Celebrities serve as role models around the world, whether they choose to be or not. From the latest fashion trend to a fresh beauty product to a new diet, once a known influencer is on board, their loyal followers join in as well.
With the continuous rise and accessibility of social media, some famous figures use their platform to advocate for more serious concerns. With their supporters and follower count, celebs can help the greater good and advocate for change. Cardi B, LeBron James, Reese Witherspoon, Mark Ruffalo, and Blake Lively, to name a few, are part of a list of influencers who take their platform to better society.
Rapper, songwriter, and actress Cardi B has 80.2M followers on Instagram alone. While she uses her platform to promote brands like Fashion Nova and show off her Birkin bag collection, the artist also advocates for racial equality, universal access to healthcare, and political awareness. Last year, Cardi B had conversations with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and President-elect Joe Biden.
During her meeting with Sanders, which aired on Instagram Live in April, she discussed police brutality, government response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and her hopes for Biden if he were to become president. The live stream had over 100,000 viewers, and it allowed Cardi B’s followers to become educated on government policy and have a chance to learn more about her political beliefs.
In August, Cardi B had a virtual meeting with Biden. During this conversation, the pair discussed growing racial inequality, the cost of college, and Medicare.
“I feel like this country is so hurt, to the point that this year, a lot of people couldn’t even celebrate July 4th, because not everybody feels like an American. A lot of people feel like [they’re] not even part of America,” said Cardi B during the interview.
2020 was saturated with various demonstrations online and offline. Cardi B spotlighting political leaders through her base benefits the people who otherwise might not be interested in politics and allows them to learn more and inevitably take personal actions towards their local and federal elections.
Another vocal celebrity activist is professional basketball player LeBron James. James, who won his fourth NBA championship last October, has spent the past few months advocating for the Black Lives Matter movement.
James has 76.3M followers on Instagram, and even more, people tune in to watch him play basketball. Following the tragic murder of George Floyd, James tweeted, “Why Doesn’t America Love US!!!!!???? TOO.” He also posted a picture of Derek Chauvin, the officer who killed Floyd, on Instagram to raise awareness and notify his followers of what was happening. Once the NBA season resumed in July, James and his teammates wore shirts that listed the names of police brutality victims and the statement “I Can’t Breathe.”
His outspoken activism didn’t begin in 2020. James is an advocate for education. In 2017, the LeBron James Family Foundation partnered with the Akron Public School District to open the I Promise School. The school dedicates itself to at-risk elementary students in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. James also partnered with the University of Akron to guarantee a four-year college scholarship for eligible graduating students that meet the academic criteria.
In the entertainment industry, actress, producer, and entrepreneur Reese Witherspoon strives for greater representation in Hollywood for people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, and women. With 24.9M followers on Instagram, Witherspoon started Hello Sunshine, a media company that puts women at the center of every story.
“I was sick of making movies where I was the only female lead on the set. I was sick of seeing scripts where there was one female role, badly written, and yet every actress in town wanted the part because there was nothing else,” Witherspoon told Vogue in January 2019.
Hello Sunshine has a podcast, book club, and newsletter that highlights the stories and experiences of women in media.
Avengers star Mark Ruffalo uses his platform to educate people and work toward banning hydraulic fracking. Fracking is the process of injecting liquid at high pressure into subterranean rocks to force open existing fissures and extract oil or gas. However, it has negative effects on the environment and, most famously, contaminates water.
In 2010, Ruffalo founded the Water Defense organization, which tried to ban hydraulic fracturing in New York. Even though the nonprofit is no longer active, Ruffalo still fights against oil pipelines and fracking.
In November 2019, he testified in Congress regarding the need for regulation of polyfluoroalkyl substances known as PFAS. He also starred in the 2019 film Dark Waters, which is a dramatization of Robert Bilott’s case against the chemical manufacturing corporation DuPont after they contaminated a town with unregulated chemicals.
Fashion icon and actress Blake Lively is a strong advocate for ending child exploitation. In 2017, she began publicly endorsing the Child Rescue Coalition and shared a heartbreaking account of the horrors that children go through every day.
The Child Rescue Coalition collaborates with a global force of child exploitation investigators, digital forensic experts, police officers, and many other authorities to rescue children and apprehend abusers. Since 2017, they were able to save more than 2,000 children and arrest more than 12,000 predators.
“Sexual exploitation of children is something that isn’t happening rarely, it’s not happening worlds away, it’s happening right here and right now…It’s disturbing, but I feel it’s my responsibility to tell you guys because it’s the truth, and I believe if we all knew this we would dedicate much more of ourselves to stopping it,” Lively told Fight the New Drug, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide individuals the opportunity to make an informed decision regarding pornography.
Some may argue that celebrities are not meant to be activists. They believe that rappers should stick to music, athletes should stick to sports, and actors should stick to movies and t.v. shows. Basically, celebrities should “stay in their lane” and let the experts handle these situations.
Allow me to editorialize.
Celebrities are people, too. They have beliefs, initiatives, and goals just like everyone else. The only difference is that they have the influence and followers to make a change. Hopefully good ones. Those who watch them while they perform should appreciate their efforts to spread information and work to build a better, safer, and cleaner world.
While this article doesn’t cover every celebrity activist, I hope that it inspires you to stand and fight for something. No matter how small your following may be, we all have the power to spread information and advocate for issues such as healthcare, racial and gender equality, education, and more. Be the change you want to see in the world.