Lights, Cameras, ACTION: Celebs Taking Altruism to Heart


Writing checks, headlining the occasional soiree, a photo-op with some charity – These are the common images which come to mind when people think of celebrities and altruism.  With their otherworldly lives, good looks, and sheer fame, can we expect celebrities to empathize, to really get it, when all the rest has gotten to their heads?

Actually, there are many celebrities out there who do!!!  In fact, a roll call of A-listers are putting their energies and passion toward an amazing breadth of causes. For a dose of true celebrity star power, check out this brief list of celebs: Lady Gaga, Brad & Angelina, Mark Wahlberg, and Prince William & Princess Kate to see the dynamic work they are doing for causes they value.

Lady Gaga

Few celebrities combine fashionista, musical talent, global reach and Twitterati quite like Lady Gaga.  Just 25 years old, she’s already a 5-time Grammy award winner, the holder of two Guinness World Records, and She’s closing in on 10 million followers on Twitter @ladygaga – more than any other twitting being on Earth.  With every red carpet cameo, she upends the fashion world with her avant garde ensembles and slightly absurd sensibilities. Lady G is the quintessential 21st century celeb, and with that comes extraordinary altruistic clout!

Japan & Haiti:

As a high school freshman living in New York on 9/11, Lady Gaga saw how meaningful individuals’ efforts can be following a catastrophe, and how public focus can disintegrate once the TV cameras move on.  That experience has made her a unique voice when it comes to critical relief efforts in post-quake Japan and Haiti.  Immediately following Japan’s 8.9 earthquake and Tsunami in March, Gaga got to work designing a catchy “We Pray For Japan” bracelet using her social media powerhouse to raise $250,000 for relief efforts in just 48 hours.  Two weeks later she donated another $1.5 million based on the bracelets proceeds.  Likewise in the wake of the Haiti earthquake back in January 2010, Lady Gaga used her appearance on Oprah to tell her personal story from 9/11 and drum up support.  She decided to donate all proceeds from her January 24th NYC concert as well as every dollar earned from her online store during a special “Gaga for Haiti Day”, her efforts raising over $500,000 for Haiti earthquake relief.


Lady G also knows how to mobilize her gigantic fan base to go out and do good. During her 2009-2010 tour, she came up with another catchy idea: premium tickets for every fan who volunteered eight hours or more to homeless youth organizations.  Her call to action inspired over 30,000 hours of community service and a new wave of attention for an overlooked group of children here in the U.S.

Mark Wahlberg

Today Mark Wahlberg is living the dream: he’s an Oscar-nominated actor, a prized producer and is coming off an Oscar Best Picture nomination. He’s got the Beverly Hills mansion, a beautiful family, an entourage worthy of Entourage…and still his heart is in Boston’s very own Dorchester.  The youngest of nine, he never graduated high school and ended up in prison at age 16.  With the help of the Dorchester Boys & Girls Club and Father Jim Flavin, head of a local Catholic parish, Wahlberg escaped a life of crime which seemed inevitable. Mark has never forgotten his luck or the neighborhood individuals who made it possible, and he’s since dedicated himself to enriching the lives of at-risk youth facing similar odds from Boston to LA.

Mark Wahlberg’s Youth Foundation has donated over $1 million to Boys & Girls clubs across the country, provides grants and inspires diverse organizations to implement projects that break down barriers to success facing at-risk youth.  Back home in Dorchester MA, Wahlberg frequently gives his time and resources to his childhood Boys & Girls club, where he works with kids and doesn’t shy away from making an example of his own troubled youth.

As he told 60 Minutes when asked how he responds to the kids when they say, “you didn’t finish high school and look where you are,” Mark replied: “It’s my biggest regret. I feel like, if I was able to do what I did with not going to high school and getting a college degree, imagine what I could have done with a real education. I’d be running whatever studio I work for now.”  It’s why education is a major focus for the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation (

And what about Father Flavin, his faithful mentor?  When the gym at his parish needed an overhaul, Wahlberg quietly took care of it, giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to make sure other Dorchester kids have a refuge from the streets.

Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie

One glance at the Jolie-Pitt clan—with children adopted from Cambodia,Ethiopia, and Vietnam—and you know humanitarianism runs deep with Hollywood’s Mega Couple.

Take Angelina: In the ten years since she filmed Tomb Raider in Cambodia and first visited a refugee camp, she’s emerged as the leading celebrity advocate for refugees and families seeking asylum from war zones worldwide.  Her efforts range from lobbying members of Congress, co-chairing a Clinton Foundation partnership to educate children in war zones, serving as a member of the distinguished Council on Foreign Relations, and attending the Davos World Economic Forum as an invited speaker in 2005 and 2006.  As Angelina stated upon becoming UNHCR’s Goodwill Ambassador in 2001,

“”We cannot ignore the fact that millions of people are out there suffering. I honestly want to help. I don’t believe I feel differently from other people. I think we all want justice and equality, a chance for a life with meaning. All of us would like to believe that if we were in a bad situation someone would help us.”

It’s that belief that has led her to provide a voice for the voiceless and promote their message on a level outside the reach of your average celebrity.

How about Brad?  Along with collaborating on Angelina’s humanitarian work, Brad has found his own niche; green architecture and housing following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.  A long-time architectural enthusiast, he founded the Make It Right Foundation to build 150 affordable new homes in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward, all of which are environmentally sustainable.

His leadership has brought together 13 architectural firms, over $5 million in donations (along with the $5 million he has personally committed), and led to an award from the U.S. Green Building Council.  Brad has also earned private receptions with President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to promote green housing as a national affordable housing model.

Prince William & Princess Kate

Their recent wedding was the toast of the world, and their altruism is equally dignified and creating real impact.  In lieu of extravagant gifts, William & Kate selected 21 charities that aren’t well known yet provide important services to children, such as community cohesion programs in Northern Ireland, disabled children theater groups, and organizations caring for children who have lost parents in the military.  Prince Williams works tirelessly advocating for conservation in Africa and other social issues his mother Princess Diana exposed him to at a young age.  He has been the Royal Patron of Tusk Trust, an African wildlife conservation organization, since 2005, when he worked on one of their projects aimed at protecting endangered species while spurring community development.  He has since launched a 5,000 mile bike trek in Africa to raise awareness and filmed documentaries in an attempt to reach a wider audience and promote African conservation.   Prince William also serves on active duty as a search-and-rescue helicopter pilot in the British air force, and has completed a deployment to Afghanistan.


On a final note, this celebrity list isn’t meant to be exhaustive; we hope it gives a fuller picture of the lives these particular celebrities lead, and the altruistic passion they are sharing with the world in exciting and sometimes unexpected ways.

Think there are other celebrities who are true altruists?  Post a comment to the blog about who else you think should join the list.  We’ll be highlighting more celebs in the future.  Thanks!!

One comment on “Lights, Cameras, ACTION: Celebs Taking Altruism to Heart

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