Not all celebrities are galavanting around town and spending all of their money on fancy cars and jewelry. Many recognize that with great social power comes great responsibility, and act accordingly to influence the world in positive ways. From healthcare to the environment, here are 10 celebrities who are using their influence to do good in the world.
1. Chance the Rapper & Chicago Schools
When school budgets get slashed, art funding is often the first to go. Chance the Rapper is helping ensure that Chicago Public Schools have a strong curriculum, especially for inner-city kids. “Quality education for public schools is the most important investment a community can make,” he said in a speech. Over the next three years, 20 schools will receive $100,000—a total of $2.2 million raised by his nonprofit.
2. Shailene Woodley & Dakota Pipeline
In 2016, Shailene Woodley joined the group fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline and used her celebrity to raise awareness about the crisis facing the Native Americans as well as the environment itself. Woodley was arrested on October 10, 2016 for criminal trespassing and engaging in a riot. In a response, published on Time, she writes, “We grow up romanticizing native culture, native art, native history… without knowing native reality.” Later in the essay, she urges, “The Dakota Access Pipeline, my friends, is not another time to ignore, mistreat and turn a blind eye to Native Americans.”
3. Ashton Kutcher & Anti-Sex Trafficking
Ashton Kutcher is working to combat modern slavery. In 2009, he and his then-wife Demi Moore founded Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children that engineers “software to fight human trafficking.” Calling Thorn his “day job”, he testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on trafficking. Of one of their tools, Spotlight, he explains, “In six months, with 25% of our users reporting, we’ve identified over 6,000 trafficking victims, 2,000 of which are minors. This tool has enhanced 4,000 law enforcement officials in 900 agencies. And we’re reducing the investigation time by 60%.”
4. Lily Allen & Syrian Refugees
Lily Allen is not staying silent when it comes to the Syrian refugee crisis. In 2016, she traveled to the Calais in France, a migrant camp. “I went to Calais because I wanted to do what I can to help,” she writes. “I wanted to try to remind people of the humanity at the heart of the crisis, at a time when refugees were being demonized in the press.”
5. Leonardo DiCaprio & the Environment
Leonardo DiCaprio is known for always having a model on his arm, but beyond his social life and films, he’s on a mission to help save Earth. The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation is “dedicated to the long-term health and well-being of all Earth’s inhabitants.” Through grant-making partnerships, they are focused on protecting wildlife from extinction and restoring balance to ecosystems and communities threatened by climate change.
Another strong advocate of the environment is singer Pharrell, who even took his fight to the United Nations a few years back surrounded by a thousand middle schoolers. “We only have one home. If you don’t take care of your home, you don’t have a life. We have to transition from climate change to climate action,” he said.
6. Jimmy Kimmel & U.S. Healthcare
When Obamacare was on the chopping block in 2017, there was an unlikely (and unofficial) spokesperson for it: Jimmy Kimmel. On his late-night TV show, he repeatedly called out senators whose legislation and opinions hurt everyone’s access to healthcare; at one point, Kimmel got very personal and gave an emotional account of his son’s “terrifying” heart defect and surgery. During the monologue, he said, “If your baby is going to die and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make,” he added. “I think that’s something that whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat or something else, we all agree on that, right?”
7. Taylor Swift & Sexual Harassment
In 2013, Taylor Swift was posing with fans during a pre-concert photo opportunity when an ex-DJ named David Mueller grabbed her bottom. After Swift’s team reported the incident to the radio station, the DJ lost his job—and filed a defamation lawsuit against the singer. Swift filed a countersuit and during her bold testimony in court, won the case against Mueller. During her testimony, which was described as “sharp, gutsy, and satisfying,” she showed her young fans and other women that you can stand up to sexual assault. “I acknowledge the privilege that I benefit from in life, in society and in my ability to shoulder the enormous cost of defending myself in a trial like this,” she said in a statement. “My hope is to help those whose voices should also be heard.”
8. Bruno Mars & Flint Water Crisis
The water crisis in Flint, Michigan will have ripples affects for years to come. During a concert in Auburn Hills, Michigan, the singer revealed that he donated $1 million to aid the victims of this crisis. “Ongoing challenges remain years later for Flint residents, and it’s important that we don’t forget our brothers and sisters affected by this disaster,” he said in a statement. “As people, especially as Americans, we need to stand together to make sure something like this never happens in any community ever again.”
9. Bill Gates & Alzheimer’s Research
Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease—the six leading cause of death in the United States—for which there is no treatment nor way to slow its progression. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is on a mission to find a cure. He has several family members who have had the disease. “That’s not my sole motivation, but it certainly drew me in,” he told CNN. He’s spent over the past year investigating and talking to scientists to determine how to best help them towards a treatment of Alzheimer’s. “I’m a huge believer in that science and innovation are going to solve most of the tough problems over time,” he said.
10. Stephen Colbert & Puerto Rico Recovery
In the fall of 2017, celebrities started sharing awkward pictures of their younger selves with the hashtag #PuberMe. The challenge was launched by Stephen Colbert and Nick Kroll, and it spurred donations to Puerto Rico relief. For every celebrity who Instagrammed and/or tweeted the photo and hashtag, Colbert’s AmeriCone Dream Fund donated $1,000 to One America Appeal, an organization started by the five living former American Presidents setup to support recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey, Irma, and Maria.
Cover photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images