In the past couple of days, I have read two articles about my favorite passions: philanthropy and celebrity. While those two items would previously have been thought of as a combination of the sublime and the ridiculous, the line is becoming increasingly blurred.
This Sunday's Washington Post included an article called Hollywood Stars Find an Audience for Social Causes. For example, when Lucy Liu appeard on the Oprah Winfrey Show in March 2006, shortly after visiting earthquake victims in Pakistan, donations to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF rose 91 percent in one day. A total of $500,000 was raised based on that appearance. The article also talked about Angelina Jolie's CNN interview with Anderson Cooper, after which donations to the U.N. High Committee for Refugees spiked by $500,000.
In my most recent edition of Entertainment Weekly, with Clooney and Pitt on the cover, the two stars talk about how Brad Pitt did something really savvy - he realized that the paparazzi cameras were following him everywhere, so he thought: OK, I'll go to Africa, and then everyone will see what's going on there. Here's what he said in the article:
So how do you get people to focus on the issues that matter to you — and manage to make a difference —without just distracting from the cause?
CLOONEY: It's interesting. Brad did it first and best — he went to Africa. Was it the Diane Sawyer show?
PITT: It was.
CLOONEY: You made this really interesting decision where you said, ''The cameras are going to follow me, so I'm going to go here. And wherever the cameras follow me they're going to see this.'' It was really smart. And I thought, Wow, here's a way to take this insatiable appetite and say, ''If you're going to take these photographs and follow us around, fair enough. But you're also going to have to go where it will provoke some thought about what else is going on in the world.'' It was a really smart play. And all of us have been taking a cue from that.
PITT: The idea was: We can't get out of the spotlight and they can't get in the spotlight, so let's equal that out a little bit.
A few things that intrigue me:
(1) Why does it seem that so many celebrities are interested in international causes, rather than domestic ones? And why are WE, the American public, so interested in the international causes that capture the celebrities' imaginations? (is the international factor rolled up into the Hollywood glamour thing?)
(2) How are the celebrities connecting with the causes - is it happenstance? planned?
(3) How do associations with these causes impact the celebrities' careers (and, by the way, I have NO problem with stars, or even regular folks like you and me, getting a career boost from their association with social causes.)