When Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie fell for each other in 2004, she was already a mom to Maddox Chivan and ready to grow her family. In 2005, she and Maddox, whom she adopted from a Cambodian orphanage in 2002, visited an orphanage in Hawassa, Ethiopia where they met and bonded with Zahara Marley. Jolie officially adopted her daughter that July, and this time, she was joined by Pitt. Pitt would go on to adopt both Zahara and Maddox the following year.

But while the occasion was a joyful one, Zahara’s start in life was anything but easy. The girl’s mother likely died from AIDS a month after she was born and when Jolie adopted her, the 6-month-old was dehydrated and malnourished. She weighed just nine pounds and only a day after arriving in the United States, she was rushed to the hospital. As reported, Zahara spent a week under medical supervision as she battled a salmonella infection. 

She would go on to make a full recovery and thrive, but her initial condition had everyone worried, even little Maddox. As Jolie shared, per People, when they first visited her, “[He] saw that she needed care.” Indeed, Pitt later told Parade in 2011 that her condition was dire. “I know she would not be alive [if she hadn’t been adopted],” he said. “I know what care was available to her, and it was nil.” The experience changed him, as did she. “I cannot imagine life without her,” he gushed.

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