Celebrities define our culture. You buy a certain style of dress, brand of jeans, type of video game or cup of coffee because the celebrity you admire the most purchases that same kind. They serve not only as entertainers, but also as opinion leaders. Whether you agree with their views or not, chances are that you know what your favorite celebrities stand for and what they want to see accomplished. But their influence extends far past the realms of fashion, entertainment and politics.
In recent years, a new trend has emerged among celebrities: philanthropy. Celebrities have started using their wealth, influence and resources to fight for a cause. By channeling their energy toward a certain issue and supporting that cause, celebrities give the organization they stand for free publicity and PR. Their influence makes the cause they believe in popular within our culture, and thus they raise awareness and support just by joining the fight.
Over the past ten years, the following non-profit organizations and campaigns have emerged as some of the most popular among teenagers and young adults. And part of the reason for their popularity is celebrity endorsements and involvement.
This organization abides by the one for one idea. That is, for each pair of shoes that you purchase, TOMS will donate a pair to a child in need. Started by Blake Mycoskie in May 2006, TOMS has given 10,000 pairs of shoes to children in Argentina and 50,000 pairs of shoes to children in South Africa. And helping Mycoskie to spur on this cause and complete its mission is the band, Hanson. They realized that their music, vision and a willingness to get involved could help promote TOMS. Hanson informed their fans about TOMS shoes and encouraged them to get involved.
Other celebrities such as Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Biel, Tobey Maguire, Lindsay Lohan and Brittany Murphy have been spotted wearing TOMS. By wearing these shoes, celebrities raise awareness for the cause and drive up demand for the product. These shoes, made of rubber and canvas, look like the opposite of what our culture considers high fashion. But because celebrities sport these shoes, TOMS have become the new look.
In 1997 after he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, Lance Armstrong founded the Lance Armstrong Foundation to equip cancer patients with the knowledge and confidence to become cancer survivors, not cancer victims. In 2005, Armstrong launched his famous LiveStrong wristband campaign to raise money and awareness for his foundation. The phrase “LiveStrong” is inscribed on a yellow wristband and sold all over the world. These wristbands have become widely-used for supporting other organizations and non-profits as well a new fashion trend among young adults. His innovation has encouraged cancer patients to keep on fighting and created new ways for other groups to promote their mission and raise money.
This slogan was coined to unite the plethora of HIV/AIDS organizations into a community with a single message. The We All Have AIDS campaign calls for an end to the HIV/AIDS stigma. “It is a powerful display of the unity and solidarity we all share with the 40 million men, women, and children living with HIV/AIDS around the world.”
This campaign, launched on World AIDS Day in 2005 by Kenneth Cole, featured t-shirts (as worn by actor T.R. Knight) and advertisements appearing in over 200 magazines and newspapers including The New York Times, The Boston Globe and Chicago Tribune. The campaign features celebrities such as Richard Gere, Whoopi Goldberg, Tom Hanks, Alicia Keys, Will Smith and Rosie O’Donnell. Without Cole’s connections and influence, this campaign might not have been possible.
Celebrities have always provided our society with gossip, laughter, fashion, style, music, movies, television, speeches and award shows. And now we can add service to the list. Celebrities serve our culture by being a driving force behind non-profit organizations and campaigns. Celebrities first entertained our world, and now they are changing our world.