Jemimah Wright considers the extraordinary experience that changed the trajectory of Rebel Wilson’s life from lawyer to Hollywood superstar, and compares it to her own story of a dramatic change of direction. 


Source: PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Australian actor, writer and producer, Rebel Wilson’s memoir Rebel Rising was published at the end of last month. This week Wilson was interviewed on The Diary of a CEO Podcast. She told host, Steven Bartlett, that when she was 19 she went to South Africa on a Rotary Youth Ambassador program. ‘They wanted young people who were good at public speaking’, she said, and was selected. It was there that Wilson contracted malaria.

I hallucinated that I was an actress, and I was so good that I won an Academy Award.

‘I had a nasty strain of malaria and was put in hospital. Malaria felt like I was not in my body. They took me into hospital and gave me drugs and I just started hallucinating. I hallucinated that I was an actress, and I was so good that I won an Academy Award. It was so real, I could see all the people and the dresses they were wearing. I walked down the aisle, got up on stage and gave an acceptance speech rap, rather than an acceptance speech, because I thought, yeah, that’s hard-core.’

‘It was so vivid and real. I came out of hospital after two weeks, and I was like, ‘I think I’ve got to become an actress now, I’ve had this vision.’ People were like, “Agh no, the malaria has affected your brain.” They thought I was crazy. I had got into the best law school in Australia, and they were like, “go to law school and have a great career.”’

‘But I was like, no, I’ve seen it, and I think I need to be an actress now. I left South Africa after eleven months, a month early from finishing the program, to audition for a drama school in Australia. It took five years from that vision until I could make money from acting.’

Steven Bartlett asks, ‘In hindsight, was that a malaria hallucination, or was it divine intervention?’

Steven Bartlett asks, ‘In hindsight, was that a malaria hallucination, or was it divine intervention?’

Rebel replies, ‘I don’t know, was that some subconscious desire that I was never brave enough to say to anybody? I was in my high school musicals and plays, and I really enjoyed it, but I never thought someone like me could have a career in that area. Or was it some higher power showing me that this was more my purpose? I remember thinking a lot at that time, what is my purpose? What am I supposed to be doing in the world?’

Wilson and Bartlett talk of a ‘higher power’ and ‘divine intervention’, but there is no mention of the God of the Bible, even though Wilson told Chris Evans on The Chris Evans Breakfast Show last week, that she was bought up in a ‘conservative Christian family’.  Was God guiding Rebel, even though she was not following him?

Jeremiah 29:11 says: ‘For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’

He made each one of us, and knows us intimately, even if we don’t know him yet.

Like Rebel, I was in South Africa when God gave me a vision to be a journalist. I was working with a church to start a home for AIDS orphans in a township, and had planned to be a missionary for the rest of my life. But one day, as I was driving home, a thought popped into my head, ‘Be a freelance journalist.’ Like Rebel I had also been asking what my purpose was; although I was asking Jesus, not ‘the universe’.

With that thought came the vision for journalism, and a realisation that with writing I could amplify the voices of those who were not heard, and be a voice for the voiceless.

There was a lot of hard work from that point, but I saw God’s favour and blessing, opening doors for me. For Rebel Wilson there was also hard work until the vision was fulfilled (though apparently, although highly successful, she still hasn’t received an Academy Award). She moved to Hollywood, got a role in Bridesmaids, but was only paid $3,500 for the part, and then could not work for a year until the movie came out, because of visa stipulations.

She says she survived on $60 a week in LA, but kept believing she was doing the right thing. When Bridesmaids was eventually released, she was offered six film roles instantly, one of them being the hugely successful Pitch Perfect.

Rebel Wilson has also talked about the pain and hardship of her life, but the journey to becoming an actress seems to be one that was destined for her. Let’s pray she would come to know the God who loves her and gave her life and the many gifts she has.