While celebrities have the power to bring more attention to important issues concerning social injustices, can they appoint themselves as leaders of movements they have no affiliation to?
On Feb. 28 at the Playa Vista Campus, Sarah Jackson, co-editor of “#HashtagActivism: Race and Gender in America’s Networked Counterpublics,” moderated a panel discussion with Patrisse Cullors of #BlackLivesMatter and Mónica Ramírez and Myrla Baldonado of #TimesUp.
During the Q&A, an attendee asked, “With great power comes great responsibility, and so, that said, what do you feel should be the role of celebrities or recognized individuals in supporting your causes? Is there a role that they should play, or is it more passive? What are your feelings on that matter?”
Cullors revealed her strong emotions concerning the subject, stating that “the U.S. is obsessed with celebrity.” She discussed her opinions about famous individuals bringing light to certain issues. She said, “The work we do is not about being trendy, the work we do is about changing lives and changing the material conditions for those [who are] vulnerable. As soon as something becomes trendy, it can also become untrendy.”
Cullors noted that the perception that "it's really cool for celebrities to join movements" is a danger to the movement. She specified that they shouldn’t be leading movements, and those who were directly associated with the issue should have the leading voice for sharing the pain and problems with a social injustice.
In response to the conversation, Vanessa Díaz, an assistant professor from the department of Chicana/o and Latina/o studies, stated that her “research is on celebrity culture in L.A., so when they spent the time talking about what it meant for celebrities to speak about social activism, it really had a strong impact” on her.
Díaz also shared her opinion that celebrities should have a better influence on younger generations, such as students who “are so invested in social media and presenting themselves and creating their own brands of celebrity and thinking about what comes along with the responsibility of celebrity culture.”
Jillian Schutz, a freshman psychology major at LMU, presented a different opinion concerning celebrities, stating that “on the opposite side they are real people and they do have their own opinions.” She mentioned that with “such a broad platform and [because] they have so many people following them, like on Instagram … and they have such a voice,” it’s extremely important “for them to even put their voice out there and have people think about what they say.”