By Adela Suliman
Celebrities were out in force in 2019 to lend their names and star spotlights to causes ranging from homelessness to climate change and indigenous rights.
Here are 10 celebrities who took a stand during the year to make a positive impact:
- Elliot Page – Hollywood actress and “Juno” Oscar nominee directed her first film in 2019, spotlighting “environmental racism” and the plight of indigenous communities in her native Canada. The movie featured communities battling to stop the construction of a new dump and pushing for the cleanup of a contaminated waterway.
- Helen Mirren – Oscar-winning British actress hit out against the “exponential rise in homelessness” across the globe as she took part in a charity appeal to sleep outdoors for a night in winter. Known for playing “The Queen,” Mirren said the global scourge of homelessness was “becoming much too big” and encouraged people to do more to support rough sleepers.
- Kim Kardashian – The reality star and influential trendsetter used a trip to her native Armenia this year to support the global climate youth movement headed by activist Greta Thunberg. The “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” star also made waves in 2019 for supporting reform of the U.S. criminal justice system and winning clemency for incarcerated women.
- Sting – The British rocker was awarded an international prize for his work to protect the Amazon rainforest and its indigenous inhabitants, where the battle over land became more deadly this year. The musician, along with his wife, were recognized for their charitable foundation, the Rainforest Fund, which supports indigenous people.
- Elif Shafak – The Turkish-British author called for more to be done to prevent the destruction of cultural property during war, from museums to libraries, in order to preserve communities. The novelist said “turbulent” political times called for extra protection of physical property and cultural heritage during conflicts.
- Jaden Smith – U.S rapper and actor Jaden Smith urged young people rallying to fight climate change to engage their parents. The 21-year-old celebrity son of actors Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith joined mass youth-led protests that took place in cities around the world imploring world leaders to confront the climate crisis.
- Ken Loach – The British film director made headlines in 2019 when he released his film: “Sorry We Missed You,” which warned of the “extreme exploitation” of workers by big tech firms. The 83-year-old said such business models could be called slavery and urged companies to look at the human impact of the gig economy.
- Cyndi Lauper – The U.S. singer was awarded a United Nations’ social justice prize for her work to end LGBT+ youth homelessness. Best known for her ’80s-era pop hits, Lauper said LGBT+ rights were human rights.
- Zoe Saldana – Hollywood actress, who starred in blockbuster movies “Avatar” and “Star Trek,” spoke out in May in support of women’s equal rights. The U.S. actress urged Hollywood to dismantle old-fashioned stereotypes to inspire global audiences.
- Gareth Thomas – The former rugby international sports star’s decision to come out as HIV-positive this year made him a role model for millions of people living with the virus. The former Wales captain said he hoped his decision to post a video on Twitter would lead to greater public understanding of the issue.