Life & Style | People

The celebrities using their fame for good

These celebrities do more than just walk the red carpet – they use their fame to create change via volunteer and charitable work

  • By Lisa Gorman, Friday magazine
  • Published: 12:45 September 19, 2012
  • Friday

Chris Evans
  • Image Credit: Getty Images
  • Chris Evans, American actor best known for Captain America and The Avengers.
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From helping reinforce positive values in girls, raising funds and building schools in impoverished areas of the world, to raising awareness about animal rights, charitable initiatives can take on many forms. And supporting all these, and many more, are supermodels, actors, and singers. We celebrate 15 celebrities who are using their star power to help make a difference around the world.

Chris Evans - American actor best known for Captain America and The Avengers

“I’m from Boston, so I [volunteer] at the Boston Children’s Hospital(childrenshospital.org) a lot and it’s so great that I do superhero movies because kids love it, and it’s really nice being able to affect them in a positive way. You have an impact. You certainly have a platform, you certainly have a voice, so I guess the opportunity to affect change given your personal beliefs is on an elevated level.”

Sophia Bush - American actor and director known for her role in John Tucker Must Die

“I was on an impact trip in Guatemala with Pencils of Promise (pencilsofpromise.org), which focuses on creating sustainable education programmes for disadvantaged children in developing countries, and raised $60,000 (Dh220,368) for my 30th birthday. We’re building two schools in Guatemala.

I also do a lot of work with Invisible Children (invisiblechildren.com) which aims to end atrocities against children in East and Central Africa; and with The Art of Elysium (theartofelysium.org) that encourages working actors, artists and musicians to dedicate their time and talent to children who are battling serious medical conditions. Volunteering, for me, is being in a community of like-minded people. I am my happiest [when] I am with the people who I would consider to be my tribe – people either in the non-profit space, the conference space, the tech space... those are really my peeps.”

Jenny McCarthy - American actor, model and author

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“For autism awareness in May I host the largest autism conference every year, keynoting in Chicago, called AutismOne (autismone.org). We get about 6,000 parents there from all over the country and then we live feed to about 10,000 more. It’s a free conference through my organisation. I raise money so that all of these families can fly in for free and we babysit their kids and we entertain the dads while we teach the parents how to heal their kid.”

Jada Pinkett Smith - American actress, author and singer-songwriter

“Red Table Talk – a web series which discusses good parenting and relationships, among other things – was something I did really organically. I wanted to offer a gift to women, especially mothers. I want to focus on issues in regards to relationships that will eventually extend into other areas not just the familiar, or ones related to love. For instance, African-American women and Latino women hold the number one and number two spot as far as women who are trafficked in the US.

So I want to do a Red Table Talk with a fantastic beautiful woman named Rachel Lloyd who is head of the GEMS organisation (Girls Educational & Mentoring Services, gems-girls.org) in New York in regards to this issue. [GEMS helps girls and young women who have experienced exploitation and domestic trafficking.]”

Gisele Bundchen - Brazilian supermodel and goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme

“I started paying attention to the Amazon Rainforest when I visited the Xingu River area, in northeast Brazil, in 2003. I spent a week with an Indian tribe and everyone was complaining they were getting sick because the water was polluted. Pesticides, used in farming, were leaching into the river, poisoning the fish; deforestation was rampant... I was like, ‘Who is going to do something about this?’ I couldn’t have asked for a better childhood, so with my father I created Projeto Água Limpa (Clean Water Project, projetoagualimpa.org.br) planting thousands of trees along the Amazon that will help reverse deforestation. We must act now so future generations will have the same opportunity that we had.”

Tyra Banks - Former supermodel and TV star

“I have an organisation called Tzone (tzonefoundation.org). Its mission is to reinforce positive values and encourage girls to resist social pressures through a fierce self-esteem building adventure. It also provides resources to community non-profits that share Tzone’s mission to empower girls to take control of their lives and pursue their dreams through community activism, dance, filmmaking, leadership, sports, writing, or as young entrepreneurs. It’s about 13 years old. It started off as camps in the mountains in Los Angeles. Now I partner with the Lower East Side Girl’s Club in New York. We built a 30,000-square-foot facility and an after-school programme for young girls.

There’s a juice bar and a snack bar for the students with all expenses paid. We
have a planetarium, a screening room, a science centre, an organic garden and a yoga centre for these young girls. And it’s state of the art, beautiful and right across the street from the projects so they can see something beautiful or come here every day and know that all that can be a part of their future.”

Viola Davis - Stage and film actor best known for her roles in The Help and Doubt

“I do whatever I can to help public schools and charter schools [primary or secondary schools that receive public money but are not subject to some of the rules that apply to other public schools as long as they produce certain results]... in the US. I’m an advocate of public education. I help Segue Institute for Learning (www.segueifl.org) [a college-readiness and scholarship programme for students in low income areas]. My friend started a charter school in Central Falls, Rhode Island, and I do everything I can to help them as well as a few other programmes for students in Providence.”

Carly Rae Jepsen - Canadian singer and song writer

“Charity is a huge thing for me. I’ve done work with a children’s hospital and it’s been very moving. But there’s one charity we’re planning to really look into. I’m going to hold off and keep that as an announcement until later. I’ve always wanted to say it’s important to find a way of giving back to people and helping other people. I really think it’s important to use your celebrity as a means for giving back.”

Pamela Anderson - Canadian actress and model

“I think I’m most known for the work I’ve done with Peta (www.peta.org), the animal rights organisation, for 20 years. When I was on Baywatch, I’m the one who called Peta and said, ‘I’m so sick of talking about my personal life, please give me something to talk about that’s meaningful.’ And they did. Our activities have helped change animal welfare laws all over the world and when I see the results, it makes me want to do it more and more and more. I so love it that I’m kind of the mascot for Peta.”

Tom Hardy - English actor known for his role as Eames in Inception

“I support Help for Heroes (helpforheroes.org.uk) that looks after soldiers who come back from various conflicts and who are in various states of injury. It takes care of everything – for those requiring complex surgeries to amputees. The psychological damage is very prominent but not as discussed as the issues faced by amputees. There are a lot of wounded people in the world. I’m very fortunate to be part of the entertainment business and let’s face it, I’ve got a really good life. I don’t put my life on the line. I just do what I do to be laughed at. Maybe somebody will say ‘I don’t like your character’. But I’m not getting shot at.”

Katharine McPhee - American singer and actress

“In Africa, while on a mission for Malaria No More, which works to eradicate the dreaded disease, my main focus was malaria. But malaria is not just about the mosquito and people getting sick. It’s about the fact that if a parent gets ill he can’t work and then he can’t provide for the child. If the child gets sick he or she can’t continue their education. The issues all feed into each other. I didn’t really do any studies when I was there on any of the water clinics and stuff. But I know there’s a lot of initiatives. It’s not that they don’t have the resources to deal with it, it’s that they don’t have the cleaning supplies. They don’t have the purification systems for the water.”

Martha Stewart - American author and TV personality

“I try very, very hard to be as giving as I possibly can. I started the Center For Living at Mount Sinai Hospital (mountsinai.org) in New York. We established the hospital about five years ago in honour of my mum. It’s a geriatric outpatient ward in the hospital where anybody can go to consolidate their medical records so that they can learn about diet, nutrition, and exercise to extend their lives as gracefully as possible. It’s so well thought out and well done, and the doctors are so diligent. The other area that I’m very interested in is preservation of land and resources. I’m involved with the Maine Coast Heritage Trust (mcht.org) that conserves and protects Maine’s coastal lands and islands. I’m also involved with a few other environmental projects that I care very much about.”

Justin Bieber - Canadian singer

“I think that the most important thing is to be able to give on Christmas. I think giving is better than receiving – being able to give to charities and food drives. When I was growing up, I used to get food from food drives because I didn’t have a lot. Recently, we gave money to the Stratford food drive–the Stratford House of Blessing (shob.org) – which looks after street children in Stratford, Ontario. That was really special to me.”

Susan Sarandon - American actress

“I work with Habitat for Humanity (habitat.org) – a non-profit organisation building simple, decent, affordable housing in partnership with people in need. A lot of the food banks in New York, which provide meals to homeless; and Somaly Mam (somaly.org), a non-profit organisation dedicated to fighting trafficking of women in Cambodia, are very dear to me. I have a friend called Akello who was a child soldier in Uganda and I have been providing some funds to help keep his school functioning in Uganda. I’ve also been working with the Center for Constitutional Rights (ccrjustice.org) – dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the US Constitution.”

Nick Cannon - American actor and rapper

“I have lupus [a long-term autoimmune disorder that affects the skin and internal organs] and I have been working with The National Kidney Foundation (kidney.org) as well as the Lupus Foundation of America (lupus.org). Those are my two things, but then I’m also doing a lot of stuff with children’s hospitals (childrensmiraclenetworkhospitals.org), which raises  funds for 170 children’s hospitals across North America. I’m doing a web series. I was at the hospital when the doctors told me my condition was life threatening. I was like, ‘if  I’m going to die, I want to at least document it’. But as we got through it, I realised it was inspirational... I wanted everyone else to know that life isn’t over if you’ve got a condition like lupus... it doesn’t have to stop. I wanted people to know that one can live with it.”

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