Justin Bieber may owe most of his coverage in the popular press to his arrests and his speeding tickets, and Lady Gaga may get an unusual amount of coverage for her zany outfits (one of which was completely made of fresh meat). Celebrities like them, who keep the paparazzi in business, though, often have another side – one that would win them genuine respect if people only knew. Take a look at some of the most inspiring celebrities to look up to.
1. Justin Bieber
In the 2011 edition of the Ludaday Weekend Celebrity Basketball Game, an event meant to support Ludacris’ youth-oriented charity, Justin Bieber was the biggest name in attendance. Winning for his team, Justin Bieber brought in $10,000. At one point, Bieber launched a charity campaign alongside of a holiday album release and raked in major donations for several charities, including Pencils of Promise. The star’s most inspirational quote: “I know firsthand that if you believe in your dreams, everything is possible.”
2. Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga has long been a vocal champion of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community. While the singer has participated in countless charity initiatives to help the cause, one of her most talked about ones was the time she auctioned a nude portrait of herself on eBay, raising money for her Born This Way foundation for young people in the LGBT community. In 2012, Lady Gaga received the Trevor Hero award for her work.
3. J.K. Rowling
When J.K. Rowling began to write about a little boy going off to a wizardry school, she was divorced, a single mother of an infant, unemployed and on welfare. After she finished her first manuscript of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, her only reward was a string of 12 rejections at the hands of various publishers. All it took was one publisher to see the promise. Today, the Harry Potter brand is worth $24 billion. One of the author’s most inspirational quotes: “I was set free because my greatest fear had been realized, and I still had a daughter who I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
4. Michael J. Fox
In 1998, 18 years after the final installment of the Back to the Future trilogy was released, Michael J. Fox, the star of the movie, announced that he had Parkinson’s disease, a debilitating condition that affects the nervous system. Since then, he has worked endlessly to support the discovery of a cure for the disease. He even spoke before the Senate Appropriations Committee in 1998 without taking his medication to control his involuntary trembling.
Over the years, Bono has become as popular for his work against global poverty as he has been for his work with U2. He has worked to raise awareness for Third World debt relief, has worked for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and performed at Live 8 concerts for years. Bono has been nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize, too. One of his most moving quotes: “Idealism allied with pragmatism, with rolling up your sleeves and making the world bend a bit, is very exciting.”
6. Ben Affleck
While Ben Affleck may be a Hollywood superstar from Boston, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a huge part of him. His Eastern Congo Initiative helps local aid organizations that assist rape victims of the country’s brutal civil war.
7. Kate Winslet
People tend to think of Hollywood stars as people who are obsessed with their appearance. Kate Winslet is slightly different, though. In 2003, when GQ Magazine retouched her photos in an issue to make her look thinner, she came out and told the world that she looked nothing like them. She didn’t want young women everywhere to buy into a fictional ideal of what women were supposed to look like.
8. George Clooney
In 2010, George Clooney organized the Hope for Haiti telethon to help the victims of the Haiti earthquake. With his star power, he managed to rope in superstars such as Madonna, Beyoncé, Julia Roberts and Leonardo DiCaprio. Pulling in $61 million, the telethon was the most successful on record. George Clooney has a long list of other humanitarian efforts on his resume, Not on Our Watch, Clothes Off Our Back, Feeding America and Make Poverty History among them.
9. Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett Johansson’s charity work is far more hands-on than writing out a big check. As an Oxfam ambassador the Hollywood star constantly writes articles about her experience with poverty and hunger in East Africa and helps raise awareness about the continent.
10. 50 Cent
Curtis Jackson, the musclebound rapper who became an international sensation with his 2003 album Get Rich Quick or Die Tryin’, grew up the hard way, dealing drugs on the streets of New York. In his book Playground, 50 Cent admits to having been a bully in school. Through the book, the celebrity has been trying to make a difference. He also has a major initiative that provides meals to poor families in Africa.
Celebrities often do have a deep interest in using their fame to help the world. People have a hard time noticing it, though, because the popular press has more fun with their sensational side. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to give a little credit where it’s due, though. Do you agree with the list?