Family Tree Tuesday – Uma Thurman
Uma Thurman is an American actress and model. She has been nominated for an Academy Award and has won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a TV Mini-series in Hysterical Blindness, a series for which she also served as executive producer. Her most notable roles include Mia Wallace in Pulp Fiction (1994), Debby Miller in Hysterical Blindness (2002), and Beatrix Kiddo in the Kill Bill films (2003/2004). Cosmetics company Lancôme selected her as their spokeswoman, and named several shades of lipstick after her, though they were sold only in Asia. In 2005, she became a spokeswoman for the French fashion house Louis Vuitton. She was named a knight of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France for outstanding achievement in the field of art and literature in 2006. Earlier this year, she joined the cast of NBC’s musical drama series Smash appearing in five episodes playing the role of Rebecca Duvall.
Thurman was born on April 29, 1970 in Boston, Massachusetts to Nena von Schlebrügge and Robert Thurman. Her father gave his children a Buddhist upbringing, and she is named after an Dbuma Chenpo (a Tibetan term meaning “Great Middle Way”). During her childhood, she and her siblings spent time in Almora, Uttarakhand, India and the Dalai Lama sometimes visited their home. In the 8th grade she discovered her love for acting. Thurman attended Northfield Mount Herman School, an elite preparatory school in Massachusetts, before dropping out to pursue a career in acting. She was offered the chance to act professionally when talent scouts noticed her performance as Abigail in a production of The Crucible.
Her father, Robert Thurman, is an influential and prolific American Buddhist writer and academic who has authored, edited or translated several books on Tibetan Buddhism. He is the Je Tsongkhapa Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at Columbia University, holding the first endowed chair in this field of study in the United States. He was born in New York City to stage actress Elizabeth Dean Farrar and an Associated Press editor and U.N. translator Beverly Reid Thurman, Jr. His first wife was Christophe de Menil, an heiress to the Schlumberger Limited oil-equipment fortune with whom he had a daughter Taya. In 1961, Robert lost his left eye in an accident while he was using a jack to lift an automobile, and the eye was replaced with an ocular prosthetic. After the accident he decided to refocus his life, divorcing his wife and traveling from 1961-1966 in Turkey, Iran and India. He became a Buddhist and was ordained in 1964, the first American Buddhist monk of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, but resigned his monk’s vows of celibacy and married his second wife Nena. He had studied with Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, who became a close friend. At the request of the Dalai Lama, Thurman created Tibet House with Richard Gere and Philip Glass in 1987, which is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help preserve Tibetan Culture in exile. He is the president of the Tibet House New York and is active against the People’s Republic of China’s control of Tibet. In 1997, Thurman was chosen by Time as one of the 25 most influential Americans.
Uma’s mother Birgitte Caroline “Nena” von Schlebrügge is a German Mexican former fashion model of the 1950s and 1960s and is now the managing director of Menla Mountain Retreat where she has overseen the construction of a state of the art Tibetan medicinal spa facility and business. She was born in Mexico City to Birgit Holmquist who was Swedish and Colonel Baron Friedrich Karl Johannes von Schlebrügge, a German military officer who had become one of the senior Nazi spies in the Americas but who was also jailed by the Nazis for protecting Jewish friends. Nena’s mother served as Axel Ebbe’s model for Famntaget (the embrace), a 1930s statue of a nude woman that overlooks the harbor of Smygehuk in Sweden. She has an older half-sister from her father’s side, who was the paternal grandmother of German-Swedish football player Max von Schlebrügge. Nena was discovered at the age of 14 by Vogue (magazine) photographer Norman Parkinson when he was on a tour in Stockholm, Sweden. She was invited to New York City by Eileen Ford of the Ford Modeling Agency and arrived in New York City on the Queen Mary in 1958. Her first marriage was to American psychologist and writer, Dr. Timothy Leary known for his advocacy of psychedelic drugs and the event was documented by D.A. Pennebaker in his short film You’re Nobody Til Somebody Loves You.
Uma has been married two times. Her first husband was English actor Gary Oldman in 1990. In 1998, she married actor Ethan Hawke with whom she had two children and their marriage later ended in divorce. She had her third child recently with London-based financier Arpad Busson.
Check out Uma Thurman’s family tree and see how you’re related!