All That is Bitter and Sweet

Ashley Judd All That is Bitter and SweetRecently I was asked to name a female role model. The women who came to mind are all those who seek to create better opportunities and who speak out on behalf of women and children. I have always admired not just women who thrive in the face of adversity, but also those who choose who feel compelled to use their influence for good. Though I am sure there are many women who do the same without a certain level of influence, and they are equally admirable.

So the names that came to mind were Maria Bello, Christy Turlington, Maria Shriver, Geena Davis, Marlo Thomas, and Ashley Judd. I have had the good fortune to hear Christy Turlington, Geena Davis and Maria Bello speak passionately about their advocacy work and the causes which drive them. I have read The Shriver Report from cover to cover, supported the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and watched as Ashley Judd went testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the need to stop the spread of HIV. These women, who are all in a position to continue on the path of their vocation or to simply rest on their laurels, chose instead to make the time and effort to help those less fortunate. Not just by writing a check, but by genuinely getting their hands dirty, as well as by using their voices and influence to spread the word about the injustices for which they have become passionate advocates.

I have to admit that there is something about Ashley Judd that has always intrigued me. When you watched or read her press interviews as she promoted her films, it was evident that she is exceptionally bright. There was also always something in her that to me seemed a tiny bit pained. Perhaps it was the process of doing press, but it appeared to me to be something more. Though I could not quite put my finger on it, somehow it always captivated me. Well, that and the fact that she is a stunningly beautiful woman too.

A couple of months ago I was sent a review copy of Ashley Judd’s autobiography, All That is Bitter and Sweet, and last week I finally had a chance to read the book in its entirety. As someone who usually zips through books, this one was chock full of so many details that I found myself taking more time with it than usual. There was so much information to absorb, so many details about her life that revealed the pain behind that person in the interviews. The story of her life is beautiful and yet so very tragic at the same time. She endured an utterly confusing and painful childhood. The kind that reading about gives puts a pit in your stomach. Yet she had several wonderful people who influenced her in a way that reminded her of the good in life. Her good fortune came in meeting those people along the way. Their kindness, in all likelihood, was what helped her generate the will to save herself. And not only has she thrived though that adversity, she has gone on to help others.

There were a few moments while reading the book when I found the jumping around of time periods a bit confusing. Other than that the book left me feeling floored. Impressed by her openness and honesty about her life, finally understanding the pain behind her eyes, and hoping that in writing her book she has found some solace.

When people think that celebrities lead charmed lives, that all they do is write a check to support a cause, they need to read even just a few pages of Ashley Judd’s book, and her inspiring life story of hope and determination.

“… But I do not regret standing up and saying, ‘This is what life was like for me.’ I owed that to the small child I had been, for whom I am now responsible, whose advocate I am and must continue to be.

… It’s not about staying stuck in it. It’s about having my story straight, so I can genuinely arrive at that place where I can say, ‘That was then, this is now. So what? Now what?’”


Disclosure: I was sent a signed copy of Ashley Judd’s book, All That is Bitter & Sweet, though I was under no obligation to write a post about it. All opinions expressed here are purely my own. There is an affiliate link in this post. 


  1. Christie Turlington is one for me. I met her in SLC in January where she shared her experience with ONE moms. Totally touched everyone in the room.

  2. “But I do not regret standing up and saying, ‘This is what life was like for me.’ <—– THIS. This is bravery.

  3. Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood was on one of the channels yesterday. I loved watching her though I ended up turning the movie off because I could feel all the pain she was going through as a character. She’s just an amazing actress. I definitely need to read her autobiography!

  4. I think it is such a shame that many times we do not think that celebrities have the right to talk about the difficulty, tragedy, etc. they perceive they have faced in their lives. Just because they are on public display does not mean they don’t have real experiences that have made them who they are – and that weigh heavily on them as they go about their days. They are real people too. Ashley’s story sounds very interesting!

  5. I feel the same way about Ashley Judd. I didn’t know her childhood was painful, but she’s said some stuff about her family that it doesn’t surprise me. I was upset a few years back when she had a TV show and was struggling with an illness that made her bloat. It’s terrible, she was slammed for not being perfect. She was STILL beautiful though, and certainly not overweight, just a little heavier in the face, which happens to most women as they age. All she’s done and that’s how she’s judged. Makes me sad.

    • I remember when there was that criticism about her. How hard it must be to live under a microscope like that and have people make misjudgments about you constantly.

  6. I love Ashley Judd, especially after seeing her in “Where The Heart Is”. It is a shame that all this society cares about anymore is how woman should look perfect. Makes me sad. I am going to add her book to my reading list.

  7. I wonder if the people she met along the way, those who made such an impact, knew at the time that they were changing her future. It’s humbling (and a bit scary) to realize that we all have the power to change another’s life…especially that of a child. Can’t wait to read her book!

    • That is a great question – and a wonderful point. Not only was she fortunate to have those people enter her life, but also to be wise enough to take from them the lessons they were giving her.

  8. So Jess I read your post then went and made dinner.. and thought about who I respect celebrity wise. I love Brene Brown she is famous because of her talks. Then I thought I respect Marie Shriber she made choices and choices were forced for her, the older I get the more I realize decisions that in my 20’s looked cut and dry.. in my 40’s there are other factors and people who are affect our decision and let not be harsh to judge. I will have to add Ashleys book to my reading list.

    • Brene Brown is such a wise and inspiring woman too. I agree as well that as we get older we understand more and have less of a propensity to judge others. Well, most of us at least!

  9. I LOVE the story behind people – especially famous people. I’m now pretty intrigued by Ashley . I have been impressed recently with Kristen Bell and Dax Shepherd….

  10. I will have to read it! I love reading memoirs. People’s stories are fascinating.

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