Suddenly, philanthropy and celebrity are expected to go hand-in-hand, with stars who fail to use their fame for good being put on notice by the Human Rights Foundation. The organisation, which aims “to ensure that freedom is both preserved and promoted”, recently handed over to Forbes magazine its celebrity nominees for the most outstanding performance in the service of human rights – and also a shame list of well-known names who have delivered the “greatest human rights disappointment”. Surprisingly there’s no Angelina Jolie in sight on the honour roll – despite her seemingly tireless dedication to humanitarian causes – but her beau Brad Pitt gets a guernsey.
and Don Cheadle,
and film producer Jerry Weintraub – have formed an organisation, Not On Our Watch, which takes up various causes.
Clooney recently told Vanity Fair magazine his real-life heroes include “anyone who runs toward danger, and not away from it. Not only military and firemen, but aid workers and journalists”. However, the expectation on stars in the full glare of the media is increasingly to hand over not just dollars, but also their fame, endorsement and time. Adelaide University media lecturer Dr Peter C. Pugsley said it can be a win-win relationship attaching a star to a cause. “It’s great for the charity and great for the celebrity – it raises their profile and humanises them,” Dr Pugsley said. And, in today’s celebrity-obsessed world, he says doing something different can get a celebrity some serious airtime. “It might be to do with media saturation – you can get coverage for something like that. “(But) It’s not that people (celebrities) don’t care about what they’re doing,” he hastened to add. Social analyst David Chalke says it is very likely those charity-inclined celebrities do actually feel passionate about the cause they’re promoting. “There’s no reason why being a celebrity should mean that you have a compassion transplant. You don’t stop caring,” Mr Chalke said. “(But) Being very cynical, there’s a real benefit for celebrities,” he added. Seeing some of our film or musical idols schedule in time for giving can have a flow-on effect to our own philanthropic efforts. “There’s perhaps a little bit of guilt on the part of the viewer – if they (the celebrity) can give up some of their valuable time, then maybe I should send off that cheque,” Dr Pugsley said. But while that’s a positive for the charity or aid organisation in question, they have more to lose from the affiliation than the celebrity, according to Mr Chalke. “What happens when a celebrity falls over?,” he said. “Always use (celebrities) with caution.” Lauren Miller Cilento, CEO of the Harry M Miller Group – which manages celebrities such as Ita Buttrose, Ryan Fitzgerald and Collette Dinnigan – said identities should align themselves only with causes that they are genuine about, and be careful of taking on too much. “Work with a small group of causes and make the time for each,” Ms Miller Cilento said. “Never be a token supporter of anything – people see right through it. “We suggest to clients that they do not spread themselves too thinly.” Ms Miller Cilento said while the incidence of celebrities turning to humanitarian causes has definitely risen, it’s not just about looking good. “I would like to think that US movie stars in particular have made so much money and so many films that it takes `doing and being more’ to sustain their interest,” she said. “If you do not truly believe in a cause or take the time to become really well informed and prepared to defend that cause, do not put your hand up. “(The) Authentic philanthropists are not in it for the recognition”