A-listers are increasingly using their influence to empower change-makers and their social media as a megaphone for good.

Sometimes it’s easy to be sceptical about celebrity support. Is it true altruism, an attempt for self-promotion, or a sense of obligation to jump on the bandwagon? Social media is awash with hashtag activism – some of it effective, some of it not – and there is some terribly misguided ‘awareness-raising’ from influencers that has everything to do with them and nothing to do with the cause. Anyone remember the cringefest that was Gal Gadot and celebrity friends giving a toe-curling rendition of “Imagine” at the start of the pandemic?  

But the fact is, celebrities have influence, wealth and astronomical reach. And there are many shining examples of these assets being used as a power for good.  

Inspired by David Beckham’s recent support for victims of the Ukraine crisis, we take a quick look at the world of celebrity account sharing.  

Share it like Beckham  

In March, David Beckham made two smart decisions. To hand over the storytelling to the people living the story, and to give them access to his Instagram following of 72 million. As a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, he handed his social media account to a doctor in the Ukraine’s Kharkiv.  

For one day Iryna, a child anaesthesiologist and the head of a regional perinatal centre, shared Stories on David’s Instagram as she worked through the distressing and challenging circumstances currently facing the Ukraine’s healthcare providers. Images included mothers with new babies in the hospital’s underground bunker and newborns reliant on oxygen generators donated by UNICEF. The charity’s social handle remained on screen throughout with a clear call to action: “Donate Now”.  

David Beckham has continued to share and show his support for UNICEF’s response as the invasion has unfolded and frequently shares news of his involvement with the charity on his social media.  

But Becks isn’t the first megastar to hand over the controls, he follows in the footsteps of several other celebrities sharing their platform to help spread the word.  

Leave it to the experts  

2020 brought the onslaught of the pandemic and, also, the #PassTheMic initiative from the ONE campaign whereby A-listers handed over their social channels to COVID-19 experts. Hugh Jackman, Julia Roberts, Danai Gurira, Penelope Cruz, Rita Wilson, David Oyelowo, Connie Britton, and Sarah Jessica Parker are just some of the celebs to invite frontline workers, health experts and economists to use their platform. Watch Julia Roberts’ interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci for a taste of the campaign.  

Black Lives Matter 

It is hard to fathom just how many world-changing events have occurred in the last two years and right up there would be the Black Lives Matter movement, which, although founded in 2013, picked up its swiftest momentum following the police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd in 2020.  

An outpouring of grief and anger followed on social media and included #BlackoutTuesday, the use of the hashtag with black squares to show solidarity – unfortunately it had the undesired effect of filling up the hashtag’s feed so much it obscured more direct activities associated with the movement.  

Over in celebrity land, many personalities made it their responsibility to speak out and use their platform to advocate for change and education of others. Selena Gomez, Lizzo and Lady Gaga were amongst those to hand over their Instagram accounts to organisations and activists leading the movement.  

#sharethemicnow saw black women take over the Instagram accounts of white women on 10 June 2020 – with over 40 pairings and a combined audience of more than 300 million followers. Duos included the likes of Me Too movement founder Tarana Burke who took over the account of author and activist, Glennon Doyle.  

It’s not an exact science  

How measurable is the impact of these celebrity handovers? What are we measuring exactly – spikes in donations to associated charities, education, advocacy? In some instances, does the impact come from the much-needed recognition that we’ve heard enough from someone with multi-millions of followers and it’s time to let someone else speak?  

Whatever the motivation and the yard stick, promoting the need, communicating the call to action and giving the change-makers a voice gets our vote. Just no passing off photos of yourself holding up a hashtag sign in your undies as activism please.  

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