Celebrity activism has reached a point in our civilisation where there are more theatrical than anything else. Let’s be honest, Pepsi is not going to solve racism and police brutality. That said, over decades, some of our favourite celebrities have taken to the streets, helped people in need and stood up for what they believe in.
1. Marlon Brando was a long time civil rights activist and worked with Dr Martin Luther King. He had also once declined to accept an Oscar for The Godfather due to the country’s treatment of Native Americans.
Sacheen Littlefeather, who went on stage on behalf of the ailing Brando did not touch the Oscar and told the audience that Brando couldn’t accept the award in light of the month-long stand up between US authorities and Native American activists.
2. Deepika Padukone risked her upcoming film and possibly her career by standing in solidarity with the students at JNU.
The actress did not speak nor did she address the media. Political activists and leaders had already done that. But Padukone’s solidarity came at a time when all the big stalwarts of the Hindi film industry had somehow disappeared from public life for about a week.
3. Ella Fitzgerald is a known legend of the music industry. But that was not always the case, at least not until Marilyn Monroe showed up.
Back in the 1950s, Mocambo was one of the more popular music venues. But Fitzgerald wasn’t allowed in, well, because she was black, and the owner didn’t think she was glamourous enough for West Hollywood.
In came Monroe, and promised the owner to be in the front row every night and bring her friends. And she was there every night with her friends. This would forever change Fitzgerald’s career.
4. George Clooney was once arrested for protesting outside the Sudanese embassy against the conditions in Sudan.
The actor had called it the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. The Oscar winner also works closely with the Not On Our Watch Project, which focuses on preventing mass genocides.
5. The legendary Jane Fonda has been arrested quite a few times in her long career. She was taken into custody during the 70s protesting against the United States’ war on Vietnam.
Fonda has been known for her activism throughout her career. And while she did avoid arrests after the 70s, in 2019, she was arrested 5 times protesting against fossil fuels and calling for environmental action.
6. Muhammad Ali was always a man of many words but it was his actions when called upon by the US govt to join the armed forces against the Vietnamese that spoke the loudest.
Ali became one of the most vocal oppositions against the Vietnam War. So much so, that at the height of his boxing career, he let himself be stripped of all his titles and all his accolades and go to jail simply because he refused to join the American military forces.
7. Model Emily Ratajkowski was arrested protesting the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court after Professor Christine Blasey Ford accused him of sexual assault.
Furthermore, Ratajkowski has designed dresses with partial proceeds going towards planned parenthood. She had also used the Instagram profile to highlight and speak out against an Alabama state law that banned abortion.
8. Shabana Azmi has long lent her voice to a plethora of issues plaguing the country, something that she continues to do to this day.
In 1989, she went on a four-day march for communal harmony from New Delhi to Meerut. She has time and again spoken about women’s rights in the film industry and otherwise. She has also fought against the stigma and prejudice that people with HIV continue to suffer through.
9. Former Miss India Nafisa Ali has not only worked with the Odisha Cyclone Relief Fund but she has also helped in reconstructing houses in 48 villages in the aftermath of the Gujarat earthquake.
Some of her other accomplishments include being the Chairperson of the Congress Human Rights Commission in Delhi and leading various women’s associations and starting a care home called Ashraya for those affected by AIDS.
10. Rahul Bose founded a parent organisation for many charitable organisations NGOs in Mumbai and another NGO named Foundation, that aims to provide education for poor children in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
He founded Group of Groups, a parent organisation of 51 charitable institutions in Mumbai to help the underprivileged. Another one of his NGOs, named Foundation focusses on providing education to the economically backward children in Andaman and Nicobar. He also adopted 6 children from the islands in 2007.
Maybe, sometimes we should meet our heroes.