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homeland security
status : TBR.
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in the land of women
status : in theatres.
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against the ropes
status : released on DVD
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Meg supports CARE
an organization dedicated to fighting global poverty

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Meg Ryan talks to Oprah

With her iconic roles in When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail, Meg Ryan has practically defined the romantic comedy. Two years ago, however, this megastar walked away from the spotlight, leaving millions of fans wondering what had happened.

"It was definitely time to take a break and just regroup and see where I was," Meg says. "I've been an actress and famous person since I was 19 years old. I just needed to be with my son and figure out my life and see what I wanted. … I felt like I was very reactive about my life as opposed to being proactive."

During her hiatus from Hollywood, Meg has begun working with CARE, an organization that seeks to help people—especially women—living in the poorest countries in the world. Meg says travel and introspection have helped her become a better friend and mother. "I got to know myself. I just feel like more of an adult, more of a woman."

Meg recently adopted a baby girl from China whom she first named Charlotte True.

Meg says that she first had the notion to adopt a baby from China a decade ago, "because there are so many girls there who need homes." After waiting until she was sure her son Jack, now 13 years old, would be ready to be a brother, Meg began the adoption process in China. "Then the events just conspired," Meg says. "It really gives you a lot of faith in things because you see how there's just no mistake when children are sent to you, however they're sent to you."

"I already had to change her name," Meg says. "I thought she was Charlotte and she's just not…she's a Daisy. She's got the most open, beautiful, honest face you'll just ever see."

In 2001, Meg and her husband, actor Dennis Quaid, divorced. The very public end of their marriage was covered exhaustively in the tabloid press because of Meg's reported affair with her then co-star Russell Crowe.

Meg says being subjected to such public scrutiny in such a private moment was "heartbreaking," especially because her son with Dennis was so young at the time.

"I feel like you can never really win in the way a tabloid tells a story," she says. "It's a very black-and-white, overly simplistic moral universe that certain people's stories are supposed to fit in. … There's no room for gray."

The tabloids cast Meg's relationship with Russell as the cause of her divorce. However, Meg says that there is more to the story. "He wasn't a home wrecker, but he took a lot of heat for that," she says. "He had a lot of grace, frankly, about not talking about things that he knew were going on in my marriage, and I always will be very grateful to him for that."

What the tabloids did not focus on, Meg says, was that her marriage to Dennis was "unhealthy" and had been bad for at least five years. "It was never about another man," she says. "My and Dennis's relationship just couldn't sustain."

Meg says she now understands that she "probably should have left much earlier."

"Maybe that's a female thing, but it's crazy how you have to talk yourself into protecting yourself and allowing yourself to expand," Meg says. "Anaïs Nin has this beautiful quote. 'And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.'

"There are times in every woman's life where she does need to get out and expand and do all those things that make her the best version of herself."

In addition to her newly adopted daughter, Meg has embarked on another mission to mold the "best version of herself." She has begun working with CARE, an international organization that seeks to ease hardships in the poorest places in the world.

After a speaking tour with Robert Kennedy Jr., CARE approached Meg about her involvement. "They made a very articulate and unbelievable case about how to eradicate poverty in the Third World," she says. "They believe the biggest step you can take toward doing that is the emancipation of women. And the biggest step towards the emancipation of women is somehow to cultivate community among women."

Meg says that following her divorce the strength and support of the women in her own life helped her, and she was eager to see how community worked in the rest of the world.

"One of the things about humanitarian work that's so interesting is that you realize how you can see yourself in anyone," Meg says. "You're in these places that you never imagined yourself being in, with people you never imagined yourself being around, and you see the same spark in their faces that you feel in your own or you feel in your children's faces."