When we think of Hollywood, it’s usually just the glamorous clothes, the flawless faces and larger-than-life personalities that come to our mind. However, behind that glittery facade, lie real people with real lives. These people have struggled through hardships, overcome unimaginable personal tragedies and fought to get to where they are today. Many have used their voices and resources to lend support to the unheard, to fight injustices in our society. These seven celebrities have amazing personal stories that you can draw inspiration from.
1. Sidney Poitier
Back when cinema was still the domain of the privileged white (which some people might argue still is), one man dared to dream the impossible. A poor, uneducated immigrant, few would have thought Poitier would become one of the greatest actors the world has ever seen. One of his first jobs was as a janitor at an acting school, where he worked in exchange for acting classes. Although he was told by one of his teachers that he would be better off as a dishwasher, he persisted in working toward his dream. Eventually, he began to gain critical recognition and became the first ever black actor to win the Academy Award. Sidney Poitier’s struggles against class and race shows us that no matter how dire the situation, there’s always a way out if you work hard enough.
2. John Cena
Most of us would never imagine a WWE star as one of the most compassionate celebrities, but John Cena’s here to break all the stereotypes. He currently holds the record for most number of Make-A-Wish visits, tallying more than 500 in total. The Make-a-Wish Foundation allows terminally ill children to make one wish that they want above all else. John Cena has virtually never refused a request and spends a full day getting to know each child. Apart from this, he has also helped raise money for many charitable organizations such as The Boys and Girls Club of America. He’s a strong believer in fighting for your dreams and created the #showyourgrip hashtag to encourage people to never give up.
The flawless perfection that is Hollywood can make young girls feel vulnerable and conscious about their own bodies. Their already shaky self-image is under further attack when they’re constantly bombarded with images of beautiful celebrities who look like they’ve never had an awkward phase in their lives. Young black girls face even more struggles as they’re repeatedly held to white beauty standards and get very little representation in mainstream media. Zendaya has always been a vociferous supporter of natural beauty and in letting her fans know the truth behind the makeup and airbrushing. She has also embraced her natural hair, even sporting dreadlocks on the red carpet. Unlike many other celebrities, she uses her social media pages to post inspiring messages to her young fans, reminding them that they’re all beautiful in their own way.
4. JK Rowling
JK Rowling’s life story almost feels like a classic rags to riches movie. A single mom with a young daughter to support, she was barely surviving on welfare and unable to find a proper job for herself. She battled with depression for a long part of her life, unable to cope with the struggles she faced. Despite all of this, she clung on to a germ of an idea she had for a book and wrote a little every day, sometimes even on napkins from the local cafe. After an almost decade long struggle to finish the book and numerous rejections, Bloomsbury finally accepted her manuscript and published it. Rowling is now one of the richest women in the world and has legions of Potterheads who admire her. However, she never forgot the hardships she had to go through. She is known for regularly replying to fan mail and motivating her young fans to persist with their dreams.
Beyoncé is an incredible singer, songwriter and performer, but her impact goes far beyond that. Black women still face underrepresentation in almost every profession, their intersectional discrimination leaving them completely unheard. Beyoncé, however, has always spoken out against the injustices committed against black women and has strove to make their hidden struggles public to the world. Her visual album Lemonade was groundbreaking in its stark portrayal of racism, police violence and single black mothers. She has taken the ‘angry black woman’ stereotype and turned it completely on its head. She is unapologetic about her anger and goes even further to suggest that black women should be angry because they’re constantly subjected to discrimination. Hundreds of thousands of black women have been inspired by her message and have felt encouraged to speak out against injustice even if society has conditioned them to stay silent.
6. Ellen DeGeneres
Back in 1997, when Ellen DeGeneres publicly identified as lesbian, it caused shockwaves around the world. This was the first time a public, on-screen personality had openly come out, fearless of the repercussions she would face. Ellen went on to use her TV show as a platform to highlight various issues being faced by the LGBT community, usually ignored by mainstream media. She gave courage to thousands of others from the community who were living in secrecy, afraid of being persecuted. She’s also one of the few successful female talk show hosts and blazes the way forward for female comedians who have for too long been ignored.
7. George Clooney
George Clooney is a lot more than just Hollywood’s leading actor and every woman’s dream man. In 2010, when Haiti was hit by the hurricane which virtually flattened the small island, George Clooney was the first celebrity to speak up and raise funds to help Haiti. He roped in many of his famous friends such as Beyoncé, Madonna and Robert De Niro to man telephones during a telethon. Thousands of people called in and pledged money to the Help for Haiti fund and the initiative ended up raising almost $61 million. To this day, the Help for Haiti initiative is the most successful disaster relief fund ever started. Apart from this, George Clooney also invests heavily in finding alternate sources of fuel and inventions that could save the environment.