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Maria Bello

Actress, Author & Activist


Maria Bello is an internationally renowned actor, activist and author of Whatever… Love Is Love, a book due out in April 2015 that makes a compelling argument about the fluidity of partnerships, and how families today come in a myriad shapes and sizes. Bello captured the world’s attention with her essay, “Coming Out as a Modern Family” in the New York Times’ popular “Modern Love” column. Her editorial became one of the ten most popular in “Modern Love” history. In the essay, Bello recalled telling her son that she had fallen in love with her best friend, a woman — as well as her instant relief at his easy and immediate acceptance with the phrase, “Whatever, Mom, love is love.” In fact, Bello’s essay became so beloved that she decided to expand upon it in her first book, Whatever… Love is Love, which will be published in April 2015.

She also co-founded We Advance, a women's movement and NGO based in Cité Soleil, Haiti that advocates for women to achieve full political, economic, and social participation. In conjunction with the movement, she founded, an online library designed to connect and empower women in Haiti and throughout the world. Bello has starred in over 40 films (including Coyote Ugly, A History of Violence and The Cooler), was nominated for two Golden Globes and won the New York Film Critic Circle Award. In 2009, she was voted one of Variety’s “most powerful women in Hollywood” for her prolific activism. Bello has spoken around the country on social impact investing, the issues in Haiti and women’s, LGBT and human rights. Bello has spoken at high-profile events, including TEDx in Washington D.C., at the ACLU, for Variety, at Vital Voices and much more. In 2012, she was a keynote speaker at the State Department’s “Forum on Impact Investing,” and she doesn’t just talk about causes; she invests in them. Bello is a partner in the online social impact investment firm, Gate Global Impact. Her upcoming speeches include TED Women 2015 and TED Cannes 2015.

Bello’s honesty is why audiences respond so well to her, whether she’s speaking at a TED event or via the New York Times. In her new book, she shares a series of provocative questions, and thoughtful answers — dilemmas that she wrestled with as she reexamined her life after a near-fatal illness. Part of her soul searching led to the realization of her feelings for her partner Clare, but also pushed her to think about her relationship with her parents, her feelings about spirituality, her sexual identity, the highs and lows of her career, her humanitarian work and her worth as a mother. Some of the questions that Bello struggled with include: Am I Damaged? Am I Resilient? Am I a Bad Girl? Am I a Good Mother? Am I LGBT? Am I a Feminist? Am I Catholic? Am I Cinderella? Am I a Writer?

Ultimately, Whatever... Love is Love is a book that focuses on the labels that we place on ourselves and on others in today’s modern world. Bello’s insights encourage readers to accept that many of the old labels are just that—old and outdated, and that the only ones that matter are the ones we accept for ourselves, even if they don’t fit the mold of “typical.” Filled with deeply personal, often funny and even racy stories, Whatever… Love Is Love is not another memoir about an actress. It is a frank, raw and honest book that questions the roles we all play in love, work and life—filled with insights relevant to us all.


  • Author, Whatever… Love Is Love
  • Member of the Clinton Global Initiative
  • Works on gender policy within the Haiti Action Network
  • Leader of a committee for women's empowerment, social business, and poverty alleviation; President Martelly's Council for Investments in Haiti
  • Works with Artists for Peace and Justice and Femmes en Democratie, Haiti
  • Spearheaded the opening of the women's clinic in the Pétionville Camp immediately following the earthquake
  • Raised funds and produced a women's media campaign for the 2010 elections, Haiti
  • Vital Voices Global Ambassador
  • Participant, first Vital Voices/Bank of America International Women's Conference, Haiti
  • Named Goodwill Ambassador for Women in Haiti (with Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus)
  • Building the first women's co-op bakery in Marigot, Haiti
  • Keynote speaker, State Department, “Forum on Impact Investing”
  • Star of over 40 movies (including Coyote Ugly, A History of Violence, and The Cooler)
  • Voted Most Powerful Woman in Hollywood, Variety
  • Activist at Villanova University, majored in peace and justice education
  • Worked at the Women's Law Project, Philadelphia
  • Founded, The Dream Yard Drama Project


  • So the World May Hear Award, Starkey Foundation
  • 2010 Independent Spirit Award (nominated) for Best Female Lead – Downloading Nancy
  • 2006 Golden Globe Award (nominated) for Best Actress – A History of Violence
  • 2005 NY Film Critics Award (winner) for Best Supporting Actress – A History of Violence
  • 2004 Golden Globe Award (nominated) for Best Supporting Actress – The Cooler
  • 2004 Screen Actors Guild Award (nominated) for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role – The Cooler
  • 1998 Screen Actors Guild Award (won) for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series – E.R.


Questioning the Labels We Give Ourselves

The New York Times, social media, Harper Collins, TED Women and others feel Maria Bello has an idea that is definitely worth spreading. What began as an article in the New York Times became the top fifth article ever in the “Modern Love” column. It went on to start a global conversation that encouraged people to really examine who we are; that conversation will be expanded upon in the upcoming book release, Whatever… Love is Love in April 2015.

In this discussion, speaker Maria Bello questions the labels we use to describe ourselves — are they outdated or irrelevant? Perhaps the age-old habit of labeling people based on their family, sexual orientation, religion or heritage no longer explains the totality of a person. Based on her own personal life experiences, she contemplates if labels still fit into our dialogue in 2015. She also shares the radical idea that we modernize our labels, and at the very least, question how we both pigeonhole and choose the words that define us.

You Serve Best by Doing the Thing You Love Most

Maria Bello was studying international law at Villanova when she found her calling in an unlikely place: an acting elective. Stunned by the realization that acting was what she was meant to do, she looked to a personal friend — a priest — for guidance. His advice? “You serve best by doing the thing you love most.”

In this very personal keynote, Maria Bello shares the inspiring story of how she found her way to acting, and how that career path has afforded her a platform to become an agent for promoting global peace and social justice as co-founder of We Advance, an NGO advocating for Haitian women to have full political, economic, and social participation. Her inspiring, entertaining message — perfect for students, professional groups, or philanthropic associations — resonates with audiences who are looking to change the world by pursuing their passion.

The Importance of Investing in Women

Maria Bello began her career as a women’s activist while she was a student at Villanova University. Since then, she has worked with Save the Children, The Feminist Majority, Vital Voices, and Save Darfur, her main focus being the empowerment of women worldwide.

Now the co-founder of We Advance — an organization dedicated to advancing Haitian women’s health, safety, and well being — Bello shares her powerful message on the importance of investing in women in this informative, fascinating keynote. Perfect for women’s professional or philanthropic groups, Bello shares her insights—gleaned from her years working with and for disenfranchised women across the globe—into how investing in women can quite literally change the world.

Caregiving & Mental Illness: A Personal Perspective

Actress and public speaker Maria Bello has a very personal perspective on caregiving and mental illness. Bello's mother was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma nearly thirty years ago and was told she only had months to live. Now, 28 years later, her mother is undergoing her third round of chemotherapy. In addition, Maria has experienced bi-polar disorder for many years, but through the lessons learned, she concludes that mental illness is no different from physical illness.

In this captivating keynote, Bello shares how she and her siblings share the responsibility of caring for their mom; they identify their individual strengths, then contribute to her caregiving in a way that draws on those strengths. Bello also stresses the importance of setting boundaries and focusing on self care as a caregiver as well as taking the stigma off of mental illness and rather, seeing it as a gift.

Feminism: A Human Right for All

Disaster Relief, Healthcare & Women’s Issues in Developing Countries

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