In the wake of a grim natural disaster that has captivated the world, a star-studded pack of celebrities have recently come together to answer the call, taking part in a huge fundraising relief effort for Haiti.
In a two-hour telethon on Friday called Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief, big names in Hollywood, such as Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, Coldplay, Jay-Z and Bono, donated their talents to benefit the impoverished nation still largely devastated from the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that hit two weeks ago.
From dial-in donations to iTunes album sales, the campaign raised a record-breaking $58 million in a single night. With the soundtrack of charity performances holding at No. 1 on iTunes in 18 countries around the world, it is expected to bring in much more over the coming days.
The celebrity spirit of giving has been just as generous outside of the widely successful telethon event as well. Pop star Britney Spears will be auctioning off costumes and props from her latest tour to benefit the cause; Shakira will have a school built for Haitian children through funds from her personal charity; and Lady Gaga will donate all the proceeds from ticket and merchandise sales at her sold-out New York City show to support recovery efforts.
Even Twilight vampire Kellan Lutz was spotted with a basket of clothes at an L.A. donation stop, while movie star heavyweights Sandra Bullock and Leonardo DiCaprio shelled out $1 million each to aid victims.
But despite the acts of kindness from the stars, is the superficial image of the entertainment industry too overwhelming for celebrities to claim legitimacy during times of social distress?
Often times, Hollywood is characterized as being a destructive scene mired in wasteful affluence, scandal, damage control and overall unimportance. Consequently, the millions of charity dollars raised and celebrities’ compelling abilities to mobilize people for positive change have been overlooked in the past. Until now.
Often slammed by the public for their lavish and frivolous escapades, “out of touch” Hollywood celebs are now more aggressively proving themselves to be significant influencers and power players within the political and social realm. In recent years, we’ve witnessed music artists and film stars play huge roles in shaping voting turnouts in elections, encouraging participation in activism and, with Haiti, raising funds for a much-needed, worthwhile cause.
The tragic situation has presented an opportunity and challenge for various faces in pop culture to assume responsibility not just as entertainers but also as very powerful role models and public figures.
If anyone is taking notice, it is not surprisingly the youth of the nation. Text donations and the explosion of relief campaigns sprawled across Twitter and Facebook are signs of a budding interest among college students and younger people — a detail that can, in part, be attributed to positive celebrity influence.
Today, younger generations are more likely to help out a good cause by seeing a trending topic on Twitter or following in the footsteps of their favorite star. Celebrity involvement and fusion of charity and social media make opportunities to help more accessible and appealing for the average young person — an obvious difficulty for everyday politicians.
Hope for Haiti Now organizer and host, actor George Clooney, envisioned stars coming together and set his hopes to reconstruct the country stronger than ever. While it’s possible that many will see such efforts as mere PR opportunities, the outcomes of these charity projects and eventual rebuilding of Haiti may serve as a lasting effect that people will see and remember.
While we’ve often scoffed as Hollywood stars lead the way in hard partying and wild antics, here is finally a good example to watch and take note of.
Christopher Agutos is a junior majoring in public relations and political science. His column “Pop Life” runs Tuesdays.