Who is Irene Bedard?
Irene Bedard is a Native American actor, best known for lending her voice to the lead character of the critically acclaimed ‘Disney’ movie ‘Pocahontas.’ She takes great pride in her work, playing Native American characters both on the big and small screens. She was one of the ‘50 Most Beautiful People’ listed by ‘People’ magazine in 1995. Despite many struggles in her personal life and limited avenues to reach the silver screen, it is impressive how well Irene’s career has shaped up. She always brings about an element of power in her emotional depictions, portraying them as strengths and not as weaknesses. As an extension of her efforts to showcase the thriving Native American community, she started two production companies, namely, ‘Sleeping Lady Films’ and ‘Waking Giants Productions,’ dedicated toward bringing out inspirational stories from the Native American community.
Early Life & Childhood
Irene Bedard was born on July 22, 1967, in Anchorage, Alaska, and is of Inuit, Yupik, Cree, Inupiat, and Métis descent. Growing up, she always saw her father actively participating in political issues related to the Native Americans.
As a child, she was often part of ceremonial dances and feasts that created a deep attachment between Bedard and her community.
She organized amateur productions of skits such as ‘Yellow Submarine’ with the neighborhood kids, on her front lawn.
Bedard finished her schooling from ‘Dimond High School,’ Anchorage, and then studied philosophy and physics in Pennsylvania. She changed her major to musical theater later and transferred to the ‘University of the Arts’ in Philadelphia.
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Bedard started her professional acting career in 1994, with two movies, one of which was a major motion picture titled ‘Lakota Woman: Siege at Wounded Knee’ (1994). A ‘TNT’ original, the movie featured her as Mary Crow Dog, a real-life Sicangu Lakota writer and activist. It was based on Mary’s autobiography, ‘Lakota Woman,’ which told the story of the young woman and her involvement with the ‘American Indian Movement,’ involving the standoff between the Native Americans and the police in the 1970s. Irene’s performance was applauded, and she won the ‘Western Heritage’ award in 1995. Her second movie in 1994 was ‘Disney’s ‘Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale.’
Though she was already receiving accolades for her work, Irene Bedard’s real recognition came with ‘Disney’s animated movies ‘Pocahontas’ (1995) and ‘Pocahontas II’ (1998). She voiced the lead character in these movies, and the appearance of ‘Pocahontas’ was inspired by Bedard. In 2005, she appeared as ‘Pocahontas’s mother in the movie ‘The New World,’ a different version of the ‘Disney’ original.
Continuing her stint with Native American characters, in 2005, she acted in the TV miniseries ‘Into the West,’ where she played the role of ‘Margaret "Light Shines" Wheeler,’ who was sketched as a half-Lakota, half-white woman in the series.
In the last 2 decades, Bedard has starred in multiple movies and TV series. She has also had an immensely busy career as a voiceover artist. Some of the more popular works of her life include ‘The Marshal’ (1995), ‘The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest’ (1996), ‘Navajo Blues’ (1996), ‘True Women’ (1997), ‘Smoke Signals’ (1998), ‘Turok: Son Of Stone’ (2008), ‘The Spectacular Spider-Man’ (2008), ‘Songs My Brothers Taught Me’ (2015), ‘The Mist’ (2015), and ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet’ (2018).
In 2012, she collaborated with Thom Denomme, a Canadian businessman, and started two production companies, ‘Sleeping Lady Films’ and ‘Waking Giants Productions,’ which are based in Anchorage and Santa Fe, New Mexico, respectively. Bedard now co-produces movies that narrate contemporary stories from the Native American lands, geared toward showcasing the life and culture of the Native American people.
She has had a life-long association with ‘Disney’s ‘Pocahontas.’ Her animated doppelganger came to life again in the 2018 movie ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet.’
In 1996, the ‘Pocahontas’ movies of ‘Disney’ were adapted into a video game, which featured Irene Bedard’s voice.
Awards & Achievements
1995 was good year for Bedard. She was featured on ‘People’ magazine’s list of the ’50 Most Beautiful People.’ She won a ‘Western Heritage Award’ that year, along with a ‘Golden Globe’ nomination, for her performance in ‘Lakota Woman: Seige at Wounded Knee.’
In 1999, she won the ‘Western Heritage Award’ in the ‘Bronze Wrangler – Television Feature Film’ category for the movie ‘Two for Texas.’
In 2004, Bedard won the ‘American Indian LA Film and TV Award’ for the ‘Best Lead Actress in a Feature Film’ for ‘Greasewood Flat.’.
In 2006, she bagged the ‘NAMIC Vision Award’ for the ‘Best Dramatic Performance’ and the ‘Western Heritage Award’ in the ‘Bronze Wrangler – Television Feature Film’ category for her performance in the miniseries ‘Into the West.’
Family & Personal Life
Irene Bedard got married to singer Deni Wilson in 1993. They had a son in 2003. They named him Quinn Wilson. After 13 years of marriage, in 2010, a shocking revelation by Irene’s niece, painted the true picture of Deni Wilson as a husband. Apparently, Wilson had abused Bedard physically, sexually, and emotionally, throughout their married life.
The abuse was an open secret of sorts and was overlooked by people around her, but it did hamper her professional life. Deni Wilson was an excessively controlling man who kept Bedard financially deprived and kept an eye on her even while she worked. His constant presence on movie sets and at her workplace became a matter of unease to all, and she eventually stopped getting work.
Bedard, ultimately, had to flee with her son. She took refuge in Alaska, where her family supported her through this ordeal. She later revealed that like most women in an abusive relationship, she, too, was scared to take any action against Deni for fear that Deni might harm their son, Quinn. Finally, in 2012, the couple divorced, putting an end to her living nightmare.
In 2017, Bedard starred in a Jay-Z music video titled ‘Family Feud’ as the ‘Co-President of the United States’ of the future. The song was from the album ‘4:44,’ which later earned a ‘Grammy’ nomination for the ‘Album of the Year.’
She never forgot her love for performing arts and is often seen in theater productions, especially in Alaska.