Hollywood A-Listers often align themselves with charitable causes but there are a handful of stars that stand out thanks to their unwavering committment to making the world a better place. From TV stars to pop singers, Oscar winners and Disney actresses, here are a few celebrities lending their fame to great causes.
Hugh Jackman and his wife Deborah Lee Furness have been lending their support to various charities for years. The two recently filmed a documentary calling attention to the plight of coffee farmers in third-world countries. They have also formed charities to support the arts in their native Australia and help find families for orphans around the world.
Emma Watson’s name is as synonymous with that bushy-haired brainy witch from JK Rowling’s magical book series as it is with the fight for gender equality. The Harry Potter actress was named the U.N. Women Goodwill Ambassador and has become the face for their HeForShe campaign, a solidarity movement of gender equality that wants men and boys to come together to help end inequalities toward women and girls.
Seth Rogen is known more for his comedic stunts on film than his charity work but the actor has a personal connection to the fight against Alzheimer’s. Rogen’s mother-in-law was diagnosed with the disease when she was just 55 years old. The comedian decided to use his talents and his passion for finding a cure by starting Hilarity for Charity, an organization that’s been raising money for research and awareness of the disease by partnering with comedians for special events.
While the rest of Hollywood was busy walking red carpets and accepting golden statues, Ava DuVernay and Ryan Coogler were working to help people in a part of the country that sorely needs it. The Selma director and Creed helmer teamed up for a live streaming event to help raise money for victims of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. The #JusticeForFlint event saw 3,635 activists making donations totaling over $145,000 to help communities affected by the crisis.
We can’t talk about charitable celebs without mentioning Taylor Swift. The reigning Queen of Pop regularly lends her name to organizations like Broadway Cares and Equity Fights AIDS but she’s also famous for making donations directly to her fans. In 2015, the singer donated $50,000 to a fan who missed a concert to undergo treatment for Leukemia and another $50,000 to her backup dancer’s baby nephew who’s fighting cancer.
Beyonce may be known for running the world, but she’s been quietly doing her part to help it for the past decade. During her Mrs. Carter world tour in 2014, the singer launched her philanthropic initiative #BeyGood which saw her teaming up with local charities in major cities to help the homeless and unemployed. She’s headlined the Made in America tour which helped draw attention to education, income and health problems of citizens in need and donated to the #BlackLivesMatter movement to help those affected by police brutality.
Mario Lopez has a personal connection to his charity work. The actor and TV personality grew up an inner-city kid in Chula Vista, California where he spent most of his time after school wrestling for the area’s Boys and Girls Club chapter. He’s said the organization had a huge impact on his life which is why he continues to mentor and sponsor programs like the Club’s new My.Future initiative, which provides kids access to technology to help further their educational goals.
Our March 2015 cover star Gary Sinise has been helping veterans and active service men and women almost as long as he’s been acting on screen. The star started his own foundation in 2011 after spending years visiting the troops and backing initiatives to support them. Over the years The Gary Sinise Foundation has started campaigns to feed homeless vets, build smart homes for wounded soldiers and provide financial support to America’s firefighters, police departments and EMTs.
Leonardo DiCaprio walked away with his first Oscar this year for his work in The Revenant, a film that’s as much about climate change and its impact on the indigenous communities of the world as it is about famed explorer Hugh Glass and his quest for revenge. It came as no surprise then that the actor mentioned the issue of climate change – one he’s spent years raising awareness about through his own organization the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation – in his acceptance speech. The actor has called for world leaders and regular citizens to lend their voice and their support to protecting our planet by reducing our carbon footprints and will probably continue to do so for years to come.
How To Get Away with Murder actress Viola Davis may have made history by becoming the first African-American woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series, but it’s her work in attempting to end childhood hunger in America that’s really deserving of recognition. The star opened up about growing up in poverty and being constantly hungry in an interview with Glamour magazine in 2015. She’s now championing the charitable program Hunger Is, which is building awareness and raising funds in an effort to eradicate childhood hunger in our country.
Sam Heughan makes hearts melt on his popular TV show Outlander but his commitment to finding a cure for cancer is pretty swoon-worthy too. The star is aligned with two different charities dedicated to battling the disease. Cahonas Scotland, a local charity in Heughan’s native homeland, is aimed at spreading awareness about men’s testicular cancer while his UK charity Bloodwise is working to find a cure for all types of blood cancer.
Angelina Jolie has been vocal in her support of the refugee community this year. The actress, who has been working with the UNHCR since 2012 and recently was promoted to their Special Envoy for Refugee Issues, wrote a powerful op-ed piece calling organizations and countries around the world to step up and offer aid during the Syrian refugee crisis.
Kerry Washington’s character on her hit TV show Scandal is known for her style, but the actress got in on the design game this year when she partnered with Allstate Foundation for their Purple Purse initiative. Washington crafted a chic handbag meant to draw awareness to the problem of domestic violence and financial abuse.
Karlie Kloss usually makes headlines thanks to her friendship with Taylor Swift or her in-demand modeling career, but the former Victoria Secret Angel is on this list because of her passion for technology. The NYU student is an avid coder and in 2015, she partnered with Flatiron School and Code.org to offer her #KodewithKarlie scholarship to young girls interested in computer science and software engineering.
Disney star Zendaya recently celebrated her 19th birthday in a way no teenager probably ever has before. The actress and singer has consistently used her platform to speak out about issues of racial injustice, equality and media representation, but for her milestone day, she took her charity work a step further. In July, the actress traveled to Africa with UNAIDS Foundation where she met a family of three young boys whose parents had died from AIDS within the span of two years. For her birthday, she set up a crowd-funding campaign online to raise funds for the brothers to build a safe home.
Demi Lovato was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder over five years ago and the singer has been vocal in her support of others struggling with mental health issues. She recently partnered with five mental health organizations to launch Be Vocal, a campaign which encourages others to speak up and support those dealing with mental health disorders.
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