Sophia Bush’s fame is tied primarily to her acting roles (One Tree Hill, Chicago P.D.), but activism has also played an important part in her life for as long as she can remember. While growing up in Pasadena, Calif., she would organize fundraisers, protests, and clubs in school to tackle issues that were important to her. Now she’s focused mainly on empowering women and protecting the environment.
To date, Bush has raised nearly $500,000 for charity through her social media channels (including Instagram and Twitter), built three primary schools in Laos and Guatemala, co-founded an inclusive nontoxic finishing salon in Detroit that helps fund grants for budding female entrepreneurs, and signed her name to Time’s Up’s founding letter. “I feel the most capable, curious, and badass when I am active in my community, educated about current events, and using my voice,” she says.
Media Maven: Bush was hesitant to embrace social media until BP’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, one of the most devastating industrial disasters in history. The accident made her realize how she could galvanize her accounts’ followers to help protect the planet. She has since promoted many other causes — most recently the #EndPeriodPoverty initiative from Always after learning that nearly one in five girls in the U.S. misses school because she can’t afford feminine hygiene products. “The fact that we live in a country where wealth disparity creates barriers for girls on the basis of their biology is crazy to me,” she says. “Especially since there’s not a person on earth who would be here if it weren’t for a menstruating woman.”
Pressing On: Bush attributes her drive to the resilience she acquired working as a full-time actor since the age of 21. “It’s funny — the world only sees your successes,” she says. “They don’t see the thousands of auditions actors go on for jobs we don’t book, the hundreds of hours we spend in meetings we take in support of something that might not happen, or all the times we miss a wedding, a birthday, or the birth of someone’s child because we’re away working.” She also admits that being a young star wasn’t always a plus. “My naïveté put me in positions I wish I hadn’t been in, but the good and the bad add up to the sum of your life. It doesn’t matter how many hurdles you have to jump over. It just matters that you keep going,” she says. “That’s pushed me over any obstacles I’ve faced — whether or not I’ve always done it in the right way is sort of irrelevant.”
Talking Points: The culmination of her life’s work has been distilled into what she considers her most gratifying project to date: her new podcast, Work in Progress with Sophia Bush, which is described as “frank, funny, personal, professional, and sometimes even political conversations” with guests like Gloria Steinem and Chelsea Handler. “It is the most fulfilling and fun thing I’ve done in a long time,” Bush says. “The podcast feels like such a wide-open runway for curiosity, inspiration, and possibility.”
For more stories like this, pick up the November issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download Oct. 18.