee. She briefly tried modeling in Japan during a school break. An alumna of the sorority Kappa Kappa Gamma at the University of Kentucky, she majored in French and minored in anthropology, art history, theater, and women's studies. She spent a semester studying in France as part of her major. She graduated from the UK Honors Program and was nominated to Phi Beta Kappa but did not graduate with her class. Forgoing her commitment to join the Peace Corps, after college she drove to Hollywood, where she studied with acting teacher Robert Carnegie at Playhouse West. During this time, she worked as a hostess at The Ivy restaurant and lived in a Malibu rental house, which burned down in 1993. Around that time, her half-sister Wynonna Judd leased her a historic farmhouse and 10 acres of land in Williamson County, Tennessee. She moved to Tennessee and lived near her mother Naomi and sister Wynonna. Judd appeared as Ensign Robin Lefler, a Starfleet officer, in two 1991 episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, "Darmok" and "The Game". From 1991 to 1994, she had a recurring role as Reed, the daughter of Alex (Swoosie Kurtz), on the NBC drama Sisters. She made her feature film debut with a small role in 1992's Kuffs. In 1993, Judd fought for and was cast in her first starring role playing the title character in Victor Nuñez's Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize dramatic winner Ruby in Paradise. On her way to the audition, she was so nervous about getting a role that she felt defined her life, she nearly wrecked her car. "From the first three sentences, I knew it was written for me", she told the San Jose Mercury News. She received rave reviews playing Ruby Lee Gissing, a young woman trying to make a new life for herself, and it was this performance that would launch her career as an actress. Nuñez told author James L. Dickerson that the resonance of the character was Judd's creation: "The resonance, those moments, was not contrived. It was just a matter of creating the scene and trusting that it was worth telling."
Oliver Stone, who had seen her in Nuñez's film, cast Judd in Natural Born Killers, but her scenes were later cut from the version of the film released theatrically. The following year, she gained further critical acclaim for her role as Harvey Keitel's estranged daughter in Wayne Wang's Smoke and also as Val Kilmer's wife in Michael Mann's Heat. That same year she also played the role of Callie in Philip Ridley's dark, adult fairy tale, The Passion of Darkly Noon. In 1996, she co-starred with Mira Sorvino as Marilyn Monroe in Norma Jean and Marilyn, where she recreated the photo shoot for the centerfold for the first issue of Playboy. By the end of the 1990s, Judd had managed to achieve significant fame and success as a leading actress, after leading roles in several thrillers that performed well at the box office, including Kiss the Girls in 1997 and 1999's Double Jeopardy.
Several of her early 2000s films, including 2001's Someone Like You and 2002's High Crimes, received only mixed reviews and moderate box office success; although she did receive positive recognition, and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress, for her performance in the 2004 biography of Cole Porter, De-Lovely, opposite Kevin Kline. In the same year, however, she starred in Twisted, the worst-reviewed movie of 2004 with 131 of 133 critics panning it. To date, Twisted is the last major Hollywood film in which she received top billing.
In June 2007, Goody's Family Clothing announced they were going to be releasing three fashion clothing lines with Judd in the fall to be called "AJ", "Love Ashley" and "Ashley Judd". Goody's declared bankruptcy a year later due to slow sales and its last store closed in February 2009.
Judd is currently the magazine advertising "face" of American Beauty, an Estée Lauder cosmetic brand sold exclusively at Kohl's department stores, and H. Stern jewelers. In early 2012, however, her image suddenly disappeared from American Beauty's web site.
In 2011, Judd co-starred with Patrick Dempsey in the film Flypaper. It grossed only $1,100 total in its very limited theatrical release and received a 17% Rotten Tomatoes rating (15 of 18 critics panned it). That April, Judd released her memoir All That is Bitter and Sweet, where she talks about her trials and tribulations from adolescence to adulthood. In 2012, Judd starred as Rebecca Winstone on the ABC series Missing. The series was not renewed for a second season.
In 2014, Judd appeared as Natalie Prior in Divergent, which she reprised in the 2015 sequel Insurgent.
In 2014, Judd was the narrator of the documentary film about Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen, Love is a Verb, directed by Terry Spencer Hesser.
In 2015, Judd became the first woman to narrate the opening for the telecast of the Kentucky Derby.