What would you do with your time if you were famous? Some of us would spend all of our free time sitting on a beach or a yacht; others would write a book, or produce a play. And there are certainly more than enough celebrities who do those things. But some of our favorite stars use fame to improve other people's lives, instead of their own.
Celebrity activists aren’t anything new, and they've been criticized as superficial and sometimes damaging to the causes they attach themselves to. That argument was amplified in the growing popularity of “
hashtag activism,” especially after the 2016 election. We understand the arguments against celebrities speaking up, but we still think that any good that can be done should be done.
Ahead, we’ve collected stories of how our favorite celebs lend their fame to causes around the world. Let them inspire you.
When our favorite style mogul and musical chameleon Rihanna was just 18, her single “A Girl Like Me” made it to the Billboard top 10. But she wasn’t only getting her music on the charts. That same year, she established the Believe Foundation, which provides financial, medical, and emotional support to critically ill children.
Since then she's served as a UNICEF ambassador, helping to bring clean water to children around the world. She also established the
Clara Lionel Foundation Global Scholarship Program, which financially helps students attending college in the U.S. from Caribbean countries. She also recently received recognition from Harvard for her charitable work. Photo: Paul Marotta/Getty Images More VIDEO
In response to the 2016 hashtag
#OscarsSoWhite, Rodriguez created a counter-hashtag #MovementMondays to celebrate Latinxs in the arts, with a focus on actors. But the Jane The Virgin actress doesn’t limit her activism to Twitter and Instagram.
In addition to her continued work with organizations like the
National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, she is the cofounder of a lingerie company, Naja. According to their website, the brand tries to “disrupt the way lingerie is marketed toward women by creating a brand that seeks to empower women instead of objectifying them.” Photo: Richard Polk / Getty Images More
When she checked into rehab in 2010, Demi was in a rough place. She told
Refinery29 that at her lowest point, she couldn’t go an hour without using cocaine. Several visits to rehab centers and a bipolar disorder diagnosis later, Demi is in a better place. In an incredible turnaround, she has used her past as fuel for her activism. She is now a strong advocate for the mentally ill, has been a vocal ally of the LGBT community, has rallied the Latino vote, and stumped for Hillary Clinton at the Iowa caucuses, just to name a few things.
In July of 2016, Lovato spoke at the
Democratic National Convention about mental health awareness. She told the audience that we can all "do better" when it comes to providing health care for those suffering from illnesses like bipolar disorder. She used her personal struggle to appeal to the audience, stating:
“I stand here today as proof that you can live a normal and empowered life with mental illness... I urge every politician to support laws that can provide access to better health care and support for everyone. This is not about politics, it’s simply the right thing to do."
Photo: Jesse Grant / Getty Images More
We love her wild style and spirit, her booming voice, and her killer dance moves. We also love her passion for helping homeless and LGBTQ kids. Just a year after we saw her twerking on the
VMAs stage, the performer blew us away again. In 2014, she attended the VMAs with a 22-year-old homeless man, who accepted her Video of the Year Award. His speech about homelessness reached about 13.7 million viewers.
That same year, she launched her non-profit,
Happy Hippie Foundation, to get basic necessities to the people who need it: homeless youth, LGBTQ kids, and other vulnerable populations. According to , the foundation has partnered with several other organizations to help transgender and gender-expansive kids and their families, including Variety Gender Spectrum and MAC AIDS Fund. “It seemed wrong that I had so much attention, and there were so many people in the country that didn’t have a place to call home,” Cyrus told the magazine. “I wanted to bring attention to what was really important.” Photo: Joe Scarnici / Getty Images More
Washington has no qualms being vocal about her positions, and never has. “I didn't want my career in the public eye to keep me from being somebody who participates socially and politically,” she told
. Among other things, she is a board member of Women’s Health Magazine VDay, an organization headed by Vagina Monologues author Eve Ensler, that's aimed at stopping violence against women and girls around the world. Washington can occasionally be seen in pop-up productions of the female-only play, and is a frequent guest at VDay events.
More recently, she was tapped by
Allstate to be a Purple Purse Ambassador, helping the organization raise money to give victims of domestic violence and financial abuse the support they so desperately need. Photo: Cindy Ord / Getty Images More Read More
There's yet ANOTHER reason to love
Kylie’s lip kits. The famed Lip Kits have done a lot more good in the world than merely giving people full and fabulous pouts.
Kylie recently partnered with
Smile Train, an organization that gives children cleft palate surgeries free of charge, for a limited edition lip kit. The entire proceeds of Smile, a matte lipstick in pale pink, are helping children across the globe do just that, as the brand raised half a million dollars for the charity, reports. People Photo: Jon Kopaloff / Getty Images More
Yes, she was nominated for the Best Original Song Academy Award for "
Til It Happens to You," which she co-wrote with Diane Warren for The Hunting Ground. But for Lady Gaga, her appearance at the 2016 Oscars was about a lot more than taking home a golden statue. The song touches on an extremely personal topic for Gaga, who's spoken in the past about being sexually assaulted by a record producer at the age of 19. Gaga opened up about the song's importance on the red carpet before the ceremony, telling ABC, "One in five women will be raped before the time they finish college. One in 20 men will be raped before the time they finish their schooling at their university."
While this was one of the more visible displays of Gaga’s activism, her passion for social causes reaches farther than one issue. Just a few months ago, the pop star
spent an afternoon at a New York City homeless shelter for LGBTQIA teens, talking with them, and giving them a trunk load of gifts for the winter holidays. Photo: Kevin Winter / Getty Images More
Laverne made her mark on the TV landscape with her role in
, where she plays Sophia Burset, a deeply complex character who happens to be a trans woman. The show is massively popular, and Laverne’s strong performances have helped to bring issues affecting the Transgender community into the Orange Is The New Black mainstream.
Her impact extends past the screen, as she has been consistently vocal about the need for inclusion and representation in media and society. “We should have representations that humanize our experiences and tell the diversity and the complexity of our experiences,” she told
. “I have mainstream sensibilities. Just because I’m Black and trans does not mean I’m somehow not mainstream and not consuming the same culture everyone else is consuming.” Time Photo: Emma McIntyre / Getty Images More
Most recently, we know her as Claire Temple in Netflix’s Marvel original series
Daredevil and , but she’s so much more heroic than just her character. In 2004, the actress cofounded an organization aimed at getting Latinxs involved in politics, Luke Cage Voto Latino. In the 2016 election, the organization boasted registering 100,000 Latinx voters.
She can also be spotted in the crowds of people protesting money in U.S. politics, and the construction of the
Keystone Pipeline. Photo: Taylor Hill / Wireimage / Getty Images More Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here? Nick Jonas Tagged Along On Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner's Date Nikki Bella's Engagement Ring Will Blow You Away Demi Lovato & Poot Lovato Are Probably Best Friends