Powerful People Who Stood Up For The Little Guy

You know what they say: money and fame can’t buy you happiness. The real ticket is helping people who don’t have a voice as loud as yours. These celebrities took their fame and used it to stand up for the little guy – whether it’s Ashton Kutcher dedicating his life to human trafficking or Bono fighting poverty in Africa. Read on to be wowed by how far some of these celebs have gone to help others.

Ashton Kutcher Isn’t The Jokester You Remember From Punk’d

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Photo credit: MTV / Punk’d

You may remember Ashton Kutcher from his breakout role on That ’70s Show or his MTV series Punk’d. He’s since married his on-screen high school sweetheart Jackie (Mila Kunis) and almost completely shied away from Hollywood (minus starring in the highly underrated Netflix series The Ranch). So, where the heck has Kutcher been? Is he off somewhere looking for his parked car?

Ashton Kutcher’s New Day Job Is Saving The World

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It turns out, Kutcher has made a much more important contribution to society than bringing the word “Punk’d” into our everyday vernacular. He may repeatedly be typecast as the dumb hot guy, but Kutcher has built a massive tech portfolio filled with investments from companies like Uber. In 2009, he founded Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children with his then-wife Demi Moore. The company builds software to battle human trafficking.

Kutcher refers to Thorn as his day job – and it’s quite an undertaking. In the six months following the launch of a software tool called “Spotlight,” they’ve identified 6,000 trafficking victims, helped 4,000 law enforcement officials and reduced investigation time by 60%.

Lady Gaga Continues Her Fight For LGBTQ Rights

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Lady Gaga has always aligned herself with the LGBTQ+ community – they’ve supported her throughout her career, and in return, she has been a close ally. In 2009, she appeared at the National Equality March in Washington. In 2010, she took on the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy by telling her fans to ring up elected officials and ask them to repeal the law.

The same year she called for fans to use their voice for change, Gaga put LGBTQ+ members of the military in the spotlight – literally. The singer had retired gay military officers from the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) accompany her to the MTV Video Music Awards. As a result of Gaga’s activism, 100,000 people visited the SLDN website in 72 hours.

Not On George Clooney’s Watch

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George Clooney is one of the most famous men on the planet and used to be the world’s most eligible bachelor until he tied the knot with human rights lawyer Amal Clooney in 2014. The couple is dedicated to solving human rights violations, but Clooney was already deeply involved before meeting his better half.

In 2008, Clooney enlisted his famous pals Matt Damon and Brad Pitt to launch Not on Our Watch. The Non-profit aimed to bring global attention to the humanitarian crisis Darfur and they’ve since sent over $7.5 million in aid to Darfur, Burma, and Zimbabwe.

George Clooney Was Arrested For Protesting Human Rights Violations In Sudan

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George Clooney isn’t just passionate about activism – he’s willing to risk his acting career for it. In 2012, Clooney was arrested outside of the Sudanese Embassy in Washington D.C. He was protesting the humanitarian crisis in Sudan, which he considered on its way to being the “worst humanitarian crisis in the world.”

Clooney was equipped with protest signs that read “Stop bombing civilians now!” and “End the silence stop the violence.” He was arrested alongside his 78-year-old father, United to End Genocide President Tom Andrews, Martin Luther King III, NAACP President Ben Jealous and Democratic Reps. Jim McGovern, Al Green, Jim Moran and John Olver. He was released later that day with a $100 fine, but that $100 seems like nothing when you consider the amount of publicity the arrest gave his cause.

Sean Penn Put Out An Ad Against The Bush Administration

Sean Penn Put Out An Ad Against The Bush Administration

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Full-page ads are usually reserved for major corporations like McDonald’s or Apple – unless you’re Sean Penn. Penn, who majorly detested the 2003 Iraq invasion, decided to take out a full-page advertisement in The Washington Post as part of his advocacy against the war in Iraq.

As it turns out, full-page ads in major newspapers are not cheap. The Oscar-winner spent $56,000 on the ad, which he placed in 2002. In the ad Penn accused Bush of violating democratic principles with a “blood-lined sense of entitlement.” He also put on his journalist hat and covered the Iranian elections for the San Francisco Chronicle. According to Forbes, it was the paper’s most widely read story that year.

Sean Penn Personally Managed A Refugee Camp In Haiti

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Sean Penn is known for his activism and charity – from championing for LGBTQ+ rights to joining reconstruction efforts in post-Katrina New Orleans. In 2010, he took his activism even further and literally moved to Haiti after the devastating earthquake killed as many as 300,000 citizens.

Penn created the J/P Relief Organization for Haiti earthquake victims, but decided his efforts were best spent on the field. He became a manager at one of Haiti’s refugee camps. While there, he lived in a three-bedroom house with 20 other volunteers. What was originally a two-week mission turned into something that lasted years. Throughout that time, Penn helped relocation thousands of displaced Haitians out of tent camps.

Angelina Jolie Is Working With The UN

Angelina Jolie Is Working With The UN

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Angelina Jolie may have been in the news more recently for her high-profile divorce from Brad Pitt, but that’s a shame considering the way she uses her celebrity for the greater good. From 2001 to 2012, Jolie served as the goodwill ambassador for the United Nations where she carried out nearly 60 field missions. She graduated to become the Special Envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in her final year as goodwill ambassador.

Since then, Jolie continues to work with the UNHCR and has a particular focus on crises that displace major populations. She primarily shines light on refugee struggles in Cambodia, Thailand, Sierra Leone, and Darfur.

Anthony Bourdain Won’t Let Latinxs Get Burned In The Kitchen

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Anthony Bourdain’s life was tragically cut short by suicide in the summer of 2018, but the lasting effects of his activism live on. Bourdain was an ally and advocate for the Latinx community in the restaurant business and used his voice to slam the prestigious James Beard Awards for lacking diversity.

Bourdain spoke to The Houston Press on the issue. “What frustrates me, of course, is that I would like — whatever the opinion, there’s plenty of room for honest disagreement on immigration — I would like to see very much the people who are cooking and have been cooking in America and doing the large majority of the work in the service industry…let’s at least acknowledge that work,” he said. “It’s an integral, invaluable part of that profession and of that industry. That would make me happy. If they got a James Beard Award, you know, if the James Beard people acknowledged that Mexicans exist, that would be nice!”

Bourdain Let Everyone Know How Important Mexicans Are In The Restaurant Industry

Bourdain Let Everyone Know How Important Mexicans Are In The Restaurant Industry

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In today’s political climate, immigration is a hot-button issue. It’s particularly important for Mexican immigrants who have been separated from their children at the border in addition to experiencing various racially-charged comments from President Donald Trump. Anthony Bourdain wasn’t having it.

Before his untimely death, Bourdain regularly touted the importance of Mexican immigrants to his millions of Twitter followers. He wrote about how NYC ‘s restaurant hospitality force is between 30 to 70% Mexican and Latino. “If Mr. Trump deports 11 million people or whatever he’s talking about right now, every restaurant in America would shut down,” he told Sirius XM.

Bourdain Used ‘No Reservations’ To Advocate For Mexican Immigrants

Bourdain Used ‘No Reservations’ To Advocate For Mexican Immigrants

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Anthony Bourdain put his money where his mouth was and used his series No Reservations to advocate for Mexican immigrants in America. One episode focused on Carlos Llaguno Morales, a Mexican immigrant who rose through the ranks and became head chef of New York City’s Les Halles.

“It’s not difficult to imagine why so many Mexicans cook in our restaurants. We, it appears, in spite of anything don’t want and won’t take those jobs…” Bourdain said. “…Why do they come? For the work, for the money, of course. But why do they cook so well? How come (in my experience, anyway) the best cook, even the best French cook, in a kitchen full of French guys is a Mexican guy?”

Childish Gambino Takes On Gun Violence In “This Is America”

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Photo credit: Childish Gambino / Vevo

Donald Glover has completed a feat few celebrities have ever managed to take on – he hosted Saturday Night Live and appeared as the musical guest with his project Childish Gambino. The actor-slash-singer doesn’t just use his amazing voice to rake in record sales – he uses it for change.

In 2018, Childish Gambino released the single “This Is America” to shed light on race and gun violence in the United States. Since its release, the metaphor-laden music video has racked up over 20 million views on YouTube. Its most poignant scenes included school children dancing amid gun violence and allusions to the 2015 racially-charged shooting in Charleston, where nine black people were murdered by a white supremacist in a church basement.

Beyoncé Brought Black Lives Matter To The VMAs

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Beyoncé and Jay Z may be the king and queen of hip-hop, but the couple is using their immense fame to advocate for African American rights. Beyonce quite literally handed over her platform to the mothers of the Black Lives Matter movement.

In 2016, Beyonce didn’t take a traditional date the MTV Music Video Awards. Instead, she showed up on the red carpet with her daughter and the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Oscar Grant III. These four black men were killed in racially charged gun violence. Martin was shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer, while the three other men were killed by police officers. Beyoncé was attending the awards ceremony to accept a Video of the Year award for “Formation” from her visual album Lemonade. “Formation” was considered a battle cry for the Black Lives Matter movement and the music featured a graffiti wall that said, “Stop shooting us.”

Jay Z Used His Cash To Bail Out Black Lives Matter Protesters

Jay Z Used His Cash To Bail Out Black Lives Matter Protesters

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What do you do if you’re a celebrity with more money than God? You use it to help those less fortunate. Jay Z put his money where his mouth was and used his cash to bail out anti-police brutality demonstrators in Baltimore, Maryland and Ferguson, Missouri.

In a series of now-deleted tweets, activist Dream Hampton admitted that the rapper sent him tens of thousands of dollars to bail out dozens of protesters. “When we needed money for bail for Baltimore protesters, I asked hit Jay up [sic], as I had for Ferguson, wired tens of thousands in mins,” he said. “When [Black Lives Matter] needed infrastructure money for the many chapters that we’re growing like beautiful dandelions, Carters wrote a huge check.”

Beyoncé’s BeyGood Foundation Is Literally Dedicated To Making The World More Beautiful

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Photo credit: Larry Busacca / MTV1617 / Getty Images

As if we couldn’t love Beyoncé any more, the artist created her own foundation dedicated to various causes around the world. The BeyGood foundation has fought for gender equality worldwide, given school supplies to students across America and hosted food drives in Houston. It recently raised thousands for victims of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Nepal.

Basically, Beyoncé’s charity is completely dedicated to sticking up for the little guys who don’t get any help – it doesn’t matter who they are or where they’re from. Beyoncé has got them covered.

Jay Z’s Shawn Carter Foundation Is Dedicated To Educating The Less Fortunate

Jay Z’s Shawn Carter Foundation Is Dedicated To Educating The Less Fortunate

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Jay Z and Beyoncé don’t just stop ad advocating against police brutality. Like his wife, Jay Z has his own foundation where he helps provide scholarship opportunities to disadvantaged youth and communities. Since its inception, the charity has paid out nearly one million in scholarships, counseling, college visits, and study abroads.

Jay Z also got a little more personal with his scholarships when he created a college trust fund for Sean Bell’s children in 2008. Jay set up the trust after three NYC police officers were acquitted in the death of Bell, who was fatally shot the day of his wedding. He was unarmed.

Kesha Gave A Voice To Animals

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There’s a reason Kesha was rated as one of DoSomething.org’s most charitable celebrities. In 2017, after a years-long legal battle against her alleged abuser and producer Dr. Luke, Kesha rose like a phoenix from the ashes of her halted career to help others. In January 2017, the singer threw a concert at Bowling Green University in partnership with Bands4Change. The proceeds went to animal protection organization The Humane Society International, the National Eating Disorder Association and the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

“Advocating for animals is second nature to me,” Kesha said. “My affinity with animals and the natural world inspires me and my music. I don’t understand how anyone can justify abusing or exploiting animals, and as long as it continues, I intend to keep talking about it.”

Bono Aims To Fight Poverty And Disease In Africa

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Bono, the lead singer of acclaimed band U2, is undeniably one of the most influential people in rock music. If for some reason you’ve managed to escape U2’s music, you may recognize the band as the makers of that random album uploaded to everyone’s iTunes a couple of years ago. It turns out Bono does a lot more charity than giving away his music for free.

Bono founded not one, but two charities – DATA and ONE. ONE is dedicated to ending extreme poverty and preventable disease. It’s worked to persuade foreign governments into supporting programs and policies that help fight poverty and has helped 51 million children go to primary school in sub-Saharan Africa. ONE has also doled out medicine to the more than 7.5 million AIDs victims in Africa. Since 2000, they’ve helped reduce instances of Malaria in Africa by 75 percent. That’s no small feat.

Bono’s DATA Gives A Voice To Victims Of Aids And Poverty

Bono’s DATA Gives A Voice To Victims Of Aids And Poverty

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Bono’s ONE charity directly helps victims of preventable disease and extreme poverty in Africa. DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa) aims to raise public awareness of these same issues. This outreach group works with politicians, celebrities, and the media to get the public involved with beating AIDS and extreme poverty in some of the poorest countries in the world.

DATA’s biggest achievement was when they helped persuade the G8 nations to give Africa $25 million in development assistance. This helped create access to education, treatment for AIDs and malaria prevention. In 2007, Bono was given the National Constitution Center’s Liberty Metal alongside the United States for his work with DATA.

Michael J. Fox Is Looking For A Cure

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Michael J. Fox is actually one of the voices he aims to help – it just so happens that his voice is louder and he can use his money for change, while most people suffering from chronic illness cannot. Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1998 and has been fighting to find a cure since then. As a result, he’s funded more than $200 million in Parkinson’s research with his charity the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

Fox also took a similar approach to Sean Penn. He used his acting money to take out advertisements advocating for pro-stem-cell Congressional candidates. He believes that funding stem-cell research is the way to find a viable cure.