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Hilary Swank's New Role: Malaria Hero

In her latest film, the actress plays a mom determined to eradicate the disease.

Swank's Beautiful, Powerful Roles continued...

One thing she's adamant about is setting a positive and healthful example for her female fans. "I choose roles that don't involve a lot of vanity," she says. "I'm not the girl on the guy's arm; that's not my MO. One of the things that bothers me the most is when the press asks, ‘When are you going to play a pretty girl?' I get that all the time. To me, the characters I play are beautiful!"

There are few good role models available for girls, she says. "When I see young girls struggling with what they look like -- as if that's the most important thing in life -- who think they can't be successful or achieve their goals if they don't look a certain way...it's the most misrepresented ideal! You see [unattainable expectations for women] on billboards, on television, in movies, on magazine covers...give me a break! I'm just trying to find a way to get that message out there."

5 Things to Know About Hilary Swank, the Athlete

1. Hilary Swank is not just a champion when it comes to acting. A born athlete, Swank competed in the Junior Olympics as a teenager -- "swimming was my sport; I used to train four hours a day" -- and she also pursued competitive gymnastics. "Exercise for me is like breathing or eating," Swank says.

2. "There are so many great things about sports for everyone, particularly for women. I think you realize what you're capable of achieving physically, and how you can be strong and still be feminine."

3. "I change my workout steadily. I don't like to be bored. When I do different things, my body reacts the best. Wherever I am, I find a trainer at least two times a week. And I switch it up. In the summer I'm hiking, playing tennis, swimming in the ocean, water skiing, anything I can do outdoors. In the winter I play squash, and I love to snow ski."

4. "I love Pilates. I've done it for years. I do Power Pilates in New York with a stupendous teacher. She sees everything. You can breathe through the moves and not get much of a workout, or you can do the move right and barely be able to get up out of a chair the next day!"

5. "I try to work out at least four times a week. Sometimes I can't do more, but I try never to do less. When I don't exercise, I feel sluggish. And when I feel that way, I know it's time to get moving."

Expert Tips on Coping With the Loss of a Child

In Mary and Martha, two mothers each face the death of their child. Licensed psychologist Patricia A. Farrell, PhD, author of How to Be Your Own Therapist: A Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Competent, Confident Life, shares ways parents can weather intense grief.

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