Most of us will never know how trustworthy a celebrity is in real life. We don’t trust Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock or Morgan Freeman; we trust their image. We trust the celebrity “brand” they have cultivated and reinforced, film after film. Tom Hanks is the dependable Mr. Nice Guy, the straight and narrow Everyman who wants to do the right thing. Sandra Bullock is America’s goofy, lovable sweetheart. And Morgan Freeman is the calm voice of reason. In fact, Freeman is so calm and reasonable that he played God in Bruce Almighty in 2003 and then reprised the role of Creator in the 2007 box office bomb, Evan Almighty.
Forbes recently turned to E-Poll Market Research to create a list of the most trusted celebrities of 2014. In all, 6,600 names were ranked on awareness, appeal, and 46 different personality attributes through public opinion polling. According to Gerry Philpott, president of E-Poll Market Research, “trustworthy, like influential, can be very subjective descriptors based on the nature of the celebrity. For the most part, it reflects how genuine people perceive that person to be.” Because this type of list is based on subjectivity, here is our (slightly) modified ranking of the most trusted celebrities. The one thing our list and the Forbes list have in common is that they might be the only two celebrity lists ever created where neither Justin Bieber nor the Kardashians make an appearance.
10. Michael J. Fox
Michael J. Fox ranks fourth on the Forbes list of The Most Trusted Celebrities. In 2013, the Back to the Future star held the top spot. Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1991, and he retired from acting in 2000. Fox created the Michael J. Fox Foundation and became a leading advocate for research towards finding a cure for the disease. He returned to TV in 2013 with The Michael J. Fox Show, a show loosely based on the actor’s struggles with Parkinson’s. Nevertheless, the show underperformed and was pulled from NBC’s lineup; Michael J. Fox might have a 76 appeal rating according to Forbes, but the TV viewing public didn’t find his sitcom too appealing.
9. Meryl Streep
In 2013, a Reader’s Digest magazine poll ranked Meryl Streep the fourth most trusted celebrity in America. The low profile mother of four has 18 Academy Award nominations, which is the most of any actor, male or female. She’s won three, the latest being for her role as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady (2011). Perhaps it’s Streep’s diversity as an actress that makes her trusted a celebrity, or the fact that she’s never been tied to any salacious Hollywood scandal. Meryl Streep has a warm and generous brand; she famously donated her fee for The Iron Lady to the National Women’s History Museum, and one can easily imagine the actress surprising the local community theater with an impromptu performance.
8. Robin Roberts
According to Reader’s Digest 2013 list of “100 Most Trusted People in America,” Robin Roberts ranked third with 56% of votes. More than 1,000 Americans were asked which public figures have earned their confidence based on “integrity, character, exceptional talent, drive to personal excellence, internal moral compass, message, honesty and leadership.” Forbes found similar results in 2014. The co-anchor of Good Morning America, who has publicly battled breast cancer as well as myelodysplastic syndrome, a disease of the bone marrow, had the highest trustworthy score of anyone on the list.
7. Mark Wahlberg
Born in the rough-and-tumble Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, Mark Wahlberg was in trouble 20-25 times with the Boston police in his youth. By the age of 13, he had a cocaine problem. At 16, Wahlberg was charged with attempted murder; he plead guilty to the assault charges and was sentenced to two years in prison at Boston’s Deer Island House of Correction. “I did a lot of things that I regret, and I have certainly paid for my mistakes,” Wahlberg stated in an interview in 2006. And while the former “Marky Mark” might seem like an unlikely candidate for a most trusted celebrity, it is, in fact, Wahlberg’s crimes, redemption, and surprise success as an actor and family man that earn him a spot on the list. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s quote, “There are no second acts in American life,” couldn’t be more misguided.
If there’s one type of person that can be trusted, it’s the person who has made mistakes, hit rock bottom, and learned a lesson. “You have to go and ask for forgiveness and it wasn’t until I really started doing good and doing right by other people, as well as myself, that I really started to feel that guilt go away,” Wahlberg stated. Today, Mark Wahlberg is involved in numerous community charities, from The Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation to The Good Shepherd Center for Homeless Women and Children.
6. Jennifer Lawrence
The one fact that can be gleaned from the 2014 Forbes list of The Most Trusted Celebrities is that longevity and trustworthiness go hand-in-hand, at least according to the people who were polled. For example, Betty White, age 92, came in at number 6, and Maggie Smith, age 80, rounded out the top 10. These are head-scratching conclusions that might make one ask the following: who, exactly, is being polled for this type of celebrity survey? What demographic is being asked about trustworthiness and appeal? Where are Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Stone on the 2014 Forbes list? Not every celebrity under 40 behaves like Lindsay Lohan.
Jennifer Lawrence became Hollywood’s unsuspecting “It” girl after her role as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games. In a 2013 interview with Barbara Walters, Lawrence said “it should be illegal to call someone fat.” The 23-year old Oscar winner then railed against people who bash the way women look, citing how she’s often criticized for her full figure. Whether or not Jennifer Lawrence can be completely trusted remains to be seen –only time will tell –but she can certainly be trusted to take a stand when it comes to social issues.
5. Matt Damon
Matt Damon’s career was launched with the success of Good Will Hunting, the 1997 film he co-wrote with his childhood buddy, Ben Affleck. He’s one of the top 40 highest grossing actors of all time, earning commercial success with films like Saving Private Ryan and the Bourne trilogy and critical acclaim for his performance in Syriana and The Departed.
Matt Damon has been married to Luciana Bozan Barroso since 2005 –which is an eternity by Hollywood’s standards –and has three young daughters. The fact that Matt Damon is a quiet family man is part of what makes him a trusted celebrity, but it is further underscored by his humanitarian work. Matt Damon founded the H20 Africa Foundation, and he, along with celebrity heavyweights George Clooney and Brad Pitt, also founded the Not On Our Watch Project, an organization designed to stop the atrocities in Darfur. While Matt Damon can be trusted, the same can’t be said for his Boston pal, Ben Affleck. The upcoming star of Gone Girl was recently caught counting cards at a casino in Las Vegas.
4. Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey is repeatedly ranked as one of the most trusted celebrities. Her brand is so well defined that a fitting tagline might be: In Oprah We Trust. The former talk show host has been called the “Queen of All Media,” not to mention the greatest black philanthropist in American history. In addition to being one of the most trusted celebrities, Oprah Winfrey was also called “arguably the world’s most powerful woman” by CNN and Time.
3. Tom Hanks
Tom Hanks is well aware of his “Mr. Nice Guy” reputation. Talking to Hanks has been described as having an after-school chat with a really nice teacher. In an interview with AskMen, Hanks said, “I’m in an interesting position there with the nice guy thing and the problem is that I co-operate. But that is who I am. But it also means that if I play a guy who shoots someone in the head and then machine-guns everyone else in the movie, everybody still says, ‘Yeah, but he’s such a nice guy!’
Let’s face it. Nobody can possibly be as “aw shucks” nice as Tom Hanks wants us to think he is. The Academy Award winning actor earned that reputation by playing ordinary men who find themselves in extraordinary situations –the 2013 film, Captain Phillips, being a perfect example of the Hank’s “brand.” Despite topping the 2014 Forbes list of The Most Trustworthy Celebrities with a 25% trustworthy rating and an 81% appeal rating, we are putting the gosh-darned nicest guy in Hollywood in the number three spot.
2. Sandra Bullock
Likeable. Beautiful. Bankable. Sandra Bullock is Miss Congeniality, after all, so it makes sense she would rank high on a list of trusted celebs. In 2010, Bullock won an Oscar for her role in The Blind Side. Shortly after, it was leaked that her husband, Jesse James, had been unfaithful to her with multiple women. Sandra Bullock has long been America’s goofy, lovable sweetheart, and the public marriage scandal only boosted her likeability and trustworthiness.
After her divorce from Jesse James, in an interview with Vogue, the then 49-year old actress said, “I am exactly where I want to be now. You can’t go backward. I’m not going backward. I’m grateful that I’m here, blessed to have what I have. Nobody can be prepared for anything.” Those are the type of modest, heartfelt words that people trust.
1. Morgan Freeman
Morgan Freeman topped the Forbes list of The Most Trustworthy Celebrities in 2012, but fell to number 3 in 2014. However, the 2005 Best Supporting Actor winner still ranks number one on our list. Freeman’s deep, smooth, and melodic voice is one of the reasons the public trusts the seasoned actor, not to mention the fact he rarely ever plays a bad guy on screen. Freeman narrated ads for Visa during the Olympics that championed unity and achievement, further cementing his trustworthy image. But here’s the real reason Morgan Freeman commands the top spot. In 2014, the actor voiced a character named Vitruvius in the Lego Movie. Vitruvius is a blind guru who has a handful of wacky, off-the-wall lines. Morgan Freeman is poking fun at his sage-like public persona (remember, the actor played God in Bruce Almighty in 2003), and any celebrity who can be that self-deprecating is certainly trustworthy.