Actors inspire me in more ways than just through their talent. The most admirable actors, in my eyes, use their stardom to evoke change and contribute to brilliant causes, subsequently raising awareness through their mass following. The financial benefit of having celebrities on board with causes cannot be questioned, but the word of mouth that comes from their involvement is the most beneficial aspect in my mind. Actors, as I will discuss, have been appointed to important roles in organisations, founded organisations themselves and used creative methods and their talent to spark awareness also.
A great example of an actor being involved in activism is Angelina Jolie. Jolie became a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations in 2001, following her exposure to world humanitarian crises while filming in Cambodia. Since her appointment, she has been on field missions to meet refugees and those internally displaced, helping to provide relief with other staff members. The main thing, however, that makes Jolie’s work so admirable is the manner in which she carries out this work. Her personal costs for these missions are covered entirely by herself and she insists on not being of a higher status on the missions than other staff members, sleeping and living under the same conditions.
The Not on Our Watch non-governmental organisation is another famous example of actors becoming involved in activism, with this example demonstrating the potential for collective activism from multiple big names in the industry. Co-founded in 2007 by George Clooney, Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt and more, the establishment serves to draw attention to the atrocities that are being committed around the world. This was founded with a specific focus on the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, Sudan, which was visited by Clooney and his father and they filmed a documentary while there, in order to hopefully reach a larger audience.
One of my main inspirations for this article, however, is Danai Gurira. She is one of my favourite actors of all time and one of my favourite humans. She is most famous for her portrayal of Michonne in The Walking Dead, my favourite character and show of all time, but has since shot to further fame as Okoye in Black Panther and the following Avengers films. The Marvel Universe is obviously massive in terms of popularity, so her casting has made her name a much more widely recognised one and has, in turn, allowed the causes she is passionate about to reach a wider audience than it previously would have. Gurira is a strong advocate for women’s equality, with specific emphasis on African issues due to her Zimbabwean heritage and upbringing. A slightly unorthodox method of activism was the Broadway play she wrote, Eclipsed, the first Broadway play to have a female writer, director and all female cast. The story follows five women during the second Liberian civil war of 2003, which means that both female equality and awareness about the issue has grown, even though it occurred over a decade prior. ‘Love Our Girls’ is a campaign started by Gurira intended to promote female equality by focusing on love and empowerment as a mantra. Again, with specific emphasis on Africa, issues such as sex slaves and child brides are combatted, but this is all under the umbrella mission of making sure girls and women across the world realise their worth and potential.
This woman is brilliant, and I admire her tremendously. The example of Gurira proves that celebrities are not defined by their stardom or money, and are still human with causes that they are passionate about. Gurira is a big name in cinema but not on the scale of others, which demonstrates directly that actors are passionate about the causes that mean a lot to them. Stardom and popularity are simply an instrument to assist them, not the sole reason behind the advocacy of causes, and it is clear that this is helpful in the promotion of issues and causes.