Celebrity causes....for concern? Angelina Jolie and Shakira's international aid

Just a few days ago Forbes described Angelina Jolie as the "most powerful celebrity in the world" (she usurped Oprah). While this particular honor is probably based on some magical figure derived from the combination of a six-figure salary and the number of blockbuster movies divided by summer months, there's something about being the most powerful anything in the world that implies something a bit mightier. Coupled with her recent article for Time detailing the increasingly precarious human rights situation in Darfur under Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, is this the start of Jolie making headlines outside of babies and drama with Jennifer Aniston?

International pop star Shakira has also been making humanitarian waves in Latin America. Her organization, ALAS, is a group of Ibero-American singers who raise money from wealthy Latin American families, rally fans, and speak with politicians. In a New York Times Magazine article, Scott Malcomson outlines Shakira's work both on stage and behind the scenes to attempt reform in children's education, nutrition, and medical care. As Malcomson notes, celebrity philanthropy is nothing new, but an issue like child welfare is one that needs political clout rather than large checks to make real systemic change, and ALAS's direct lobbying work with heads-of-state is trying to do just that.

Personally, I admire Shakira's efforts more, mostly because she's working locally and trying to change the reality of her own country on a very basic and enduring issue--child welfare. It also seems like she also balances her personal celebrity with her humanitarian efforts, building schools out of her own pocket while also respectfully meeting with the President of the Inter-American Development Bank (what I'm trying to say is that she is not known for adopting international babies). While Americans should be more aware of the situation in Darfur, is writing a Time magazine article going to be the impetus that gets the UN to respond? I'm also swayed by the journalism--Malcomson acknowledges Shakira's celebrity (and sexuality) in context, while the Time article features not a picture of the destruction and destitution of Darfur, but a close-up of the columnist herself, complete with her finger gracing her mouth.

What are your thoughts? How do the two celebrities compare? Is Angelina going to start a journalism career? Is Shakira the next Bono? Is that a good thing?

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3 comments have been made. Post a comment.

In Angelina's defense...

In Angelina's defense, she has been involved in refugee issues for ... well, at least since 2001. She wasn't publicizing it then. She has become increasingly involved with the UN over the years.

I don't think it's all that productive to be comparing the two methods (broad international policy vs. local directed aid) through celebrities, though.

I don't understand why

I don't understand why humanitarian work needs to be turned into a competition. Can't we just appreciate both their work?


I think Shakira's work with ALAS sounds absolutely awesome. I agree with a previous commenter, though--ignoring Jolie's 8 years of work with the UNHCR is cold. Moreover, implying that her attempt to call attention to the situation in Darfur is something we ought to be "concerned" about because she has adopted internationally, because those adoptions have attracted press attention, or because of the photo the magazine chose to couple with the article, seems pretty illogical and strange.