South Africans already knew Charlize Theron was a girl with immense potential when this breathtaking beauty won a local modelling competition at the age of 15. When her subsequent ballet career in New York ended with a knee injury, she started acting – and won an Oscar.

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South African author Chris Karsten recently published Charlize Theron's biography 'Life's One Helluva Ride'.

Legend has it that South African actress, Charlize Theron, was spotted by an agent, standing behind her in a banking queue, when she was having a heated argument with the teller. He handed her his card and although she quickly fired him as an agent, he set her career in motion.

And what a career is has been so far: she became the first African to win an Oscar in a major category. The award was for her leading role as the serial killer, Aileen Wuornos, in the film 'Monster'. She was also nominated for Academy Awards for her roles in the films 'North Country' and 'The Valley of Elah'.

This South African Oscar-winner grew up on a farm near Benoni, to the east of Johannesburg, with her parents, Gerda and Charles Theron. She started her primary school education at Laerskool Putfontein and went on to study at the National School of Arts in Johannesburg.

When she was 15, just before her international modelling career took off, Charlize witnessed how her mother shot and killed her father in self-defense. Gerda was not prosecuted and there were no charges brought against her.

Despite this enormous trauma, Charlize Theron pressed on with her dream of becoming an internationally recognised talent. Well, what better recognition can one get, than an Oscar and her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame?

Though best known as a Hollywood celebrity, Charlize Theron is also deeply involved in women's rights organisations and is an active supporter of animal rights.

In late 2008 the United Nations (UN) Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, asked Charlize Theron to be a UN messenger of peace.