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The term ‘celebrity philanthropy’ refers to celebrity-affiliated charitable and philanthropic activities. It is an increasingly prevalent topic of scholarship in studies of ‘the popular’ vis-à-vis the modern and post-modern world.
Look to the Stars, which is advertised as ‘the web’s number one source of celebrity charity news and information’, was launched in 2006 to promote the work of charities via the philanthropic activities of celebrities. Currently there are 3,563 celebrities listed on the website, ranging from Hollywood actors and actresses to musicians, politicians, athletes and socialites.
Structured and systematised charitable giving by celebrities is a relatively new phenomenon. Although charity and fame are associated historically, it was only in the 1990s that entertainment and sports celebrities from affluent western societies became involved with a particular type of philanthropy. Celebrity philanthropy in contemporary western societies is not isolated to large one-off monetary donations by definition. It involves celebrities using their publicity, brand credibility and personal wealth to promote not-for-profit organisations, which are increasingly ‘business-like’ in form. This is sometimes termed as ‘celanthropy’ – the fusion of celebrity and cause as a representation of what the organisation advocates.
The advent of celebrity philanthropy has seen the contraction of government involvement in areas such as welfare support and foreign aid to name a few. This can be identified from the proliferation of neoliberal policies. Conversely, public interest groups, not-for-profit organisations and the United Nations now budget extensive amounts of time and money to use celebrity endorsers in their campaigns. An example of this is the People’s Climate March, which took place on 21 September 2014. The demonstration was part of the larger People’s Climate Movement, which aims to raise awareness of climate change and environmental issues more generally. Notable celebrities who are part of this campaign include actors Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo and Edward Norton.
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