Celebrity Activism: Are Good Intentions Good Enough?

“We’ll win if we work together as one, the people. The power of the people is so much stronger than the people in power” – Bono, 2013 TED Talk

“Problems should not be glamourized by the association of celebrities” – Dambisa Moyo

Bob Geldof and Bono campaigning against poverty. Source.
Bob Geldof and Bono campaigning against poverty. Source.

Bono is first and foremost, a singer. However recently he’s become the face of combatting poverty in Africa, and taken on the role as an activist, economist, politician, humanitarian and framed as an angel to save all of the ‘poor Africans.’ Throughout the 80’s, he worked with Bob Geldof on the Live Aid concerts and has heavily campaigned to fight poverty in Africa, especially Ethiopia. In 2005 he went on to campaign for the Make Poverty History Movement which was more focused on social justice rather than charity. And then in 2014, he is featured on the single ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ to fight the ebola outbreak in West Africa, raising millions of pounds.

Bono brings his good intentions to Africa. Source
Bono brings his good intentions to Africa. Source

There is an issue here. Celebrities like Bono who become activists for large-scale social and humanitarian issues are not experts on poverty, inequality and sustainable development. Yet he has met with Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, George Bush, Bill Gates and various other politicians and powerful actors to generate policy change and create global awareness (Why Poverty, 2012). He has inadvertently become the face of anti poverty. Bono already has millions of people who look up to them, respect them, hate him or talk about him across the globe and he’s using a unique platform to spread his message.

Celebrities are not experts and can often oversimplify a very complex issue such as poverty. The infamous Make Poverty History video above features many different celebrities. Dambisa Moyo is a Ghanese economist and activist who is extremely ‘anti-Bono’ due to his ignorance of the complexity of poverty and lack of results. In a recent televised debate, Moyo states that the West needs to stop being sympathetic and start being empathetic and realizing that Africans are doing a lot of grassroots work to create change (Black Wall Street, 2015). Another issue is the media portrayal of Africa and their people as the victims, and people like Bono and Bob Geldof as the white saviour (Davis, 2010), which contributes to a sympathetic view of ‘poor Africa.’ Moyo says that, ‘Africa’s debt problems should not be glamourized by the association of celebrities who’s actions are more often than not self-perpetrating,’ (Fitzpatrick, 2011) and that is where we find the problem with celebrity activism.

The 2014 release of ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ sparked controversy and further encourages this ‘poor Africa’ perception. It plays on one of the main parts of Moyo’s book, where she highlights how ‘the West is patronizing Africans’ (Easterly, 2009). The video is solely focused on the singers and celebrities that resonates with the Make Poverty History video of ‘spot the celebrity.’ Sure, it starts with some graphic images, and sure, they raised a lot of money… but is that enough?

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Africa re-conquered by Hollywood. Source

Celebrities are experts at grabbing people’s attention and creating emotional responses in people. The images and videos they broadcast are heart wrenching, because they’re designed that way. Nash explains that people need to see themselves as part of the ‘global political community’ (Nash, 2008). No one’s going to sign a petition, donate money or be a part of a protest unless they’ve felt personally motivated to do so, and celebrities can make this happen. Many argue that ‘at least celebrities are doing something with their power,’ but is it really justified if the damage they are creating is greater than their ‘good acts.’ Are good intentions, good enough?

So how do we ensure that the work celebrities are doing is progressive and beneficial for those affected by the issue they represent? Alex Dewaal says that there are ‘fundamental pillars of activism which should always be followed, most of all, the act of responding to and collaborating with local people, rather than imposing outside agendas’ (Dewaal, 2013). Celebrities should be held accountable and responsible for their actions. They shouldn’t engage in humanitarian activism unless they’re willing to follow through and commit to the cause they represent.

References

Black Wall Street, 2015, ‘Debate: Foreign Aid does more harm than good’, Black Wall Street, 13 March, 45:54 – 47:46, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWlLE7IohXo

Cole, G. Radley, B. Falisse, J.B 2015, ‘Who really benefits from celebrity activism?’, The Guardian, 10 July, http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/jul/10/celebrity-activism-africa-live-aid 

Davis, H 2010, ‘Feeding the world a line?: Celebrity activism and ethical consumer practices from Live Aid to Product Red’, Nordic Journal of English Studies, Miami University, Vol 9.3, pp 111-115

Dewall, A 2013, ‘Reclaiming Activism’, World Peace Foundation, 30 April, https://sites.tufts.edu/reinventingpeace/2013/04/30/reclaiming-activism/

Fitzpatrick, S 2011, ‘The Moyo-Bono Divide: What are the Opposing Sides?’, Hubpages, 14 February, http://siouxtrick.hubpages.com/hub/The-Moyo-Bono-Divide

Nash, K 2008, ‘Global citizenship as showbusiness: the cultural politics of Make Poverty History’, Media Culture Society, vol. 30, no. 2, pp. 167-181

Why Poverty, 2012, ‘Give Us The Money’, Why Poverty, 10 December, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgGP3zV8kdU

Further Information

Bono’s 2013 TED Talk

Band Aid 30’s cover of Do They Know It’s Christmas?

Why Poverty’s documentary exploring the efforts of Bono and Bob Geldof along with their accomplishments and criticism

A Love Letter to Paris and a Few Tips on How To Be Parisian

So there’s this book. A beautiful little book, that sits neatly on my bookshelf. The thing about this beautiful little book, is that you cannot simply ‘read’ this book. No, you believe this book. Live it. Breathe it. Know it, with every inch of your body, and by the time you turn to the final page…. you know exactly ‘How To Be Parisian, Wherever You Are.’ This charming little book is written by four very beautiful, and very French women; Sophie Mas, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret and Anne Berest. They share their secrets to the world about How to be Parisian. 

My favourite French things; Coco Chanel Mademoiselle, red and black nailpolish and my gold plated Pierre Laniere watch I bought in Paris for my 19th birthday.
My favourite French things; Coco Chanel Mademoiselle, red and black nailpolish and my gold plated Pierre Laniere watch I bought in Paris for my 19th birthday.

A must read for those of you who have ever day dreamed their way to Paris. Ever since I was little, I remember being captivated by the City of Lights. And as soon as I made it through high school and ventured on my GAP year, I went to Paris not once, not twice, but three times.

Those who say they ‘didn’t like Paris’ or ‘thought it was dirty,’ then you obviously missed the whole point. Paris isn’t meant to be perfect. It is dirty, there’s gypsies everywhere and the Metro does stink like urine. But while you were so busy worried about a little dog poo on the sidewalk, you completely missed the beauty that lies in every street. Every arrondissement has a different story to tell. Your job is to listen and let the streets guide you along the way.

One of my favourite photos of Paris. Taken from the Sacre Coeur, this is Paris at dusk. Before she wakes up.
One of my favourite photos of Paris. Taken from the Sacre Coeur, this is Paris at dusk. Before she wakes up.

‘Parisian women never try to appear to be something other than what they are. They want above all to become the best possible version of themselves.’

The best version of themselves. Isn’t that what we should all strive for?

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‘The signature item is an attitude. It is the gun in your holster that makes you feel well dressed and invincible’ 

And personally, it’s my leather jacket (which is coincidentally pictured in the book). I bought my leather jacket in London. I saved up my money for it and may have even sacrificed some food for that week to purchase it, but now that it’s mine I couldn’t picture not having it in my life. It’s me. I feel fierce when I have it on. Not only because it looks great, but also because I’ve invested good money in something that is timeless. Now that’s smart investment.

And what about the French Language? C’est très beau. I’m currently studying it at uni, and despite how difficult the passé composé is, I will always love speaking it. For more reasons on why you should learn French, you can read more here.

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‘When it comes to kissing, the Parisienne does it the same way she does everything else: with cinematic flair. Preferably, all kissing should take play in the middle of the street. The city is after all her stage and she treats each kiss like a once-in-a-lifetime performance. She wants to be unforgettable- both to the man clinging to her lips and to the people passing by. Like any good actress, she immerses herslf completely in the role and amost expects a round of applause when the curtain falls and the end of her scene. Breathless, of course’ 

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“Always be fuckable: when standing in line at the bakery on a Sunday morning, buying champagne in the middle of the night, or even picking the kids up from school. You never know.”

You’ll constantly have ‘ah-ha’ moments which resonate with everyone’s unique experiences of Paris. I’ve seen Paris in many different lights. I’ve been there in Summer, Autumn and Winter, I’ve seen the touristy parts of the Lourve and the Eiffel Tower, gotten lost in the streets of Montmartre, been to Disneyland, ate excessible amounts of cheese and croissants, watched cabaret shows and delved through the flea markets. I love Paris, it’s people, history and culture, and I’m so glad I can have a little bit of it on my bookshelf.

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So you think the image of Paris and being Parisian is overrated. Well my friend, I’m not sure there’s anything else I can do to convince you. I say that there’s nothing wrong with a little daydreaming, and if you happen to daydream about Paris, the City of Lights, so be it.

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The Moulin Rouge. Haven’t been inside yet, but it’s on my list.
Bringing my ballet shoes with me to Paris. Dream come true
Bringing my ballet shoes with me to Paris. Dream come true.
Being fancy at the Palace of Versailles.
Being fancy at the Palace of Versailles.

One day exploring the Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road is one of those breathtaking journeys that you just have to experience in your lifetime. I was lucky enough to go with my family when I was a wee lass, however, being 4 years old, I didn’t exactly appreciate/remember the whole experience. So… on a girls long weekend away to Melbourne with one of my best friends (Tishia), we decided to relive this awesome journey together and it was one of the best day tours I’ve ever done.

The magnificent 12 Apostles
The magnificent 12 Apostles

We travelled with ExtraGreen Holidays located in Swanston Street. Our tour guides name was Frank, and frankly (haha get it?) he was awesome. For $45 we definitely got our value for money. From 7:30am-7:30pm, we were on and off the bus and absolutely breathtaken by the spectacular views of the unique coastline of the Great Ocean Road. We were considering hiring a car and doing it ourselves, however for that value for money, we not only got there and back, but were also taught some great history lessons along the way. So in our situation, it was totally worth our money. (NOTE: The weekend special is $45, any other day can cost you up to $100).

These windy roads are not for the faint hearted. If you're prone to car sickness, be prepared.
These windy roads are not for the faint hearted. If you’re prone to car sickness, be prepared.

We stopped and had lunch at Appollo Bay for an amazing Fish and Chips feast (what else can you expect from a small coastal town?) and continued on down the windy roads with many photo stops along the way. The tour highlight include, the 12 Apostles (the most iconic part of the Great Ocean Road), Lord and George and London Bridge. Even though we willingly came to Victoria in the middle of winter, it was indeed pretty damn cold, so a good jacket and warm clothes are definitely recommended. And as Frank wisely advised us, on the Great Ocean Road, it can be sunny one minute and raining the next so always be prepared.

With so many photo stops, you'll have plenty of time to capture the perfect photo
With so many photo stops, you’ll have plenty of time to capture the perfect photo

Many of you may ask if it’s worth spending the full day on a bus to see some rocks and cliffs. If you’re spending several days in Melbourne (like we did) then yes, absolutely. It’s cost effective, exciting, adventurous, and you get to meet lots of great new people and learn about the history and making of the Great Ocean Road. However, if you’re intending on doing further travel throughout Australia and Victoria and already hire a car, it’s probably worth heading there yourself. Then you can do it at your own pace. Saying that, we were definitely given plenty of time at each spot to explore each area and take some pretty amazing photos.

The photos speak for themselves. The Great Ocean Road is definitely a must- regardless of if it’s Summer or Winter, raining or sunny, it’s going to take your breath away I can guarantee that!

Have you been here before or want to know more about it? Let me know in the comments below!

xxx A

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Tishia and I. Nothing better than going on adventures with your best friend
Tishia and I. Nothing better than going on adventures with your best friend

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Morning Tea with World of Wanderlust

Just incase morning tea at the Shangri-La’s Horizon Club isn’t good enough, add Brooke Saward, travel and lifestyle blogger, into the scenario and you have one of the best morning tea’s an aspiring writer can have.

I have been following Brooke’s incredibly inspiring travel blog, World of Wanderlust for nearly two years now and she’s inspired me in so many ways to make the most out of life and appreciate the gift of travel. (read here) I was lucky enough to get the chance to meet her and it was so incredibly motivating and just down right freakin awesome!

Brooke and some very inspiring readers
Brooke and some very inspiring readers

I had no idea what to expect. Here is a girl who’s living her dream. THE dream. Travelled to over 50 countries, written books, how could she possibly find someone like me interesting?! To actually see her in person, just made her and everything she stands for so much more real.

We talked about so many different things; the importance of being a positive role model, relationships, university, pinterest, macaroons, travel as the most valuable form of education, Tasmania, Taylor Swift, the changing face of the internet, future travel plans, life and how freakin awesome the Blogosphere is.

Desserts by the renowned Anna Polyviou at the Shangri-La
Desserts by the renowned Anna Polyviou at the Shangri-La

It was incredible to get a insider’s view into the World of Wanderlust. I have a new found respect for her and other full time travel bloggers. Brooke makes it look so easy, staying in luxurious hotels and seeing all corners of the world. But it’s so much more than that. Switching between time zones, living out of a suitcase, trying to maintain relationships, managing your own business, all whilst trying to deal with the regular emotions associated with traveling. And at the bottom of it all, she seems so humble and appreciative. She’s worked damn hard to get where she is today and now she’s living her dream. THE dream. And after an amazing morning tea, with an amazing person, I feel like I have the ultimate control over my life and it’s up to me to make the most of it.

View of Sydney Harbour from the 30th floor of the Shangri-La
View of Sydney Harbour from the 30th floor of the Shangri-La

Sure, I may never be paid to travel the whole world and stay in 5 star hotels, but something better may even happen. But it’s up to me to make sure it does!

So, graçias Brooke for allowing me to realise my potential and passion in life and daring me to be brave enough to pursue it.

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xxx A