People have always looked up to leaders and powerful figures for guidance and education. Just look at religion. Today though, we also have celebrities.
Who doesn’t love music and fashion? Music and Fashion are rather remarkable industries in that they are both extremely powerful and influential forms of creative media. Messages can be transmitted immediately to millions through social media, while song lyrics can be analysed for days.
They’re so influential in fact, that in the 1960’s the FBI allegedly opened files on artists such as Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon in order to keep an eye on them. It was widely feared that these popular artists actually had more sway with the general public than the governments of the time.
Over the course of history there have been many successful occasions where rival musicians have come together as one to help raise awareness and money for much needed causes. One such cause is Live Aid in 1985, organised by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure.
For the benefit of uninitiated, a mammoth 1.9 billion people tuned in to two huge concerts that were arranged on the same day, raising approximately $245 Million for famine relief in Ethiopia – a huge figure by anyone’s standards. During the course of this now legendary sweltering Summer day, artists such as Paul McCartney, U2, Queen and The Who performed at Wembley Stadium in London, while The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Bob Dylan and surviving members of Led Zeppelin played at the JFK Stadium in Philadelphia.
Live Aid was a huge success. The thing about Live Aid is that it was about a whole lot more than just the money raised – it provided a lasting legacy in a time where musicians were often lambasted for outrageous and inconsiderate behaviour. Some of the performers at Live Aid had previously been derided for riding motorbikes through hotel lobbies, consuming drugs and smashing up hotel rooms – presumably just for a laugh. The point being that despite their extensive negative associations and stereotypes, these guys banded together for the greater good. It brought people together in a way that only music can, where fans left the concert or switched off their televisions at the end of the night thoroughly exhausted, having had an amazing day of entertainment and most importantly an astronomical increase in awareness to the plight of Africa.
Let’s take a modern day example, the National MS Society hopes to raise awareness to the suffering of millions affected by this disease of the central nervous system. Multiple sclerosis can cause weakness, chronic pain, bodily sensation issues and other less reported problems that can arise including visual and speech impairments. Additionally, depression can develop as the disease takes hold.
Alessandra Ambrosio is one of the world’s most recognisable supermodels in history and is an ambassador for NMSS. This gorgeous Brazilian model has walked countless runways, posed in some of the world’s most exotic locations and featured on the most elite publications the fashion industry has to offer including Vogue, Elle & Cosmopolitan. She has the illustrious honour of being a contracted Victoria’s Secret Angel and along with Adriana Lima is possibly the most decorated Angel the organisation has today. She has a social media presence of nearly ten million followers worldwide which more than proves her considerable reach and platform.
Alessandra’s father was diagnosed with MS in the late nineties and she had to not only find strength to support her father, but learn to deal with the impact it had on her as a family member. She has leant her voice to the organisation and says “It’s incredibly important for me to join the National MS Society in the movement to stop MS — both for my dad and the hundreds of thousands of people like him dealing with the challenges of this disease.” It’s truly touching and admirable that she actively campaigns for the National MS Society, for a cause she has such a personal connection to.
Noah ’40’ Shebib is an extremely talented musician, producer and songwriter. Toronto based Noah has produced many of Drake’s top songs including Hold On We’re Going Home and Jungle. Drake is well known for lending his support to his friend and has attended MS fund raisers that he has participated in. Shebib is arguably the key driving force behind the global success of the mega star. His ambient brand of hip hop has inspired countless would be producers who wish to replicate his melodic keys, low-passed drums and other worldly sounds.
Noah actually spent his 22nd birthday in hospital where he himself was diagnosed with MS. He describes a sensation in his legs where “Hot was cold, and cold was hot”. Shortly after the diagnosis Noah was left unable to walk. It took him over three years for the situation to markedly improve through the use of medication. For such a young person to get MS must have been a frightening experience and he claims while he didn’t really know anything about the disease at the time, it still “sounded intimidating”. As an NMSS ambassador, he remains as upbeat and inspirational as ever and says “I’ve got this disease, I’m going to live with it, I’m going to win with it, and my story is going to be that much better when I get there.”
If two high profile industry leaders such as Alessandra and Noah can come together to fight for a cause they believe in that has affected them personally, surely others can do the same.
In today’s celebrity obsessed world there are more than enough influential figures ranging from musicians, models, actors and sports stars that can actively campaign to raise awareness for causes that hold a special place in their heart. Increasing tolerance and understanding is a large part in the battle for awareness. Greg Stiemsma – the Toronto Raptors basketball centre, has opened up in detail about his struggle with depression. Mental health has been wrongly stigmatised in the past, but it is respected entertainment professionals such as Greg, who spread the message amongst youth and adults. It shouldn’t be a taboo subject and it is a very serious illness that demands respect and proper treatment. It is stars like Greg who share their personal stories that will dust off archaic attitudes in today’s world, clearing the way for others to come forward and seek the necessary help without fear of embarrassment or indifference.
They have totally broken the stereotypes of each industry they’re in – models are often unfairly portrayed as being high maintenance, ditzy and unhealthy due to eating disorders and other questionable lifestyle choices. In the music industry, especially in the hip-hop scene there’s a huge pressure to play the demeaning tough guy in order to make connections and progress with your career.
Alessandra is living proof that you can be a stunning model with intelligence and noble beliefs, while remaining fit and healthy. She is a perfect role model to young girls across North America and further afield. Noah too proves that he can make artistically-credible great music, remain not only respected but downright worshipped amongst his peers and aspiring producers, yet still find the time and moral fibre to contribute to a cause he is connected to and believes in.
Alessandra Ambrosio, Noah Shebib & Greg Stiemsma represent a handful of the many celebrities that do great work and make an effort to work for a better world. Not wanting to make it seem like nobody tries at all, because that would be simply untrue! There is however, many that still don’t use their reach and time anywhere near as effectively as they could.
As previously mentioned, a message can be sent out to millions instantly – why not forget about selfies, product endorsements and who’s got the biggest derriere for a moment, and take a second to tweet about a cause YOU believe in? Perhaps an Aunt of theirs has MS, or they’d like to see an end to poverty in Africa, ban harpooning whales, maybe even express an interest in cutting greenhouse gases in order to save the penguins?! Whatever the cause, I’m sure that they can find one worthwhile that they have some kind of a connection with.
Perhaps if more celebrities could think of their follower count on social media as less of a badge of honour, but more of a great opportunity to make the world a better place through awareness – I think we’d be on to a winner.
To find out more about the National MS Society and the great work that they do for MS Awareness Month, visit their website
Follow On Twitter
National MS Society – @mssociety
Noah Shebib – @OVO40
Alessandra Ambrosio – @AngelAlessandra
Greg Stiemsma – @gregstiemsma
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