Celebrity culture is all around us. From the music we listen to on a daily basis to the most recent trends, the rich and famous always have some sort of say in what goes on in our lives. This being said, thankfully there are those who use their influence to better not only their own lives but those of others and they have been recognized by places like Forbes and TIME Magazine because of it. Given, we can all influence our surroundings in our own unique way but it is those who go above and beyond what is typically expected from them who will be forever remembered for making a difference, especially when celebrities are these aforementioned individuals. Whether it be fighting for equality in some shape or form to helping fight diseases, these celebrities utilize their influence in a fashion all their own. By choosing causes they truly care about, their impact has been noted by their peers as well as those who have benefited from their actions. We all have a role to play in the grander scheme of things, but celebrities have a means to do this like no other since there are eyes on them 24/7. By spreading the word and doing our part, the world can, and will be, a better place for one and all.
19. Kanye West
With his outspoken nature and ferocity, Kayne West has truly built himself up and now holds a concrete place in music history. From performing his first single with a jaw that was wired shut as a result of a car accident to The College Dropout which solidified his place in the hip-hop realm, Kayne has changed the face of hip-hop forevermore and there’s a solid reasoning as to why TIME has labeled him one of the most influential people of 2015. What sets him apart from the rest is that he tells stories of the everyday that anyone who has had a dream can relate to and that’s exactly why his music is so popular. By bringing up themes which can constantly be linked to social critiques or calls to action, he prompts those who listen to his songs to think about what’s going on in the world and see what they can do about it. Kayne West is more than just an artist and fashion icon, he’s a thinker and businessman who is always trying to find a new way to bring attention to himself and stay relevant. Given, this isn’t too difficult, especially considering his outspoken nature that possesses no filter, but that’s the entertainment industry and if one thing’s for certain he’ll be giving people something to talk about for years to come.
18. Arnold Schwarzenegger
From bodybuilder to Hollywood actor to even holding a position in government, Arnold Schwarzenegger proves that you can do anything if you just believe in yourself, even if no one else does. Having had a family life which was less than perfect, Schwarzenegger went against all odds and made a bigger name for himself than even he could have even imagined. His true influence began when he was California’s 38th governor back in 2003 and, while he may have lost popularity while in office, his impact was inevitable. From instating AB32, the state’s landmark global warming law, to the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010 which enforces an ethical business model, the time of Schwarzenegger was a time for change. With his continued focuses on renewable energy, the benefits of physical activity and building a better economy for all, this Terminator is one who is in it for the long haul.
17. Dr. Mehmet Oz
Despite being under major scrutiny from some of his peers, Dr. Mehmet Oz’s influence is above and beyond those of a normal physician. While he may have had a small amount of fame before, it was his eventual camaraderie with Oprah Winfrey that made him go from a local celebrity to household name. Once Oprah got involved, the O Network allowed him to get his own show which was rightfully named The Dr. Oz Show and his career has done nothing but grow from there. He has since released a vast amount of YOU books which focus on different aspects of your own life and ways to improve it as well as other publications dealing directly with the health and medical field and its impact on the human mind and body. His ability to convince people to take what he says seriously and then have them implement it into their own lives is simply what makes him such a predominant figure in not only the entertainment business but medical field.
16. Steven Spielberg
While Steven Spielberg may not have done any extensive amounts of charity work or anything of the sort, he has maintained his status of one of the most influential directors of all time since his release of Jaws and has brought humanity back into the industry because of it. Each of his films is so well thought out in every single aspect that you can never truly go wrong. His use of light to hide what’s directly underneath the surface is not in hopes of fear but to bring hope itself and it is this mentality that has brought him as far as he has. Every single Spielberg movie generates a range of emotions and human experience that you can’t find anywhere else and it is by watching them that maybe, just maybe, we can all rethink our own existence.
Jay-Z is more than just Beyoncé’s husband, he is one of the reasons why hip-hop evolved the way that it did. Being one of the best-selling artists in history, he broke the boundaries of what it meant to be an artist when he created his own record label when no one wanted to sign him on, and he moved on to build what can only be called a musical empire ever since. By signing on up and coming stars like Rihanna and Kayne West, his influence in the music business is one that is hard to beat. In his eyes, hip-hop is a major political player and has done more good when it comes to bringing most people together than most other things. On top of that, his Hard Knock Life tour back in 1999 showed that hip hop can actually fill arenas and it has since been accepted as part of mainstream media. It’s hard to believe that he could do all that and more and still have time to be a loving and devoted father and husband to his family.
14. Marc Jacobs
Marc Jacobs is simply one of those designers who has forever shaped the world of fashion. By embracing his inherent sense of exploration and creativity, the art that he brings to not only the runways but the shops as well is truly unique and can never be duplicated, no matter how hard others try. He just has the ability to always bring something new to the table but looks toward the past for inspiration. Everyday people and memories are his muse and he has built a fashion empire because of it. Through the transformative qualities that art possesses, he takes past events, zeitgeists of the times if you will, and creates a line like no other. By telling a different story each season, the familiarity shines through and he has changed the course of fashion forevermore. To take a look at some of his most inspiring looks of the past decade brought to you by Vogue. By bringing the t-shirt and combat boots to the runway, it means that everyone can be at the height of fashion which, in turn, creates a more inclusive world for all.
13. Tupac Shakur
The legacy that Tupac left after being murdered in 1996 will be engraved in the lives of us all as well as those to come. His ability to speak about personal as well as social issues which could easily affect us all meant that his work could go beyond that of the stereotypical hip-hop fan and reach any and all who would listen. Most recently, there has even been a Broadway musical entitled Holler if You Hear Me which utilizes 21 of his songs and speaks about struggles on both the individual and systematic level to give the audience a glimpse into the reality of others. Tupac has been referred to as a wordsmith on multiple occasions and it’s easy to see why. Due to his love of literature, he was greatly influenced by people like William Shakespeare and his command of the English language is a direct result of that. Lyrics of any kind can be poetry but it is only those who can convey emotion and thought that can be considered poets and he proved himself to be just that when The Rose that Grew from Concrete was published. Being someone who speaks about humanity, compassion, empathy and dreams of a better tomorrow makes him relevant no matter the times and, in one way or another, it can be assumed that this all stems from his less-than-perfect past. Tupac Shakur may have had his own struggles but maybe, just maybe, that’s where his genius stemmed from. Being from a hard past that he just could not escape from, the hope was real but here’s to hoping that this dream can one day become a reality for one and all.
12. George Lucas
George Lucas is just one of those masterminds in the entertainment industry who can do absolutely anything that he sets his mind to, thus shaping him into a role model for us all. It’s funny to think that if it weren’t to be for an accident that he had back in high school he may not have gone into cinema at all! Since working in the entertainment industry, however, he has merged the wonders of cinema and technology together in ways that others could have only dreamed of. The willingness to take risks meant that he not only has full creative control over Star Wars but opened doors that weren’t even there to begin with. For example, when he couldn’t find a company to do the special effects for Star Wars he decided to found Industrial Light & Magic which eventually even found a way to get a camera to simulate the appearance of flight! On top of that, this company even branched out and brought the world Skywalker Sound which deals with audio post-production. LucasArts Entertainment is also in his name and is responsible for the release of video games and the like. Simply put, once George Lucas immersed himself in the film industry there was no going back and the entertainment business just wouldn’t be the same without him.
11. Michael Jackson
The global recognition that Michael Jackson has received over the years is next to immeasurable but, one thing is for certain, his influence will last forever. Being one of the earliest recording artists to ever reach outside the Western world as well as the first young and black pop star broke more bounds than could have ever been imagined. His messages of a united world with a global culture was leaps and bounds away from the time of the Internet and his rise to fame was seemingly endless. Despite the restrictions brought forth by network television, radio and recordings, he was still the biggest name in entertainment and everyone was just dying to even be in the same room as him! His impeccable fashion sense, killer dance moves, unique sound and inherent showmanship transformed him into the King of Pop and his influence still resonates to this very day. While his influence may still live on in artists like Justin Timberlake, Chris Brown, Pharrell and Daft Punk, no one can ever reach the same status as he has and he will forever be a staple in music history.
10. Emma Watson
Emma Watson has gone a long way since she brought J.K. Rowling’s Hermione Granger to life in the Harry Potter series. Along with continuing to entertain people from far and wide, she has had her sights set in bringing gender equality to one and all and has been dubbed the UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador because of it. Working alongside other world leaders, she has helped to create Impact 10X10X10 which is more popularly known as the HeForShe campaign which is there to help implement more women not only in the workplace but in governments and even universities, specifically in positions of power. Their mentality is that since women make up 50% of the world’s population, they should hold 50% of the power both at the office as well as at home. Needless to say, the campaign has been nothing short of a huge success and we all have Emma Watson to partially thank for this. Most recently, she has stated at Davos 2016 that the success of this movement would be the biggest stimulus to our economy. What will you do to make the change?
9. Stephen Colbert
Stephen Colbert may look a little wacky but his comedic genius is as good as gold. His ability to make people think about what they’re watching and then have them do something about it not because they’re told to but because they feel like they should has changed the world in more ways than one. While The Daily Show may have had its finale, Stephen Colbert’s impact has lead to more changes than congress would like to admit. His ability to explain American politics in a humorous yet entertaining manner made people listen to what he had to say. He was able to unite everyone at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear as well as have them donate funds for Super PAC which was created for a sole purpose: to critique American financial laws, on two separate occasions of course. When you pair this with how his show saved the American Speedskating team in 2009 and how he brought the delicious Ben & Jerry’s flavor AmeriCone Dream where part of the proceeds to go various charities, his impact is one that will forever be set in stone.
8. Jon Stewart
While, like Stephen Colbert, he may be viewed as a comedian or satirist, his influence has helped society in more ways than one. Jon Stewart’s affiliation with The Daily Show (which sadly came to an end on August 6th, 2015) was constantly pushing the fact that media coverage was not only sensationalist but lazy, and his work on the show has brought the American people to action on more than one occasion. His show is the reason why veteran healthcare has undergone such a change and why the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act was even considered and eventually passed, bettering the lives of all of the first respondents who came to help when those planes crashed into the Twin Towers in New York’s city center. However, his influence is even bigger than that. He was there organizing and leading the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear which had a turn-out of over 200,000 people in the nation’s capital and has become one of America’s most trusted voices because of it.
Beyoncé Knowles is nothing short of everything that a woman wants to be. From owning her own record label and production company, Parkwood Entertainment, to being a devoted wife and mother, she is the definition of the modern woman. Her amazing business sense that keeps people on their toes means that she is more than just an airhead who has a smidgen of talent up her sleeve. With lyrics promoting female empowerment while still conducting a balancing act between the conservative family model to sex symbol, she demonstrates that a woman doesn’t have to just fall under one category and can rather be whoever she wants to be at any given time. Her ambitious nature has lead her to have double the income of her husband, Jay-Z, while still having time to found the #BeyGood Project which focuses on gender equality and has most recently offered aid to the people of Flint, Michigan during their water crisis. All in all, Beyoncé is more than just a pop star, she is a woman who is transforming the world that we live in each and every single day and it is of no surprise that she has not only been on TIME‘s Most Influential List but scattered throughout the media ever since her rise to fame.
6. Leonardo DiCaprio
From screaming out “I’m the king of the world!” off the edge of the Titanic to being an ambassador for it, Leonardo DiCaprio’s never-ending passion for the Earth has transformed him from just another pretty face to one of the most influential celebrities of the modern day and age. By using his celebrity status as a means for change, he has not only co-founded The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation which helps protect one of the most fragile aspects of the Earth, our ecosystem, but has become one of the famous faces connected with the WWF and has delivered many powerful speeches on Earth Day and otherwise about the importance of protecting the natural world that surrounds us. If that wasn’t enough, he also wrote, narrated and produced a documentary entitled The 11th Hour to bring even more focus upon this imminent threat. By not only using his name but his smarts as well, Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the most honest celebrities out there and it’s of no surprise that he earned a spot on TIME‘s “The 100 Most Influential People” of 2016.
5. Michael J. Fox
Michael J. Fox may be one of the better known Canadian actors out there who have had a substantial and sustainable career in the entertainment industry, but that’s not why he’s on this list. When he finally announced that he was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s disease in the late 1990’s, he decided not to wallow in his own misfortunes but rather do something about it. So, he stepped away from the acting business for a small while and put his time and effort into something greater than himself. After he finally announced that he was stepping away from his current project, Spin City, in January 2000 because he needed to refocus his time and efforts, the result was something great. Later that same year he was proud to announce that The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research was up and running! In addition, it was receiving praise from all around which was just the cherry on top. What this led to was honorary degrees from The Karolinska Institute in Sweden, New York University, Mount Sinai School of Medicine and the University of British Columbia as well as multiple humanitarian awards. Through his efforts, there has been over $450 million dollars made to help fund a cure and that number is growing daily. He has since returned to acting thanks to medical treatments but is still a strong advocate for the cause.
Bono is just one of those celebrities whose name is synonymous with both his music as well as humanitarian efforts which take many different shapes and forms. From founding ONE, which helps fight against poverty in its utmost extremes, to taking a stand against a huge array of political issues like terrorism and disease, Bono is one of the most politically active and widely known celebrities in the world. Despite ONE having been under recent scrutiny for the small amount of money that actually goes to those in need, Bono still delivers a message of peace on a regular basis and, let’s face it, you would never talk about something that much unless it was something that you truly cared about. Like he’s said on a regular basis, peace is not something that can come overnight for it takes a lot of time and effort to finally achieve it, but it is obtainable and all we have to do is work at it for it to one day become our reality.
3. Barack Obama
President Barack Obama has been one of the most influential presidents of the United States and, even if all may not agree with his results, he has shaped a better America for all since being elected into office in 2008. While his accomplishments are far too many to name, what can be said is that he has brought America closer to living the American Dream in almost every way possible. From the Affordable Care Act to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, he has put the money right back where it belongs, in the hands of hard-working Americans who evidently make up the economy on their own soil. By lowering the taxes for the lower and middle classes, he has ensured that there will be enough money for them to feed their children and live the lives that they deserve. Through bringing nutritious lunches to schools, he has made sure that every child has access to a healthy meal. He has done this and so much more while serving as the President of the United States of America and here’s to hoping that the next one continues in his footsteps which make inclusion, diversity and peace a vital part of their agenda.
2. Stephen Hawking
While Stephen Hawking may not be the traditional celebrity figure, his work is so widely known that he is a celebrity in his own right. He has transformed the way that humanity views the world around them and is renown by all because of it. From his theories on black holes to the structure of the Universe and even the Big Bang, this scientist has brought forth brilliant, albeit controversial, ideas and has gotten people talking because of it. He has even published books geared toward the not-so-scientifically inclined to help them understand the space that is their home and how just looking up at the stars can lead to moments of brilliance… Now just imagine what he could have done had his disability not eradicated his ability to move or speak.
1. Oprah Winfrey
Oprah has been a household name for over thirty years now and, in that time, has transformed the world as we know it. Her overwhelming amounts of positivity and honesty have flooded the world in the best of ways and made it okay to be different. The way that she was so candid about her life struggles, no matter how taboo or when they happened, is what makes her relatable to absolutely anyone and then allows them to open up. Oprah is that safe space that everyone needs in their lives, that reassurance that things can, and will, get better. She uses her name and influence to make sure that those who are struggling can make it through the tough times. By personally endorsing books, she single-handedly helps book sales which then ends up leading to more money for in the book publishing’s future. By donating huge amounts of money to various causes she allows a better future for one and all. By recognizing that people listen to everything that comes out of her mouth she eliminates the obstacles and clears pathways for all walks of life, no matter who they are.
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