Kristin Bauer: How I've decided to stand up for the voiceless (EXCLUSIVE)

May 27, 2015 at 11:27 p.m. ET
Image: FayesVision/

In every aspect of her life, Kristin Bauer van Straten is standing up for those who need a voice, be they women… or elephants.

More: Michelle Rodriguez's Peru trip shows heartbreaking conditions for kids (VIDEO)

The actress best known for her roles on True Blood and Once Upon a Time is now introducing viewers to Link TV's Earth Focus: Illicit Ivory, a documentary about the plight of elephants — animals hunted nearly to extinction for the ivory in their tusks. Ahead of Illicit Ivory's premiere, Kristin opened up to SheKnows about the reason she's so passionate about being a voice for illegally hunted animals and what elephants can teach women who face adversity.

It all started with a dinner, where Kristin said she was approached by a Kenyan man.

"I need your help," he said. "My elephants are dying."

"I was breathless for a moment," Kristin said. "I just knew that what he was saying was dire."

So she researched African animals and the dangers they faced from poachers.

"Two species of rhino, in the next six months, I watched go extinct," she said. "I lost a lot of sleep over it, trying to figure out and think about who am I and what is my zone of responsibility? Is it on me if animals are going extinct far away, halfway around the world? And what level of involvement do I need to feel OK about myself? I think that's a question I'd want people to ask, because the saddest thing to me is that one of the oldest species that we still have walking the earth — a sentient, loving, feeling species — will go extinct with a whisper while we were busy doing other things."

More: Lena Dunham has a message for survivors of sexual assault (VIDEO)

On relating that experience to her everyday life

Bauer is no stranger to standing up for the voiceless and she's been working to change how women are seen in Hollywood since she entered the business decades ago.

"When I started, I was never allowed to play a character with edge," she said. "I'd like to think we're going in a more inclusive, varied direction."

She continued, "I would like to write more. I would like to take responsibility like we need to do with everything that we want to see changed. It's very easy to point over there and hope that someone over there will fix it. I don't think that that will work. I think people working in this business need to get the word out about things we care about and take action."

On unfair issues still present for women today

One unfair issue that particularly stood out to Kristin recently is controversy over Rebel Wilson, who reportedly lied about her age.

"Oh, ageism has not changed," she shared. "It is so alive and well, and you can look at this a thousand different directions, but I can't even tell you how much ageism is thriving. We don't even discuss men's ages."

And that topic led her to an interesting parallel between her life as a woman in Hollywood and her life as an activist for African animals.

"It was one of the moving things about hanging out with elephants, because I was watching them thinking, 'They're better than we are.' They actually value their elders," she said. "They live in family structures. They support each other."

More: Lucy Hale raises awareness for a super-rare, deadly disease affecting teens


See Kristin Bauer van Straten's TV special, Earth Focus: Illicit Ivory, premiering at 9 p.m. May 28 on Link TV.