Celebrity Responsibility

My hope is that celebrities will recognize their ability to influence the public with their actions and use their success to positively change a life, a community, or even a country.
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Forbes Celebrity top 10 Earners, 2010 (In millions)
Oprah Winfrey -- $315 . James Cameron -- $210. U2 -- $130. Tyler Perry -- $125. Tiger Woods -- $105. Beyonce -- $87. Howard Stern -- $70. Jay-Z -- $63. Britney Spears -- $64. Rush Limbaugh -- $58.5. David Beckham -- $44. Diddy -- $30 .

Celebrities have become more apart of America's conscious than ever before. We are constantly looking for them to entertain us, whether on screen, on the radio, on the field, on stage, or on the Internet. This is nothing new in American culture, but today they have far more influence on the public than ever before. We have always found outlets in entertainment and there is nothing wrong with that.

These "entertainers" receive an insane amount of money to do what they do because we are willing to pay for it. My question is, do celebrities have a responsibility to give some their earnings back to the society that has made them famous and use their celebrity to support philanthropic efforts?

There is no question that hard work and dedication to a skill or craft deserves to be rewarded. After all, the people who become successful in the celebrity realm work very hard to get there. I don't disagree with the notion, "I worked hard to make all of my money, and have a right to spend it the way I please." What I am curious to know is, when does one have enough 'things?

I have always looked at material things in a comparative manner. Not only in the environments I have been raised in, but primarily in the lifestyles of celebrities. I would watch MTV cribs and watch celebrities flaunt their ridiculous "things." Multi-million dollar homes, multiple cars priced at over $100,000 each, ridiculous jewelery, and the list goes on. I wonder if these celebrities have thought in a comparative manner. For example, "If I don't buy this diamond necklace for $200,000, how many hungry families could I feed?" 43.6 million Americans were living in poverty in 2009 (US Census Bureau).

The good news is, is that there are celebrities becoming more active in the world of philanthropy.

Below are some inspiring donation stats from famous celebs in 2009 (info from The Daily Beast):
1. Justin Timberlake: $9,262,381
2. Madonna: $5,540,068
3. Pamela Anderson: $4,840,168
4. Oprah Winfrey: $3,973,870
5. Bono: $3,598,313
6. Angelina Jolie: $3,015,070
7. Rihanna: $2,305,743
8. George Clooney: $2,184,500

Brad Pitt founded Make It Right to build 150 affordable, green storm resistant homes for families affected by Hurricane Katrina, Lady Gaga advocates for homeless youth, U2 advocates for AIDS support in Africa, and many other celebrities are getting involved and supporting important issues.

More recently, 30 of the biggest names in contemporary music have joined together for the worldwide release of "Songs for Japan," an unprecedented compilation of 38 chart-topping hits and classic tracks. Proceeds from "Songs for Japan" will be directed to the Japanese Red Cross Society (JRCS) to support its disaster relief efforts. The artists participating on "Songs for Japan," the music labels and music publishers have waived their royalties and proceeds from the worldwide sales of the album.

The tide is turning and celebrities are stepping up, but more needs to be done.

While I give kudos to those celebs that are using their status for good, I must point out some sad donation numbers:

At the Bottom:
1. Paris Hilton: $538
2. Robert De Niro: $7,527
3. Hilary Duff: $16,800
4. Celine Dion: $30,366

I am not pushing for hardcore communism or for celebrities to stop enjoying the fruits of their labor. I am just advocating for a little more consciousness surrounding those facing hardship. The divide between the "haves" and "have nots" continue to grow wider, which needs to change. It goes back to a very simple question, "Do I have the ability to help people in need?" The answer is usually yes for everyone, but should be acted on by those with the blessings of wealth and influence.

In the end, our celebrities will be remembered for their ability to entertain us. I am going to be honest; it is going to be entertainment that I will probably enjoy. My hope however, is that they will recognize their ability to influence the public with their actions and use their success to positively change a life, a community, or even a country. I hope they strive for a legacy that goes beyond entertainment.

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