As the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility.
For better or worse, the most celebrated among us are given the unique opportunity to have a big impact on society. Some choose to wield that power with more grace and humility than others.
We can all be grateful that in 2017 many of the world’s most admired celebrities chose to use their platforms for the better. From outspoken advocates for vulnerable people, to activists for amazing causes, many celebrities inspired people with their actions over the past 12 months.
Global Citizen believes that those with the power to change the world for the better ought to use it. We applaud these celebrities who chose to stand up for what’s right, and fight for causes that make the world a more just place.
Here is our list of the most impactful celebrities of 2017:
Rihanna absolutely killed it in 2017. In February, the pop icon went to Malawi with Global Citizen in her role as a global ambassador for the Global Partnership for Education. Later in the year, she used her significant social media clout to advocate for the victims of Hurricane Maria, and beneficiaries of the GPE by tweeting at world leaders. In both cases, the world leaders eventually took the action she suggested. Was it her, or just a coincidence? Who can say…
(It was probably her.)
On top of her activism, Rihanna released her long-anticipated Fenty Beauty makeup line to much critical success. Her business model of bringing high-quality, affordable products to a diverse array of women was wildly successful, producing over $72 million in sales during its first month alone. Turns out inclusion is good business.
2/ Terry Crews
Terry Crews is known best as the tough-guy-portraying, ex-football-playing actor from movies like “The Longest Yard.” But he did something incredibly brave in 2017 when he came forward with his own story of sexual assault at the hands of a powerful Hollywood executive.
His narrative helped contribute to the #MeToo movement, illustrating that sexual misconduct by powerful men exists at multiple levels, and across genders. Crews spoke about many of the same fears other women expressed upon telling their stories; fear of retaliation, being ostracised, or even facing legal repercussions.
For his actions, Time Magazine included him in their list of the “Silence Breakers” — individuals who spoke out about sexual assault who were recently named TIME’s 2017 “Person of the Year.”
3/ Lebron James
Lebron James was the victim of a hate crime this year when someone vandalized his home with a racial slur written in spray paint. But as always, the athlete took time to deliver a thoughtful response to this action that illustrated the reality of continued inequality for black Americans.
Seeing arguably the most famous black athlete in the world discuss issues of race so frankly was an important indication that conversations about inequality must continue in the US. James made a further statement on race relations when he donned shoes that read “Equality” in bold, gold lettering during an NBA game (huge flex).
Is it time to end the GOAT discussion?
4/ Taylor Swift
T. Swift shook up 2017 in some big ways. Yes, her album “Reputation” became the top-selling album of the year in one month, and yes, she received two Grammy nominations. But this is something we’ve simply come to expect from the pop star. What will really define her year is her role at the center of an important women’s movement, acting as a role model and example for women around the world.
Opening statements have been made in Taylor Swift's trial against former DJ David Mueller. https://t.co/at5xLDy9YP— Twitter Moments (@TwitterMoments) August 9, 2017
Swift sued a Denver DJ for groping her in a highly publicized court case earlier this year. When she eventually won, she pledged to donate money to organizations that help sexual assault victims defend themselves. Her subsequent actions as an advocate for women’s issues landed her on the cover of Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” edition alongside the other women who came forward with stories of sexual assault as part of the #MeToo movement.
5/ Chance the Rapper
For those that don’t know Chancelor Bennett, better known as Chance the Rapper, the 24-year-old Chicago-born rapper (duh) is redefining the hip-hop industry, and working as a tireless advocate for public school children in his hometown. The amount of work he’s done on behalf of Chicago school kids is actually mind boggling. The guy does not stop.
Not only has he pledged to donate $1 million to Chicago Public Schools, he also worked with his non-profit to organize the first ever teacher appreciation awards in his city, gave away 30,000 backpacks filled with school supplies, and got Google to donate $1.5 million for students of color to have access to computers in Chicago.
On top of all of that, many critics thought the rapper’s hosting of Saturday Night Live was the best of the season. How does he do it?
6/ Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
No list of celebrity updates in 2017 could be complete without mention of the biggest engagement of the year. American actress Meghan Markle and Prince of Wales Harry Charles Albert David announced their decision to tie the knot in November, and the world went crazy. But what’s really exciting about the duo is their commitment to activism.
Their first public appearance as an engaged couple took place an event on World AIDS Day, where the pair took time to speak about the importance of continuing the push for widespread testing. With Harry’s legacy of advocating for HIV/AIDS awareness, inspired by his mother Princess Diana, it seems clear the newest royal couple will be focused on this issue for some time to come.
Oh, and Markle is also an outspoken feminist.
7/ Beyoncé and Jay-Z
If the UK can boast about their royal couple, the US can boast about theirs. Music legends and Global Citizens Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, who is also the co-founder of CHIME FOR CHANGE, and Jay-Z had some big moments in 2017. Jay-Z racked up eight Grammy nominations, and for the first time the couple’s net worth rose above $1 billion. More importantly, they introduced the world to their newborn twins Sir and Rumi Carter in July, and the world collectively gushed.
On the activism side, both Jay and Bey had big years. Beyoncé started a scholarship for college women in the US, helped raise $44 million for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, and began a partnership with UNICEF to deliver clean water systems to half a million people in Burundi.
For his part, Jay announced he was putting together a mini-series on the shooting of Trayvon Martin, penned a powerful essay on America’s predatory bail system, and used his music label Tidal to help deliver 200,000 pounds of supplies to Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria. All hail the king and queen.
8/ Jimmy Kimmel
Jimmy Kimmel’s late night show took on a decidedly political bent in 2017. Traditionally, Kimmel’s show has offered a respite from the insane headlines that plague our newsfeeds. His wit and charm were mostly employed to relieve us from the stress of everyday life in these craziest of times.
But when the US congress attempted to pass a health care reform bill that would allegedly raise premiums and make coverage harder to obtain for people with pre-existing conditions, Kimmel switched up his tone.
He spoke at length about his own personal experiences in the health care system, taking time to share the story of his newborn son’s life-threatening condition. He acknowledged the fact that other families who found themselves in the same position he had might not be able to afford the necessary treatments that he, as an employed celebrity, could, and that for people with less wealth, their child could find it difficult to receive insurance coverage later in life.
Kimmel’s activism was an emotional reminder of the power celebrities have to bring attention to important issues affecting vulnerable people.
9/ Backpack Kid
Ok, maybe he didn’t exactly cure any diseases. But man, did we need him.
So there you have it: our list of the most impactful celebrities of 2017. As we look towards the new year, we can only imagine which stars will take up which causes in the coming months.
If 2018 is anything like 2017, we will need them. But if they follow in the footsteps of those that came before them, everything might just be ok.