Gorgeous George and his woman of substance
Clooney might be top of the Hollywood A-List, but it is his formidable fiancee who is the real catch, writes Julia Molony
Published 24/08/2014 | 02:30
Amal Alamuddin is an entirely new kind of public woman. She's sprung from the chambers of London to the pages of Vanity Fair. And, in the space of a year, has graduated from coming in at number one on a list of London's hottest barristers, to becoming globally famous.
It's not just because she's one of a handful of globally renowned human rights lawyers whose services are called on for the most complex civil liberties cases. It isn't that she has taken on one of the most high-profile clients around, and is currently defending Julian Assange against extradition to Sweden to face sexual assault charges. Or the fact that her heavy case-load at the moment meant that she had to turn down a prestigious invitation to sit on a board of investigation into war crimes in Gaza, at which she said, "I am honoured . . . but given existing commitments - including eight ongoing cases - unfortunately I could not accept this role."
Her newfound fame springs from her trophy husband. Next month, Alamuddin is set to achieve what millions of women have aspired to do but failed - she'll tie the knot with serial dater George Clooney at a ceremony at his villa in Lake Como.
Of course, since gorgeous George has for some time now been regarded as the ultimate catch, focus has rested on how Alamuddin managed to bag him. In between serving as counsel to former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and regular appearances in court, of course. Some reports wrote patronisingly of how she is "said to have impressed him with her knowledge of Syria."
In fact, it's Clooney who is out of his league. A fact that Alamuddin is probably at least dimly aware of. She is said to have turned him down for dinner three times before agreeing to go on a date with him. Though perhaps she just had too much on her plate.
Compared to Alamuddin's resume, the truth is Clooney's achievements as an actor, director and ambassador for Nespresso look pretty slight.
Born in Beirut to family of academics, Alamuddin moved to Buckinghamshire in the UK with her parents as a refugee when she was two. She attended local schools, and gained entry to Oxford, after which she made a strategic sidestep to the New York University school of law, working as an attorney there before returning to London to re-qualify. Her exceptional mind, and fluency in French and Arabic, endeared her immediately to one of London's top QCs, Geoffrey Robertson, who took the unprecedented move of hiring her on the spot after she was consulted to advise him on Lebanon. Her first job there was to represent former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
A former colleague said of her that she is "one of the first people I would call if I had a career dilemma or a personal crisis, and she is good at making playlists for parties".
For Clooney, who himself has been an active campaigner for human rights, Alamuddin represents an entry into a world that no doubt seems more impressive, prestigious and relevant than his usual circuit of press junkets and Hollywood parties. After all, Clooney is from a politically and socially engaged background. His father was a journalist and ran as a Democrat for a seat in the House of Representatives.
Most of Clooney's previous partners have actively courted celebrity. Amal, on the other hand, has earned herself a strategic position at the centre of events that will shape history. Her kind of influence is something that George will never get close to.
There will no doubt be some adjustment involved as they settle into married life together. Clooney is well used to setting the agenda in his day-to-day life. As a Hollywood elder statesman and one of the most influential names in his industry (not to mention a sex symbol) he is accustomed to dating women who are more than happy to fit around his schedule. But given Alamuddin's various and pressing commitments, the tables have turned. Reports suggest he has already had to spend quite a bit of time cooling his heels waiting for her to finish work so that they can spend time together.
And now, of course, Alamuddin is not only one of the legal profession's brightest stars, but is fast becoming famous - on her way to being a celebrity wife as recognisable as Carla Bruni or Kate Middleton. And she wears it well, with grace and elegance - having distinguished herself early on as a beauty whose sense of style has won the approval of the fashion press. But she is unlike either of them, or any woman whose role is primarily as a professional attache to a more powerful husband. Amal may be lesser known than Clooney, but she is more important, and he knows it. It is, in fact, exactly this reason that led him to her; after dating a string of TV presenters, models and even a WWE wrestler, he finally seems to have found what he was looking for: a woman of substance. For the rest of us, Alamuddin sets an example worth aspiring to.