Side Boob to Save the World

Posted on December 13, 2011

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Earlier this week, the biennial UNICEF Ball brought together prominent philanthropists, celebrities and community leaders to honour those who have made significant contributions to ‘saving and improving the lives of children worldwide’.  The first headline I read about this event was “Diane Kruger Flashes Some Side Boob at UNICEF Ball”.  Admittedly, I read this on Celebuzz.com (ok, so I like reading trashy gossip magazines, “it’s my thing, just let it go”).  However, in light of this, I started thinking about the increasing trend in celebrity philanthropy.  After a quick Google search, I learnt that:

  1. There is an entire website (Look to the Stars) dedicated to sourcing celebrity charity news and information.  The site creators wanted to publicize “the many wonderful things that celebrities are doing to help the world” and to inspire “celebrity fans to follow their heroes’ example”.
  2. Bono, Annie Lennox, Bill Gates and Angelina Jolie are among the top charitable and philanthropic celebrities (Actually, I already knew that.)
  3. Perez Hilton is currently looking for someone to write a guest blog for charity.  Any takers?  T?

Diane Kruger at UNICEF Ball. Courtesy of celebuzz.com

According to UNCIEF, “fame has some clear benefits…Celebrities attract attention…They can use their talents and fame to fundraise and advocate.”  So why then is celebrity philanthropy so controversial?  Critics claim that it is conceited, and is about celebrities gaining publicity and enhancing their image.  Associate Professor Elaine Jeffreys from the University of Technology Sydney also points out criticism from anti-global capitalism (e.g. ‘west saves the rest’ notion) and democratic (e.g. superficial media coverage) perspectives.

On the other hand, supporters of celebrity philanthropy believe that celebrities can raise public awareness, promote philanthropy and activism (particularly among youth) and push governments and NGOs to support important causes.

As Jeffrey Sachs (who according to the New York Time Magazine is “the most important economist in the world”) says, “The cynics are just wrong.  They don’t get it”.

And also, I heart George Clooney.

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Posted in: aid, Alicia, philanthropy