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Interview with Alyssa Milano

Aired November 29, 2003 - 09:15   ET


SEAN CALLEBS, CNN ANCHOR: What do Angela Bassett, Isabella Rossellini, Liv Tyler, and Alyssa Milano all have in common? No, the actresses are not starring together in a new movie. They are all national ambassadors for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, a decades-long effort to help save and protect children around the world.
And now joining us from Los Angeles to talk about this appointment, Alyssa Milano, well known to everyone who has a television across the world.


CALLEBS: Alyssa, thanks very much for joining us.

MILANO: Thank you.

CALLEBS: Tell me how this came about.

MILANO: Well, about two years ago, three years ago, I went to South Africa, and I lived there for three months while doing a miniseries. And I was so struck with the dichotomy of the country. The -- when I'd sit in my car and look out the window, and I'd see the beauty of the landscape, and I'd look down and see the little street kids sniffing glue.

And there was one day that I witnessed two little boys on the street, and I assume they were brothers, one was 4 and the other was 7, and it was raining. And the 7-year-old took off his jacket and put it over the little boy. And...

CALLEBS: Oh, wow, really tugs at your heart, huh?

MILANO: ... I just started weeping.

And I began researching some places to volunteer, and I volunteered in a children's hospital in a township. And when I got home, I was so almost depressed, because I didn't know how to assimilate what I learned about myself in South Africa with the person that I have to be here.

And I basically just decided that I was going to make it my mission to help children around the world and contacted UNICEF myself.

CALLEBS: Well, that's great. Certainly heart-wrenching. Let's talk about some of the positive steps out of this, what UNICEF does. Quite the advocacy organization, it has been for years and years and years, and it has successfully used celebrities like yourself over the years to promote its cause.

MILANO: Yes, 50 years of celebrity advocacy. They have really -- you know, Danny Kaye was the first celebrity to actually marry himself to any charity. He was the first goodwill ambassador in 1954. And he -- there's a great quote from him that says, "I believe that children are more powerful than oil, more beautiful than rivers, and more precious than any natural resource a country can have."

And I'm just honored to be carrying on that legacy. And, you know, UNICEF is something that I feel comfortable knowing that they are protecting the rights of children around the world.

CALLEBS: Well, tell me what you think, as a celebrity, as a well-known individual, you think you can bring to enable the causes of children?

MILANO: Well, I think that -- I think that the celebrity is a really important thing, because we have the voice that's recognizable, that can educate people to make a difference and empower them to make a difference, and to also get things in motion with the people in charge that can effect change.

You know, so, I take it very seriously, and I'm really excited.

CALLEBS: Indeed, a noble cause. You're also a photographer. And we have some pictures that you've taken we would -- we'd like to go to now. We'll start with the ones in Iraq. You just came back- -- Well, actually, we're going to start (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

MILANO: Those are South Africa. Oh, that's Iraq.

CALLEBS: Oh, there's the one in Iraq? Now, that is you underneath all that, correct?

MILANO: No, that was not me. There should be a self-portrait. That's actually a pilot from a Chinook.

CALLEBS: That's strange, you look like a 30-year-old man from here. No, I'm just joking. Let's move on to some of these others. Now, hear a cache of bullets.

MILANO: Yes, that was just on the seat when we got onto the helicopter. I thought that I needed to document that.

The thing I love about photography is, it really captures a moment in time. And I'm able to take these pictures back and relate to people what different traditions and culture is all about. This being obviously the American tradition and culture of the military.

CALLEBS: Right. And some of the troops. Now, what do they ask about more, "Who's the Boss," or "Charmed"?

MILANO: Actually, Ava Savalot (ph), believe it or not, my MCI commercials. CALLEBS: Right, right, I remember that.

MILANO: Because maybe they're calling collect back home. I don't know.

CALLEBS: I'm sure they are. Now we have some from South Africa. And these, I'm sure, just as emotional to you for many different reasons.

MILANO: Yes. I mean, to me, the camera became my best friend when I was in South Africa, because it was my way to bring home what I went through there and express it to my family, who had no idea what I was going through there. So this became really my weapon to empower my family, and I sort of...

CALLEBS: Look at this little guy here. Very cute picture.

MILANO: She had a little cold.

CALLEBS: Oh, poor thing.

MILANO: She was a little snotty. I have a little cold too, so that's how I feel like I look right now.

CALLEBS: And this, just some of the squalor people have to live with day in and day out that you were talking about.

MILANO: Yes, that's the Mandela Park Township. And, you know, you can see the little boy's bare feet. And...

CALLEBS: And you're black and white, very artsy as well.

MILANO: Sleeping Beauty, yes.

CALLEBS: Well, what do you plan to do with these? Do you, what, what, do you ever want to expand and have an exhibit and maybe marry the two?

MILANO: My pictures from South Africa, actually, when I got back, I had an exhibit and auctioned off my photography and raised $50,000 in four hours for the Mucosi's (ph) Haven Project, which, you know, is something that I felt really strongly about, which is basically a save haven for women with HIV and their children that are also HIV-positive.

So I think it's a great way to actually show people different cultures and traditions, and also, you know, marry the charity aspect of it, and give them a piece of what I experienced there through raising money for different charities.

CALLEBS: Alyssa Milano, thanks very much for joining us.

MILANO: Thank you so much.

CALLEBS: We certainly appreciate it. And from now on...

MILANO: Thank you. I appreciate it.

CALLEBS: ... Ava Savalot, that's how I'll toss it out there. Thanks very much for joining us.

MILANO: Thank you, have a great day.

CALLEBS: And best of luck. OK, thanks a lot.

MILANO: Thank you.


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