These influencers, from Hollywood heavyweights to sports phenoms, are investing their fame capital to forge change. By Leah Degraw and Diasia Robinson.
Today Americans are facing many political and social challenges and celebrities and civilians alike have stepped up to support an array of causes from law enforcement reform, women’s equality, immigration and refugees rights and many more that affect quality of life. Along with everyday people, advocacy organizations and lawmakers, celebrities have lent their voices to further expand the platform—and audience—for key issues. Here are 10 Hollywood influencers who are doing just that:
Ryan Coogler’s “My Life Matters” & Blackout for Human Rights
“My Life Matters,” a video series, created by “Creed” director Ryan Coogler, commemorates the lives of African-Americans slain by police officers and is a platform part of his nonprofit organization, Blackout for Human Rights. To be clear, the videos are not anti-police. They instead focus on police brutality and advocate for solidarity within the Black Lives Matter movement. Entertainers including Lala Anthony, Andre Holland, Boris Kodjoe, Common, Terrence J, and Mara Brock Akil discuss their most notable achievements and serve as living examples of why everyone should be allowed the right to freely pursue happiness and liberty, rights not enjoyed by slain victims whose lives were cut short. Coogler juxtaposes the influence of veteran entertainers, several of which grew up in urban communities impacted by violence and police brutality, with the stories of everyday victims of those circumstances. View the videos and find out more here.
Gina Rodriguez & Clinique’s #DifferenceMaker Campaign
The leading lady of “Jane The Virgin,” Gina Rodriguez joined Clinique’s #DifferenceMaker campaign, which is part of The Clinique Difference Initiative, a powerful global project that encourages young people to use education and health advocacy as a tool for empowerment. The initiave was also creaed to inspire confidence in women and empower them to make a difference in the world through the stories of Rodriguez and five other international female phenoms including Erendira Ibarra, Victoria Pendleton, Jessica Nkosi, Nazan Eckes, and Ning Chang. In the inaugural video, Rodriguez talks about how she overcame challenges growing up in a “gang-infested” Chicago neighborhood with the help of her parents (her “giants”), and how to pay it forward: She gives talks to high schools, grammercy and university students encouraging them to have confidence, self worth and to believe in the power of education.
“TV never looked so good. And women are the reason! Three badass standouts of the fall season—Taraji P. Henson, Gina Rodriguez, and Emma Roberts—show why smart actresses in smart roles win every time.” Thank you for including me in TV’s game changers @glamourmag 😍❤️😘 #dreamComeTrue (more pics to come please don’t hate me, I’m excited like Xmas morning!)
This Is What My Revolution Looks Like
Created by Humanity for Hillary, a collective group of artists and activists, #ThisIsWhatMyRevolutionLooksLike is a vehicle to ignite conversations on women’s equality. A star-studded video was launched featuring celebrities including “Girls” creator Lena Dunham and “Orange is the New Black” stars Taylor Schilling and Uzo Aduba. The campaign also promotes 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (and though the activists do not mention Clinton by name, the campaign was sparked by Humanity for Hillary, a collective of artists and activists unified to address issues of sexism in the presidential election process.) The video campaign also delves into what the celebs see what drives their personal “revolutions” such as advocating for equal pay, protection of the right to choose, paid family leave, and generally more women in leadership roles. And we can’t agree more!
WeAreHereMovement Highlighting Real-Life Atrocities
Selling CDs in the back of a supermarket. Failing to signal a lane change. Running to the bathroom in your own apartment. Sounds absurd but these are some of the reasons African Americans have died as a result of encounters with the police. Singer and activist Alicia Keys partnered with the WeAreHereMovement and, along with other celebrities, participated in a video called “23 Ways You Could Be Killed If You Are Black In America.” The short featured top entertainers including Beyonce, Chris Rock, P!NK, Rihanna, Janelle Monae, Chance The Rapper, Kevin Hart, Queen Latifah and many more who talked about 23 real-life cases where people of color have been killed in America by police officers, keeping the conversation alive in the fight for law enforcement reform. The advocacy has extended even beyond the campaign, with many of these entertainment heavyweights taking to their personal website, Instagrams and Twitter accounts to shed light on cases of racism in law enforcement.
#LeanInTogether with Entertainment’s Power Women
Notable celebrities Eva Longoria, Kerry Washington, Reese Witherspoon, Selena Gomez, Serena Williams and many more teamed up for the #LeanInTogether campaign to strengthen and refuel the narrative of women mentoring and advocating or other women in professional industries. Lean In, an organization and advocacy platform founded by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, features videos and articles on a variety of topics catering to women in business and the workplace, and offers Lean In Circles that connect and allow women to meet regularly with like-minded women who want more and wish to be supported. The #LeanInTogether campaign aims to foster a community of interdependence amongst women. In a video released by the campaign, celebrities place value on women relying on other women for support instead of seeing them as rivals.
Sports Gets In On the Action
NBA stars have lent their voice (and actions) have kept the conversation alive about police brutality and racism. This summer, top ballers Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James opened the ESPY awards addressing the recent fatal shootings of blacks by white police officers and discrimination on the courts and off. Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers set off a firestorm when he kneeled during the national anthem during preseason NFL games, and several other athletes have followed suit, including WNBA players from the New York Liberty and the Minnesota Lynx, showed up at a game in warm-up shirts printed with phrases including “Black Lives Matter,” “Change Starts With Us” and “Justice and Accountability, and the Indiana Fever, and the Phoenix Mercury wore plain black shirts during July games in an attempt to continue their political statement against police brutality. Their efforts led to the New York, Phoenix and Indiana teams and players facing fines (of which were later rescinded). The WNBA players have continued making their media rounds and showing support to fighting against discrimination and police brutality through their social media accounts, and even the NBA has gone on
Elaine Welteroth at Teen Vogue
When appointed editor-in-chief of the publication in 2012, Welteroth was the youngest and only the second African American to hold such a position in the 100 years Conde Nast has been in business. In her latest boss feat she’s encouraging the publication’s millions of young women readers to vote, supporting the #OurVoteCounts campaign, one that 50 other top women’s media brands are backing, too. The campaign’s mission is to get an additional 100,000 women to register to vote this year. If her presence as a millennial calling the shots at the little-sister publication to one of the world’s leading fashion publication isn’t a movement by itself, we don’t know what is.
Ava DuVernay’s Array
Filmmaker Ava DuVernay is responsible for founding Array, an independent film distribution company dedicated to increasing awareness of independent films created by people of color and woman. The A Wrinkle In Time director’s movement is aimed at getting more diverse voices and images represented in film. Fans can get involved during Array’s annual membership drives to receive perks geared toward avid film lovers. In addition to her dedicated work with Array, DuVernay continues to champion inclusivity and equal opportunities in the film industry. She paired with Oprah Winfrey to create “Queen Sugar” for OWN and in a bold move, only hired women directors to bring the series to life. DuVernay’s latest film, “The 13th,” opened the New York Film Festival, delving into America’s high incarceration rates, and features interviews of various political figures including commentator and activist Van Jones and former House speaker Newt Gingrich.
Jesse William was awarded the Humanitarian Award at the 2016 BET awards, but it was his speech that became the hot topic of conversation. Williams is no stranger to activism, as he has been very vocal about injustice and the need for change throughout his career. He was first a high school history teacher and created Question Bridge, a media project that fosters dialogue between black males of various backgrounds to redefine the identity of the black man in America, before becoming the actor we know from “Grey’s Anatomy.” In September 2016, Jesse Williams began as senior producer of a five-part documentary series called “America Divided.” With notable executive producers Norman Lear, Shonda Rhimes and Common, involved in the project, Williams is exploring the vast inequalities within America, from criminal justice to education to labor to politics.
Yara Shahidi and Points of Light
Yara Shahidi, star of “Black-ish,” delivered a speech in June for activist organization, Points of Light, explaining why representation matters. In the speech, Shahidi talked about how media influences perceptions of races and ethnicities. As a biracial young woman (of African and Iranian descent), Shahidi represents diversity and is using her voice to fight for “gaining equality and parity through art.” In her speech, the young teen is poised and confident and perfectly articulates the fact that social media, television shows and films influence our first interactions with a new concept or idea. Shahidi unpacks the idea that the shows we watch both unconsciously and consciously “perpetuate stereotypes” based on what the people in power feel is “believable.” The actress poses her solution and own personal obligation, suggesting that everyone filmmaker, artist, and creator should also have the goal to represent a truer depiction of the “colorful” world we live in.