It seems like everyone is talking about Reese Witherspoon. Even Olympic ice skater Adam Rippon, who helped lead the US team to a bronze medal on Feb. 12, gave her a shout-out. “I owe a lot of this medal to Reese,” he said of the Oscar winner, who’s tweeted about her admiration for him. “I really want to make [her] proud because [she] has spent, like, at least three minutes composing tweets to me personally… and I feel deeply connected to her now.”

In all seriousness, a lot of people have been feeling connected to Reese. Not only is she everywhere, producing and starring in the Emmy-winning Big Little Lies and running her own successful clothing line, Draper James, she’s also drawn admirers for honestly talking about her personal experiences with abuse and sexual harassment. “It’s made me want to speak up and speak up loudly,” says Reese, 41, of the #MeToo movement. And now that she is, her whole life is changing.

It hasn’t been easy for Reese to discuss her past. In October, she revealed she was sexually assaulted by a director when she was 16. Recently, she told her A Wrinkle in Time co-star Oprah Winfrey that her “most difficult decision [was] leaving an abusive relationship.” But Reese says if she hadn’t left, “I could never be the person I am today. It changed who I was on a cellular level, the fact that I stood up for myself.” Now that she’s found her voice, “she’s telling friends she finally ‘feels free’ and more centered than ever,” an insider exclusively tells Closer Weekly. “I’m a different person now,” Reese says. “My two older kids are teenagers, and they will pull me aside and say, ‘I’m really proud of you, Mom.'”

When Reese began standing up for herself at work, it transformed her career. After making a few movies she wasn’t very excited about, she says her husband, talent agent Jim Toth, told her, “You read more books than anybody I know, so why don’t you start making them into your own material?” So she did. “I get a lot of support from my husband,” she adds. “He’s encouraged me to be outspoken.”

She’s teaching her kids, Ava, 18, and Deacon, 14, from her first marriage to actor Ryan Phillippe, and Tennessee Toth, 5, to do the same. “She doesn’t want her kids to make the same mistake she did and keep quiet,” says the insider. Reese certainly plans to keep speaking out as she embraces this moment when she’s being finally heard. “I have something like 23 projects in the works driven by great female characters,” she says of her Hello Sunshine production company. That includes Season 2 of Big Little Lies, with new co-star Meryl Streep, and developing a series about a morning news show, co-starring Jennifer Aniston.

Now Reese, who says she’s “a glass-half-full person,” is optimistic about the future. “If we can raise consciousness and really help create change,” she says, “that’s what’s going to change this industry and change society.” And she’ll keep talking until it does.

reese witherspoon jim toth family

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

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