10 Celebrities Making a Difference
From models and designers to actors, athletes, philanthropists, entrepreneurs and royals, these ten celebrities are well admired for their good deeds and big hearts. Here’s how they are making a real difference in our world.
Famed fashion designer Michael Kors is rethinking clothing and fashion, showing fans you can both look good and do good. In 2013, Kors launched the Watch Hunger Stop campaign through a long-term partnership with the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) as a Global Ambassador Against Hunger. To amplify the message of the campaign and reach a wider audience, the brand released a video featuring top models Lily Aldridge, Candice Swanepoel and Liu Wen wearing Watch Hunger Stop T-shirts with a personalized message. The award-winning actress Kate Hudson also joined Watch Hunger Stop as an advocate. Not only is Michael Kors investing his star power into the campaign, he’s also giving his customers a chance to contribute. With each sale of his Michael Kors 100 Series watch, 100 children in need receive a nutritious meal through WFP’s School Meals Program. Additionally, when fans post “selfless selfies” on social media wearing a Michael Kors Watch Hunger Stop T-shirt with the hashtag “WatchHungerStop,” Michael Kors pledged to personally donate 100 meals for each selfie. Along with in-store and texted donations, over 10 million meals have been provided to children in need!
Christy Turlington Burns
Fueled by a passion to advocate for the maternal health of women around the world and after having endured a childbirth complication herself, supermodel Christy Turlington Burns has dedicated herself for over 10 years to the cause of maternal health. In 2005, Turlington Burns partnered with CARE, an international humanitarian organization, as their Advocate for Maternal Health. In 2010, she continued her philanthropic journey with her debut documentary No Woman, No Cry. This 60-minute film portrayed four cases of mothers’ maternal health in Tanzania, Bangladesh, Guatemala and the United States. The film provided a springboard for the launch of her philanthropic organization, Every Mother Counts (EMC), which focuses on the 289,000 women who die every year as a result of complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Every Mother Counts works to bring awareness and provide access to healthcare for mothers around the world. The organization has impacted the lives of over 310,000 people, while over 20,000 moms and babies have received care from providers trained with EMC support.
Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad Al Thani
H.E. Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad Al Thani, sister of the Emir of Qatar and chairperson of Qatar-based NGO Reach Out To Asia (ROTA), has a far-reaching sphere of influence that is both doing well and doing good. Her desire to reach out with compassion was propelled by the need for quality education for those impacted by natural disasters taking place in Asia. ROTA operates in ten countries in Asia including Iraq, Cambodia, Nepal, Pakistan and Syria. There they build and adopt schools, encourage access to education for girls, help teachers have access to continued education, and empower youth to develop their leadership abilities. ROTA is also one of the co-founders of the Tamm Volunteer Network, which encourages youth in Qatar to give back to their communities through volunteerism and civic responsibility. Sheikha Al Mayassa has been recognized time and again for her philanthropy and for the impact she’s made on society through volunteer work and public service. The impact of her work is felt throughout the Middle East and the Asian continent.
With an endowment of $41.3 billion, Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, dominates the philanthropy space. More importantly, Melinda Gates has changed the way other wealthy individuals think about giving and about its effectiveness. With a focus on investing in the rights of girls and women worldwide, along with their access to health and education, Gates has participated in numerous initiatives, including her 2012 pledge of $560 million towards providing access to contraception for women in impoverished countries. Over the years, the Foundation has worked on initiatives to eradicate polio, malaria and poverty throughout the world.
Grammy-award winning actress Marlo Thomas has continued the legacy of benevolent giving started by her father Danny Thomas, a Lebanese immigrant to America and successful actor and comedian. While still a struggling actor, Danny Thomas made a vow to establish a shrine to St. Jude if he ever found success. In 1962, after traveling the country to raise money and awareness, the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital was born. Today, St. Jude is recognized around the world as the pioneering hospital for childhood cancer treatment and research. Since St. Jude was established, the survival rate for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common type of childhood cancer, has increased from 4 percent in 1962 to 94 percent today and the survival rate for childhood cancers has risen from 20 percent to 80 percent.
A successful actress in her own right, Marlo Thomas spent a lifetime working for St. Jude, continuing to promote and give life to her father’s dream. As St. Jude’s National Outreach Director, her efforts are vital as she promotes St. Jude around the U.S. with corporations, individuals and other celebrities.
St. Jude has treated children from across the United States and from more than 70 countries. Cancer patients without insurance or whose treatments are not covered by insurance are never asked to pay. These policies, along with research expenses, cause the hospital to incur more than $1.8 million in operating costs each day. To help cover these expenses, Marlo Thomas created the Thanks & Giving campaign in 2004, raising nearly $500 million for St. Jude children and families. In 2014, the Marlo Thomas Center for Global Education and Collaboration was opened as part of St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
In recognition of a lifetime spent working for St. Jude, Marlo Thomas received the United States’ highest honor award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded by President Barack Obama in 2014.
Angelina Jolie Pitt
Angelina Jolie Pitt is as well known for her humanitarian efforts as she is for her beauty. Her interest in philanthropic causes started in 2000 after filming Lara Croft: Tomb Raider in Cambodia. In 2001 Jolie Pitt was named a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. Since then, she has carried out more than 40 field missions to some of the most remote regions of the world to highlight the plight of millions of uprooted people and to advocate for their protection.
In 2012 Jolie Pitt was appointed UNHCR Special Envoy, focusing on large-scale crises that result in mass population displacement. Her donations to UNHCR amount to more than $5 million, used towards building schools in countries such as Kenya and Afghanistan.
In addition to her work for UNHCR, Jolie Pitt continues to travel to bear witness to and support disaster relief, vulnerable children, environmental conservation, and international law and justice efforts worldwide. In the past decade she launched
The Jolie-Pitt Foundation to provide funding for projects in Namibia; the Jolie Legal Fellows Programme to enhance government capacity around the rule of law in Haiti; and the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation project dedicated to conservation and education projects in Cambodia. She has also received numerous awards for her devotion to humanitarian causes.
Taylor Swift is making big waves not just with her highly successful music career but also with her humanitarian activities. As a significant donor during major disasters, such as the Iowa and Tennessee floods and the Australian bushfire in Victoria, Swift is proving that she has a heart of gold. Swift was crowned in December 2014 as DoSomething.org’s most charitable celebrity, thanks to her generosity and to giving to charities such as UNICEF, Stand Up to Cancer, Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity. More recently, the artist has pledged to give all proceeds from her 1989 album single Welcome to New York to New York City public schools.
Mark Zuckerberg’s commitment to the Giving Pledge, along with a succession of significant donations, place him on a list of celebrities who are making a significant impact in our world through their giving. The Giving Pledge is a commitment by the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy. While Zuckerberg is best known for founding the ubiquitous social media site, Facebook, his giving is also worth noting. His first major gift was a hefty $100 million donation to the Newark public school system. More recently, he announced that he was going to give away 99% of his wealth. Along with his wife Priscilla Chan, Zuckerberg has launched the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, which they envision to compete with the Nobel Peace Prize.
Michael Bloomberg has been in the spotlight for many reasons. First as the founder, CEO and owner of Bloomberg L.P., a financial data and media company, and then as the former mayor of New York City. He has also made notable contributions philanthropically. One of his primary focuses has been on environmental advocacy, giving to Sierra Club and Environmental Defense Fund. He was also appointed as the first Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change to help the United Nations assist cities to decrease their environmental impact.
Well known on the court for his tennis skills, Andre Agassi is also famed for his generosity. One of twelve athletes to found Athletes for Hope, which provides a means for athletes to get involved in charitable causes, Agassi is dedicated to making a difference. This is also evident from his personal giving. In 2001, he founded Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy in Las Vegas, which is tuition free and is aimed at providing quality education for at-risk students in the area. He has also dedicated energy towards children in need of medical attention through the Andre Agassi Cottage for Medically Fragile Children. Agassi has won the ATP Arthur Ashe Humanitarian award, which recognized his work with youth in need in the Los Angeles area.