These celebrity activists are champions for social justice

Last June, the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor marked a cultural shift where a vast number of people became aware of the systemic racism in America and the decades of violence against Black Americans by the police.

Influencers, brands, and celebrities were called out by their followers for not speaking out in support of Black lives, or for not speaking out enough. Teen Vogue’s June 2020 op-ed highlighted white celebrities who began to speak out about Black Lives Matter after pressure from their fans.

Over six months later, it goes without saying that Black Lives Matter (and always will). While some celebs are still making entertainment news headlines for what they wore on a coffee run, others are continuing to wield their power and influence to speak out against social injustice and enact real change.

We consider these stars celebrity activists––just a part of our expanding definition of celebrities. They manage to both enrapture us with their talents and enlighten us with their stance on the world, and we love them for it.

Since we’re reimagining to show you more of the good that’s happening both in and out of Hollywood, we’re putting a few of those outspoken celebs in the spotlight. We’re highlighting Black celebs, white allies, and other celebrity activists who continue to speak out about the Black Lives Matter movement––even if it’s not the “trendy” thing to do.

For more feel-good Hollywood news: see what female celebs use their power and influence for good, or check out our recent watchlist of movies, documentaries, and TV shows that all teach you something about the Black experience in America.

Lady Gaga
She may have been Born This Way, but Lady Gaga is a star and celebrity activist who is both conscious of her privilege as a white celebrity and willing to take a stand against white supremacy.

The singer, who moved us all with her performance of the national anthem on Inauguration Day, was recently honored with the Yolanda Denise King “Higher Ground” award at The King Center’s Beloved Community Awards.

Gaga was recognized for her celebrity activism as the co-founder of the Born This Way Foundation, which supports the mental health of young people, along with her continued support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

After an introduction from fellow celeb singer Jennifer Hudson, Gaga dedicated her award to Black, Brown, and Indigenous people. She remarked at how BIPOC “continue to thrive in the midst of systemic oppression, thrive with radical joy, unapologetically creating full and beautiful lives despite the systems of white supremacy that are intended to keep them from doing so.”

Gaga used her speech to encourage fellow white people to commit to unlearning:

“White people, I believe we must right our wrongs without shame...The color of my own skin is not lost on me.”

She went on to say, “Unlearning allows me to walk through the world differently. Unlearning means I look for racialized social constructs in every part of my life — every day, all day.”

What an inspiring message for us all!

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Beyoncé and Jay-Z
While Beyoncé and hubbie Jay-Z may not share too much about their personal life beyond the lyrics of her songs, they never hesitate to share their point of view in response to racial and social injustice.

Beyoncé’s visual album Black Is King reimagines the lessons of The Lion King, streaming now on Disney+. Here’s how Disney+ describes the film: “The voyages of Black families, throughout time, are honored in a tale about a young king’s transcendent journey through betrayal, love, and self-identity.”

Beyoncé uses her art to amplify stories that illustrate the Black experience, and she puts her money where her mouth is, too. We recently wrote about all of Beyoncé’s philanthropic efforts, which include the establishment of an ongoing BeyGOOD fund that supports Black-owned businesses.

Jay-Z has been an advocate for marginalized communities since the beginning of his career. In 2002, the rapper and business mogul behind Roc Nation co-founded the Shawn Carter Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to helping “individuals facing socio-economic hardships further their education, encouraging them to tap into their potential.”

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This power couple sure knows how to remain successful while fighting for social and racial justice!
Glennon Doyle
Glennon Doyle and Abby Wambach at The 2017 ESPY Awards
Glennon Doyle is a celebrity author known for her best-selling self help book Untamed.

The white author not only recognizes her privilege, but uses her influential platform to inspire and motivate others to stand up against social and racial injustice.

In November, Doyle encouraged her Instagram followers to read The Purpose of Power: How We Come Together When We Fall Apart, a book by Alicia Garza, a Black organizer, political strategist, and co-creator of the Black Lives Matter movement.

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Follow this author and inspiring celebrity activist on Instagram here.
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As a fat Black woman, Lizzo is often used as a role model and symbol for body positivity and the empowerment of Black women.

In reality, she’s as much of a victim of diet culture and white supremacy as every other marginalized Black woman in America. If you aren’t familiar with how diet culture is rooted in white supremacy, you might get something out of this Forbes interview with @theunplugcollective.

Just look at the public’s negative reaction to her decision to do a smoothie cleanse. Lizzo had to remind everyone via an Instagram post that she has the right to make decisions about her body, because it’s her body. Her body is not a symbol or representation of a larger group. It’s hers, and hers alone.

Lizzo’s story is an example of tokenism. Lizzo is not a representative of her entire race––she is just one person––but due to a historical lack of representation of Black women in the media, she becomes a symbol for all.

Despite the generalizations made about her, the Truth Hurts singer claimed to feel “optimistic and hopeful” following last year’s protests.

In October 2020, we reported on her powerful speech at the Billboard Music Awards, where she said, “I wonder, would I be standing here right now if it weren’t for the big Black women who refused to have their voices be suppressed?”

Lizzo’s pure joy and confidence is itself an act of resistance, and that makes her a celebrity activist.

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Following the capitol insurrection, Lizzo shared several posts where she honored giving herself space to rest and to be happy despite the state of the world, while also commenting on the importance of dismantling racism and “holding the oppressors accountable.”

To discover more work on Black joy as an act of resistance, check out @theblackjoyproject on Instagram.
Sarah Paulson
Sarah Paulson at the FX Winter TCA Starwalk
Celeb actor Sarah Paulson has been outspoken and active in her support of the Black Lives Matter movement before the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag was created several years ago.

In 2013, we interviewed Sarah Paulson following her role as Mistress Epps in 12 Years a Slave.

Here’s what she had to say about the significance of the film’s story and what it said about modern day society:

“There are all these things that … continue to show that we are not as far along as we would like to be. Or as people think we are...I think people have decided {slavery} is a conversation that can be put to bed. And I think that is partly why this movie is unsettling to people. People don’t want to know that this is what happened. And when you put it that viscerally in front of someone, you have a physical reaction to seeing some of these images, as well you should.”

We’d be curious to see if her commentary would differ now following the nationwide #BlackLivesMatter protests.

Since last June, the Ratched actor has used her platform for good to encourage her fans to take action in response to current events. Sarah Paulson aggressively shared resources for voting in the Georgia run-off elections and participated in a fundraiser for Georgia Democrats prior to the run-off elections.

We hope that this talented actor continues to stay hungry in the fight for social justice. And if you’re reading this, Sarah, hit us up if you want to do a follow-up interview!
Alicia Keys
Alicia Keys at the 20th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards
The talented songstress Alicia Keys has been outspoken about Black Lives Matter for years. In a November 2016 interview with The Guardian, she said “It’s emotional for me as a Black woman, wanting to make sure that all the issues are addressed in America when it comes to race, when it comes to Black people – wanting to make sure that message isn’t lost.”

In Perfect Way to Die, a single released on Juneteenth 2020 before the release of her latest self-titled album Alicia, the star emotionally sings about the unjust deaths of Black Americans at the hands of police.

Genius shares the heart-wrenching lyrics along with Alicia Keys’ comments on the song: “Of course, there is NO perfect way to die. That phrase doesn’t even make sense. ⁣⁣Just like it doesn’t make sense that there are so many innocent lives that should not have been taken from us due to the destructive culture of police violence.”

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On this past MLK Day 2021, Alicia Keys shared this message with her 20.6 million Instagram followers: “There is so much to change especially in the continued fight for justice and against white supremacy and racism. But we see how far we can go when we do it together! That’s what last year really solidified for me. Let nothing discourage us because we are so much strong{er} together. ⁣⁣”

We’re thankful for Black celebs like Alicia Keys who can both entertain and inspire us to come together and fight for justice.

We know this list is not exhaustive of every Black celeb, white celeb ally, or celebrity activist, but we hope this story has you reflecting on your own social feeds––is anyone you follow still speaking out against racial injustice and inequality? If not, maybe you should consider following some of these celebs.

Find past coverage of the Black Lives Matter movement in Hollywood right here and come back each Wednesday for our weekly Good in the ‘Wood series.

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