Celebrities are no strangers to spotlight. On the silver screen and the TV screen, in news media and social media, they command attention, solicit appreciation and occasionally invite scrutiny. But it’s often for trivial things: a new fling they’re having, a fresh scandal they’re embroiled in or a spicy take they’ve recently tweeted.
To counteract that kind of coverage – as a counterpoint to all the gossip, drama and idolization regular to celebrity reporting – let’s readjust that spotlight. In this article, let’s re-shine the spotlight on celebrities who use their fame and platform for positive change.
Leading the Conversation: Jada Pinkett Smith
The Girls Trip star has always been an advocate for change. Pinkett Smith, together with her husband Will, created the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation, which supports urban youth and offers family support; she has worked with the Lupus Foundation of America, raising funds with the “Butterflies over Hollywood” events; and she’s campaigned on behalf of PETA for animal welfare.
The most recent endeavor for Jada Pinkett Smith has been her Red Table Talk show, where she sits down with daughter Willow and mother Gammy to have frank, intergenerational discussions about pressing topics. She uses her platform to give voice to such issues as gun violence trauma, addiction, mental health and colorism. It’s a generous use of her celebrity, and deserving of the spotlight it has received.
On the Frontlines: Shailene Woodley
The 28-year-old star of the hit show Big Little Lies is deeply involved with environmental activism. In 2016, Woodley was arrested while protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline, demonstrating not just her commitment to climate advocacy, but her passion for Native American land rights as well.
As her guest to the 2019 Golden Globes, Woodley brought Suquamish artist and activist Calina Lawrence, to further divert her spotlight toward climate and Native American rights issues. A torchbearer for a younger generation of politically energized celebrities, Woodley has leveraged her fame to raise awareness.
Fighting to Create Space and Acceptance: Laverne Cox
At the 2017 Grammy Awards, in front of an audience of roughly 26 million people, Laverne Cox voiced her support for Gavin Grimm, a transgender teen fighting for trans rights in front of the Supreme Court. It was just one in a long line of examples where the Orange is the New Black star used her fame to speak out.
A trailblazer for transgender representation in popular media and an indefatigable fighter for LGBTQ+ rights, Cox has demanded a fair conversation. For her continued advocacy and engagement, she has been awarded numerous honors and even received an honorary doctorate from the New School in New York.
Whether leading important conversations, joining protests or fearlessly creating space for diverse voices in media, these three women typify the best of what a modern celebrity can do with their platform. Next time you’re flipping through channels and catch a juicy scoop on a celebrity behaving badly, just remember that these three stories are the ones that you should remember.