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Lakshmi Narayan

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Celebrity Activism: Who ultimately benefits, the celebrity or the cause?

I am doing a dissertation on this topic and would like people to give an opinion on what they think of the question. I study PR so anything that relates back to media, how the publics attitude is swayed and what happens if the celebrity and the cause don't align, and does the cause push the celeb profile or the other way around. Case studies that I've looked at are- Bob Geldof-Live Aid, Joanna Lumley-Gurkhas , Sean Penn-Haiti and Angelina Jolie- any campaign she has been affiliated with.


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  • Apr 21 2013: Hey Lakshmi,
    I think you should look at both 'Celebrity Activism' and 'Cause Promotion' by a celebrity as two separate things. For me activism is when a person truly believes in a cause and works relentlessly to further that cause and, is willing to take risks and put at stake his or her career and image. I don't know of any such real celebrity activists in India. There are a lot of retired celebrities who take to activism here, and very clearly to gain mileage out of such association. Most others are brand ambassadors - mostly film or sports celebrities for whom selling a cause is like selling any other product. There are few who genuinely believe in the cause and lend their name/voice/face. But most others support a cause if they see a definite benefit in the association. While it is a fact that their endorsement of the cause does help in reaching a large number of people, and helps raise awareness - it also goes without saying the celebrity gains a huge amount of public respect and goodwill - which is often more than the contribution they make to the cause. It is their PR or CSR effort since most celebrities have anyway turned themselves into brands. I think it would also be a good idea to look at the causes these celebrities pick up - you will find only a handful - mostly high-profile causes or causes with big money. There are more children who die of diarrhea or Mal-nutrition in India than HIV, but who is there to stand up for them? There are many many seemingly small issues, which have a huge bearing on our lives, but they don't get the support they deserve. Where are the celebrities?
    Prem Aman
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      Apr 22 2013: Thanks Prem for your comment. I think I know of an Indian celebrity who does philanthropy for the right reasons and that is Vivek Oberoi. Your idea about celebrities supporting HIV over other problems in India is interesting. I think because we're living in this consumer/ brand obsessed world that even causes are becoming very brand orientated so some of the causes are more 'attractive' (worst word to use when talking about awful issues) than others. Therefore there is no benefit for the celebrity to be attached to the causes that are less appealing. I think this is very much determined by the media too. The famine in Ethiopia only gained Bob Geldof's attention when BBC journalist Michael Buerk covered the story in 1983, before that it wasn't talked about.
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        Apr 23 2013: There is a established rule in powerful society, neither propose nor oppose real social cause just ignore. Use of celebrities is a kind of attraction. If Media, donor, academician like you pay attention to a cause and not harmful to criminal problem creators they are agree with drama. Economic distributive system is a root cause of all pseudo social cause if someone speak on it, he/she will be no more celebrity, LOL. Henry Ford in 1922 say - It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe, there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning. How many celebrities or academician, media or donor are examining this statement or financing the issue?

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