Jane Goodall is a woman of many assets: an ability to connect with our hairy kinsmen, a resilience to traveling three hundred days a year, a patient demeanour and great legs. She seems almost obsessed with these legs, crediting them for the initial success of her career.
Jane is a woman who prefers the quiet, listing the two places she’d want to be most as alone in the jungle or with her dog. Instead she has a frantic life, never remaining in one place for more than three weeks at a time, traveling, talking, raising money for her foundation. When Jane was featured on the cover of National Geographic in 1965 she became an icon. Young, blonde, pretty, long tanned legs, leading an adventurous life that one could only dream of. She was conservation’s sex symbol, a self described ‘Nat Geo Covergirl’. This image skyrocketed her career, enabled her to receive an honorary PDH from Cambridge, despite never attending university before that and eventually made her the world’s most respected Primatologist. She talks about these legs like they are fake shiny things that she doesn’t really own, she doesn’t like them, she’s almost embarrassed by them and yet she acknowledges that what they made her to the public allowed her to complete her ambitions.
It’s interesting seeing her recognise this. She manipulated the system, allowing a part of herself that she wasn’t terribly interested in, to become an central part of her image. She let the world fall for her as Jane of the Jungle, barefoot British belle, living as one with the apes, somehow remaining porcelain like and glossy.
She’s played this role marvellously, setting up many successful initiatives around the world and raising serious funds for her foundation, The Jane Goodall Foundation, which spreads a message of activism, community, change and conservation. She’s articulate and has vision for the future worth learning about. She has a loyal following and conservation fame but at eighty three, she’s still bemused by the legs that carried her there.