Getting judged goes hand-in-hand with being under the spotlight. We tend to lump celebrities into one group, branding them all as self righteous and overpaid. While there are certainly a few bad apples, those who relish the idea of fame and fortune above all else and will do just about anything to get their faces on television, there are also plenty who prefer to keep level-headed, using their status for charitable and humanitarian causes.
With their over-sized mansions in the Hollywood Hills, legions of adoring fans and more money than most of us hard-working individuals could ever dream of, celebrities are the envy of us all. When we see “stars” reap the benefits of success, it can be difficult to see them for the person they once were. While good looks and family connections can certainly bear some influence, good old-fashioned hard work and determination will always reign supreme. That – to some people – is what constitutes a real celebrity. Only when we start acknowledging the efforts of true stars will the up-and-comers start following in their footsteps.
From Academy Award winning actors to politicians, Grammy Award winning musicians to nerdy tech geniuses, these 10 celebrities are truly deserving of their fame and fortune. Each have used their name and influence to improve welfare, advance technology and create an all-round better planet. With all the antisocial behavior, drug abuse and generally idiotic activities that plague show business and make us question society, they will restore your faith in humanity.
10. Bill and Melinda Gates
Bill Gates is the best-known figure in the personal computer revolution. He was the founder of Microsoft and is currently the richest man in the world with a fortune of $79.5 billion. In 2007 Bill and Melinda Gates donated $28 billion to charity and made plans to donate 95 percent of their wealth throughout their lifetime. Their generosity landed them the title of “second-most generous philanthropists in America.” The couple primarily focus their efforts on global causes that often go unnoticed by governments and other large scale organizations. Most recently they have been trying to solve global sanitation problems with their “Reinvent the Toilet Challenge.”
9. Dave Grohl
Nobody has shaped music in the past 20 years more than Dave Grohl. He was the drummer of Nirvana, the current singer/songwriter of Foo Fighters, and has contributed to records from Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures, Tenacious D, Nine Inch Nails, and countless other rock bands. He’s been labelled “The nicest guy in rock” on numerous occasions; supports a bunch of charities, including Autism Speaks, 21st Century Leaders, Elton John AIDS Foundation and Teen Cancer America; he doesn’t do drugs (unlike many of his contemporaries); and he treats his fans like royalty. Grohl is the perfect role model for young musicians.
Love him or hate him, you’ve got to respect PewDiePie (real name Felix Kjellberg) for making a business out of playing video games. He is currently the most popular YouTuber on the planet with over 40.7 million subscribers (as of December 2015). Kjellberg has been unfairly criticized in the press for trying to “max out” his income, but what most media outlets fail to acknowledge is the amount he has raised for charity. In 2014, with the help of his “bro army” he raised over $1 million for the World Wildlife Fund, Save the Children and Charity:Water. Kjellberg has used his fame to promote charitable causes among young people, which deserves admiration.
7. Arnold Schwarzenegger
Most people don’t realize that before Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s acting and bodybuilding career, he was a successful businessman. Before he set foot in Hollywood, he was already a millionaire. In his 20’s he set up a bricklaying business, which financed a mail order bodybuilding business. He then used the profits to invest in real estate… and then came Mr. Olympia, Hollywood and a political career. When he became the governor of California he used his power to fight global warming and set up the America’s first statewide cap on greenhouse gas emissions. Schwarzenegger has his flaws – he’s certainly not the most faithful husband – but his story is a true rags to riches tale that proves that hard work really does pay off.
6. Elon Musk
South African/born Canadian-American businessman Elon Musk, is the founder of Zip2, PayPal and Tesla Motors; however, his most interesting and daring venture is SpaceX. Since 2001 his primary mission has been to regain public interest in space exploration. He founded SpaceX using $100 million of his own fortune, and currently serves as its CEO. Musk’s goal is to reduce spaceflight costs by a factor of 10 and send humans to the surface of Mars within 10-20 years. He even wants to establish a colony with a population of 80,000 by 2040. Humankind faces significant risks: engineered viruses, nuclear weapons, global warming. While it seems a world away, it’s programs like SpaceX that could one day save our species.
5. Leonardo DiCaprio
Leonardo DiCaprio was a bit of a wild card in his early days when he was a member of the Pussy Posse, along with Toby Maguire and David Blaine, but he’s since grown into a very mature adult. Throughout the past 10 years he hasn’t made a single bad movie! However, it’s not his talent that makes him so deserving of fame and fortune, it’s his philanthropy. He has used his celebrity status to raise awareness for environmental issues, donated millions of dollars to charities, and has even been appointed United Nations representative on climate change. DiCaprio’s body of work as a producer now features a string of award winning environmental awareness documentaries, including The 11th Hour, Virunga and Cowspiracy.
4. Sir. Elton John
Songwriter, singer and composer, Elton John, is one of the most successful musicians on the planet. Since the early 1980s he has used his wealth to fight AIDS. His charity The Elton John Foundation, has raised over $200 million since it was formed in 1992. The organization uses the proceeds to: fund HIV/AIDS treatments, help those in need of care, create education and prevention programs and raise general awareness. On top of that, John actively champions for various LGBT social movements throughout the world – he was even one of the first people in the United Kingdom to have a same-sex marriage.
3. Richard Branson
English businessman and investor Richard Branson, is best known as the founder of the Virgin Group. What originally started as a mail order record label eventually turned into an transatlantic airline, telecommunications service, radio station and now space tourism company. Branson has made and spent his billions many times over and currently has a net worth of $4.9 billion. Since the 1990s, he has used his fortune to better the world by developing new technologies to tackle global warming, and by making huge contributions to charitable causes and startup businesses. Branson is also a signatory for the Global Zero Campaign, a non-profit organisation that fights for the total elimination of nuclear weapons.
2. Bob Geldof
Some think musician Bob Geldof may not deserve Rock Hall of Fame status, but he definitely deserves recognition for his efforts fighting poverty. During the eighties, when he was the front man of The Boomtown Rats, he formed Band Aid to help raise money to fight poverty in Ethiopia. The single, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” ended up becoming the biggest-selling single in UK history, raising $12 million. The following year he staged Live Aid in Wembley Stadium and Philipelphia, which raised a further $225 million for famine relief. Since then, Geldof has dedicated his life to African charitable programs, using music to raise money and awareness for various charities.
1. Mark Zuckerberg
In 2007 Mark Zuckerberg became one of the youngest billionaires in the world after founding social networking website Facebook, along with his college roommates. While he has received his fair share of criticism due to Facebook’s business model and questionable terms and conditions, the money is (or will be) well spent. In November 2015, Zuckerberg pledged to donate 99% of his earnings to “advancing human potential and promoting equality.” His decision was spurred on by the birth of his daughter, as he wanted to create a better world for her to grow up in. In addition, he’s an active campaigner for net neutrality and is trying to bring affordable/free basic Internet services to underdeveloped countries.