Celebrities have played a significant role in raising awareness of various social and environmental issues.
- In recent years there has been an increased use of celebrities bringing attention to different problems. Follow us as we dive into the most extensive list of celebrity activists.
Is celebrity synonomous with “activist?
Or when you think of activists do you only see images of protests and picket signs in hand? The term is often associated with a group that stands up to injustice. It’s true; many people have made their name by speaking out about what they believe in.
- Celebrity Activists have risked it all for what they know is right, and now we’re taking this opportunity to honor them! These celebrities are fighting for the causes close to their hearts daily.
- The first way that celebrities have helped is through their activism, such as in the case of Leonardo DiCaprio speaking out against climate change and animal protectionism through his documentary, Cowspiracy.
Is Celebrity activism growing?
Some stars, like Emma Watson, took advantage of their primary platform to bring other activists into the spotlight by co-hosting the United Nations Women HeForShe initiative alongside her UN Ambassador role. This latter approach enables activism by getting others involved.
- Celebrities have also used their influence to advocate for others to join and participate in activism.
- Some celebrities have also joined in on celebrity-led social media campaigns, such as #DemandChange led by Shailene Woodley and Mark Ruffalo (to bring awareness to the Dakota Access Pipeline), which you can read more about here.
The Celebrity Activists list
1) Madonna took to Instagram to share her sentiments about the refugee crisis. She quotes Anne Frank’s diary in the post: “I know that people are good at heart.”
2) Leonardo DiCaprio donated $6 million to environmental organizations fighting for clean water worldwide over the summer.
3) George Clooney and his lawyer wife Amal have also been involved in the case of human trafficking survivor Nadia Murad, who ISIS militants captured. She eventually escaped with the help of her mother, husband, and some other Yazidi fighters.
4) Selena Gomez and her mother, Mandy Teefey, started the non-profit Hands To Speak for victims of sexual assault, as well as their families.
5) Ellen Degeneres and other Hollywood stars wrote op-eds supporting Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, including Lena Dunham and America Ferrara. 6) Charlize Theron opened an African youth education center in 2011 after visiting Africa and seeing the needs firsthand.
7) Kim Kardashian advocates for prison sentencing reform, reportedly lobbying President Obama to commute the life sentences of non-violent drug offenders.
8) After being affected by his mother’s battle with breast cancer, Ryan Reynolds built a gym for women in Montreal and, in 2011, co-founded the Canadian Cancer Society’s “Big Slick” celebrity gala.
9) Leonardo DiCaprio has also been very outspoken in his environment support, notably after he won an Oscar for “The Revenant.” He has met with political leaders to discuss climate change and was a speaker at the U.N.’s Climate Summit last year.
10) Queen Latifah is a longtime supporter of LGBT rights, having marched for gay pride and spoken at various fundraisers.
11) Taylor Swift has been a public advocate for various causes. She has been an activist for both LGBTQ rights and gender equality. She also spoke up about the sexual assault case in court that involved former DJ David Mueller.
Swift was just a teenager when she wrote her essay “An Open Letter to My Younger Self,” which she posted on her website and Tumblr account. The post earned over one million views just the first day after its release before it got removed from both sites due to security concerns following the 2013 celebrity photo hacking scandal.
More famous activists
There are many more famous activists to unpack. You may feel some celebrities are missing from this list, so please let us know by commenting or message us on our Facebook page here, even if it’s to tell us you hate something about this article.
1. Ava DuVernay – Film Director (Selma) Activism: Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Rights Movement
Why she’s influential: She produced an Oscar-nominated documentary called The 13th, which describes America’s history with mass incarceration. It was directed by her and released in 2016.
In 2015, she directed Selma’s film about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s campaign for equal voting rights for African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement. It received critical acclaim and has a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
2. Beyonce – Singer Activism: LGBTQ+ Rights Movement
Why she’s influential: She wrote an open letter that got published in Billboard titled ” Gender Equality Is A Myth ” where she stated:
“We need to stop buying into the myth about sexual equality. It isn’t real.” She later mentions how women are taught not to be self-confident by society, saying it is okay to feel superior instead of inferior compared to others, and everyone has their unique gifts and talents, such as “the ability to love more deeply, passionately and unconditionally than our male counterparts.”
3. Bernie Sanders – Senator of Vermont Activism: Social Justice Movement
Why he’s influential: In the 1960s, during his college years, he participated in the civil rights movement by organizing sit-ins to protest segregation. He got arrested during a civil rights demonstration for resisting arrest in August 1963, where he was an organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (he received a citation for this ).
In the 1980s/90s, he organized protests against segregated housing at his university. In 2016, he was standing outside with a group protesting Donald Trump when someone shot him but thankfully, no one got hurt except for the attacker.
4. Beyonce Knowles – Singer Activism: Black Lives Matter Movement, Women’s Rights Movement, LGBTQ+ Rights Movement
Why she’s influential: When police killed Mike Brown in the summer of 2014, she dedicated her one-time single ” Formation ” (which is about a lot more than that) to him. In 2016 when there was controversy surrounding BLM after the Dallas shooting, Jay Z announced he would donate $1.5 million to their cause and gave a speech at the BET Awards where black celebrities showed support for them (Charlotte McKinney can be seen beside him).
5. Billy Crystal – Comedian Activism: Anti-Bullying Campaigns
Why he’s influential: He has been one of the biggest supporters for raising awareness about bullying. He was bullied when he was a kid and has spoken out about how it affected him growing up, wanting to end it for future generations (he even wrote a book titled “My Survival in Bullying.”)
6. Bono – Musician Activism: Humanitarian Relief, Poverty Reduction, Anti-Hunger Campaigns
Why he’s influential: He co-founded the (RED) campaign, which stands for “Reduce Mother-To-Child Transmission” in Africa. Since its beginning in 2006, (RED) has generated over $260 million through companies in business sectors such as Technology, Retail & Apparel, Food & Beverage to fight AIDS by helping those who need it the most.
7. Brad Pitt – Actor Activism: Humanitarian Relief, Poverty Reduction Campaigns
Why he’s influential: He is on the Board of Directors for (RED), which I just mentioned, and produces a documentary titled The Eleven O’Clock about some children who work in diamond mines.
8. Charles Ramsey – Local Resident/Activist Activism: Civil Rights Movement, Black Lives Matter Movement
Why he’s influential: During the Cleveland kidnapping case where three women were held captive by Ariel Castro between 2002-2013, Charles Ramsey got interviewed during his early interviews about hearing the women screaming down below right before he helped police rescue them from their abuser.
For no apparent reason, people accused him of lying and doing hoaxes, saying that the women were “missing for a long time” or had been dead, and he just decided to help out at the right time. He responded to all of these accusations by stating: “I helped those poor women out, but I don’t need none of the credit.”
9. Chris Evans – Actor Activism: Anti-Bullying Campaigns, Military Support
Why he’s influential: When Chris was younger, he got bullied so much that his mother considered transferring him (he noted in an interview that she yelled at them during one incident). In 2011 when Tyler Clementi died due to bullying, Evans recorded an anti-bullying PSA where he stated how we should get rid of bullying once and for all since it’s “no longer cool.”
10. Chris Pine – Actor Activism: Environmental Conservation Campaigns
Why he’s influential: At the Sundance Film Festival, he received an award for his role in a documentary titled Chasing Ice about climate change.
11. Chuck D – Rapper Activism: Social Issues
Why he’s influential: He has helped raise money for homeless veterans and even rallied against the United States military involvement because of how many soldiers died fighting in wars for foreign reasons or purposes (he called this country out as being “The Great Satan”).
12. Cindy Crawford – Model/Activist
Why she’s influential: Many people would remember her husband Rande Gerber opening up a non-profit organization to help homeless and displaced women in 2007, which he named after his wife (called “House of Cindy & Rande”).
13. Colbie Caillat – Musician Activism: Environmental Conservation Campaigns
Why she’s influential: In 2010, she recorded a song for the Save The Whales project called “Save Your Heart,” She wrote songs about helping whales from extinction.
14. Dakota Johnson – Actor Activism: Anti-Bullying Campaigns
Why she’s influential: In high school, her classmates bullied her because of her size and appearance so severely that they even made fake MySpace profiles impersonating her to bully more people there since some teenage girls were impressionable enough to do whatever it said on the internet. She was so sick of it that she even said: “I couldn’t handle it.”
15. Danny DeVito – Actor Activism: Anti-Bullying Campaigns
Why he’s influential: He portrayed a character in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia trying to take down an entire high school by revealing their secrets about how they bullied one unlucky kid and ruined his life.
That’s all the famous activists we can find; for now, check back soon, though, because our list of celebrity activism will be sure to grow.