At a time where we’re more aware of social issues than ever, it comes as no surprise that those in the limelight have been facing scrutiny on their opinions and their political beliefs.
What does it mean for us if we follow the lives of celebrities who shy away from politics – who don’t speak out when they could gain influence? This is a burning question of our time (if the furore around Taylor Swift’s long-standing silence on political matters throughout the years is any indication).
Now, when everyone is under the spotlight for their beliefs, it’s more unusual to find celebrities who don’t speak out than it is to find celebrities who do. But there’s still a stark difference between famous people who lend their voice to good causes a couple of times, and celebrities who commit wholeheartedly to the causes they campaign for. What made have found them fame at first may, eventually, be equal, to the amount of work they do to help change the world.
Here are 5 such celebrities, who are taking on the world with their social activism right now.
1. Jameela Jamil
You may know her best as the self-absorbed but ultimately very sweet Tahani Al-Jamil from Netflix’s The Good Place – you may know her, even, as the E4 and BBC Radio 1 presenter starting way back in the late 2000s. As an actor and presenter, Jamil is quite often used to having the cameras pointed at her – and is intimately aware of how damaging the expectations of the screen can damage people’s relationships with themselves.
Jamil has shot to prominence once again, not for a new starring role but as the founder of an online campaign called #IWeigh, encouraging everyone everywhere to base their self-worth not on their weight, size or thinness, but on the positive things in their lives that matter to them. This heartwarming campaign comes from a very personal place for Jamil, who has spoken openly about her problems with anorexia in the past. It has spread all over the internet, leaping from Instagram to Twitter, and propelling Jamil into the limelight even further.
Aside from #IWeigh, Jamil is constantly welcoming debate and criticising efforts by businesses to cash in on damaging people’s – especially young women’s – self-worth. One of the most refreshing things about Jamil is that she emphasises her ability to learn. She’s very vocal about making mistakes and will publicly apologise for them. It seems the only way for Jamil to go is up.
Halsey’s hit-making abilities are pretty unstoppable, if her consistent presence on the Top 100 charts are anything to go by. With singles such as ‘Without Me’, ‘New Americana’, and her collaborations with BTS and The Chainsmokers, she is constantly played and deservedly adored by many fans.
Halsey is not, and has never been, a one-trick pony, however – that much is clear from the rage at misogyny that her latest single, ‘Nightmare’, blasts out. Committed to all sorts of causes, Halsey continues to show that you can go from singing your heart out to championing social activism pretty seamlessly.
The list of her achievements in her career of social activism is quite long, but she’s perhaps most known for her speech at the Women’s March in 2017. Her spoken-word poem about sexual assault went viral, and for good reason – it’s a deeply personal, deeply emotional report on how sexual assault has been so normalised in patriarchal society, and it is especially eye-opening to hear how even celebrities are not protected from sexual assault by their status.
Aside from her participation in the Women’s March, Halsey is outspoken about quite a lot of things. More recently, she’s been one of the many celebrities to criticise the abortion ban in some states of the USA, which come as many legal attempts to take down the historic Roe v. Wade ruling in the Supreme Court. Her activism for the LGBTQ+ community, also, stems from her personal experience as a bisexual – she was recently videoed criticising the recent attempts to set up a Straight Pride. As well as this, she’s also kept speaking out for causes such as ending homelessness, and raised money to fund research for endometriosis, something she suffers from. All in all, she’s a great example of celebrities using their platform – unrelentingly, and always for good.
3. Ellie Goulding
Global superstar and enchanting songstress may be known for her pop career, but her other great love is her passion for the environment.
In fact, Goulding is one of the most prominent celebrity environmentalists around, on equal footing with Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio. As a UN Environment Global Goodwill Ambassador, she has worked on various campaigns and initiatives to help environmental causes around the world. More recently, she paired up with the team on the Netflix show Our Planet, narrated by David Attenborough himself, to release a song for the soundtrack, ‘In This Together’. She regularly takes to Twitter, Instagram and interviews to educate her fans and the public about environmentalism, too.
Aside from her global activism, Goulding also dedicates her time to fighting against the rising epidemic of homelessness within the UK. She is a patron of the Marylebone Project, an organisation determined to help vulnerable women in the Marylebone area, and she spends every Christmas volunteering at the organisation. If that wasn’t enough, she also hosts a concert every Christmastime in collaboration with Streets of London, a non-profit committed to ending homelessness in London. She regularly invites musicians to sing such as Bastille, Mabel, Gabrielle Aplin, and the likes of Craig David, and 100% of the money made by tickets goes to Streets of London; so far, she’s taken the concert from its humble beginnings to the Royal Albert Hall and, in 2018, Streets of London was held in the SSE Arena in Wembley too!
4. America Ferrera
She may be most recognisable as the titular character in the Ugly Betty TV show – that started thirteen years ago; you, also, may know her voice as Astrid from How To Train Your Dragon. She’s certainly a prolific and well-acclaimed actor – she was the first Latino to win a lead actress Emmy – but America Ferrera is kept incredibly busy by her political endeavours too.
Ferrera is keen for activism to be made accessible to more and more people, and regularly takes interviews on the subject. Her campaign venture Harness, run with her husband Ryan Williams and and Wilmer Valderrama, aims to make activism available for a digital world, by providing activist content on digital platforms to inspire and inform a new generation of activists.
She was, in fact, one of the founders of the revolutionary #MeToo movement, that spoke out for the first time against sexual harassment, particularly in the acting industry. #MeToo’s impact cannot be understated, as, with the Weinstein scandal, it brought to light the horrors of misogyny that were still so painfully present within the workplace. It is safe to say that #MeToo is one of the standout moments of our time, and Ferrera’s involvement was nothing small at all. She was one of the first women to speak up about being sexually assaulted in the hope that others would take up the mantle, too.
5. Mindy Kaling
Mindy Kaling may be best known as Kelly Kapoor in the US version of The Office, but Kaling is an absolute powerhouse of an individual. Not only did she act in The Office, but she also helped to write and direct it – and she was the executive producer. Frankly, Kaling hasn’t stopped since.
Aside from acting amazingly in things such as the feel-good Ocean’s 8, The Mindy Project and Inside Out, Kaling has amped up her social activism and has recently taken the issue of diversity to the big screen with her own film, Late Night. With a premise about a struggling late night show that hires a non-white staff member to bring some fresh ideas into the writing room, it’s hitting home for a lot of non-white creatives in the industry.
It’s people like Kaling who are opening doors for the next generation of diverse actors, producers and directors to storm the halls of Hollywood, and Kaling is very aware of it. As a consistently funny and brilliant writer, Kaling is what the acting industry needs – and has always needed.