Cause celebs: Who's campaigning for what in 2019?

Regina King, winner of the Best Supporting Actress Golden GlobeImage copyright

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Regina King, winner of the Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe, made a speech in support of gender equality

When US actress and director Regina King picked up her first Golden Globe on Sunday, she won a standing ovation for vowing “to make sure that everything that I produce is 50% women” for the next two years.

Her pro-equality speech began on a different tack, though – noting that stars are often mocked for bringing up social causes on the Red Carpet.

You might say they’re damned if they do, and damned if they don’t. So why bother?

Well, there’s some argument that it works. Recent months have seen famous faces achieve real change by backing a campaign, a charity or an individual.

Here are just some of the stars taking on the world’s woes in 2019…

Kim Kardashian West, ‘prison reform princess’

It’s rumoured that the reality star and serial entrepreneur is expecting her fourth child with her rapper husband Kanye West, via surrogacy. But this year has already given her a reason to smile: the imminent release of US prisoner Cyntoia Brown.

Brown, who was sentenced to life in prison for murder when she was 16, was granted clemency by the governor of Tennessee on Monday after 15 years in prison – and a noisy, celebrity-led campaign to free her.

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Tennessee Department of Corrections

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Cyntoia Brown, pictured in 2006 and 2013, will soon be a free woman

Brown was sentenced to life in prison in 2004 for shooting dead Johnny Allen, a 43-year-old Nashville estate agent who picked her up for sex.

The teenager who went home with Mr Allen that night had been repeatedly raped and beaten. She was on the streets by order of her boyfriend, described as a violent, drug-addled pimp nicknamed Kutthroat, who she said verbally abused her and made her strip at gunpoint.

Singer Rihanna and supermodel Cara Delevigne shared emotional posts on social media with the hashtag #freeCyntoiaBrown.

But Kardashian West, in the vanguard, posted a tweet about the case which racked up half a million “likes” in which she announced: “We have to do better & do what’s right. I’ve called my attorneys yesterday to see what can be done to fix this.”

Nor is this her only example of successful activism.

In May last year, the TV stalwart met President Donald Trump to discuss a potential pardon for Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old great-grandmother serving life in prison for a first-time drug offence. She also asked her long-time personal lawyer, Shawn Holley, to look at the case and paid for a new legal team.

At the time, Johnson had been behind bars for more than two decades.

Kardashian West, whom Johnson began referring to as her “war angel”, got her wish. By June, President Trump had granted her clemency plea.

Sure, celebrity Twitter activism on particular cases won’t have much wider effect on the US penal system. Only genuine prison reform could do as much. But in defence of Kardashian West – she asked Trump for that too.

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Media captionEmotional moment Alice Johnson was released

Ryan Gosling, pro-democracy advocate

“Actor Ryan Gosling urges credible election results in DRC” may not be the first headline you’d expect to see from the Oscar nominee.

We’ll go further: it could appear deeply random.

It makes more sense if you know that Gosling, 38, swapped La La Land for the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2010, travelling with the Enough Project, a US-based non-profit that works to counter crimes against humanity.

Gosling took a series of photographs, and in December 2018 launched a book with the group’s founding director, John Prendergast, and Congolese activist Fidel Bafilemba.

“Congo Stories: Battling Five Centuries of Exploitation and Greed,” explores the bloody history of the mineral-rich DRC – where elections were held on 30 December.

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AFP/Getty Images

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Ryan Gosling’s pictures were used to illustrate a book on the DRC

President Joseph Kabila is stepping down after 18 years, and promised the polls, which were meant to happen two years ago, would be the country’s first orderly transfer of power since independence in 1960.

First results were due on 6 January, but they’re late. The Congolese are waiting for a name, amid fears of violent demonstrations.

Can Gosling deliver them a clean result? Obviously not. But activists might argue that his advocacy helps raise public awareness – and thereby a sense that corruption and irregularities do not go unnoticed.

Stormzy, Cambridge scholarship sponsor

British rapper Stormzy has described himself as “a child of grime” – but he still listens to his real mother.

“My mum always had this plan of ‘You’re going to school and college, then you’re going to go Cambridge’,” he said last August.

Her son became a music trailblazer instead – but to honour her wishes, he’s funding four black British students to go to the University of Cambridge – two in 2018, and two in 2019. The Stormzy Scholarship will pay tuition fees and provide a maintenance grant for up to four years of undergraduate study.

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Media captionMusician Stormzy donates £9,000 to a student’s crowdfunding page

“It didn’t happen for me, so I feel that for me to get to this place in my career and be able to do something where we can help young black students get into Cambridge is a testimony to her hard work as well,” the rapper said.

Cambridge has been criticised for not admitting many pupils from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background, and has urged schools and parents to help it enrol more black British students.

Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth, rebuilding Malibu

US singer Miley Cyrus and her husband, Hunger Games actor Liam Hemsworth, lost a home in Malibu at the end of last year, when the deadliest fires in California’s history swept across the state.

As the community works to rebuild lost homes and businesses at the start of 2019, it’ll be boosted by a significant donation from the pair.

Cyrus and Hemsworth gave $500,000 to The Malibu Foundation, which was launched to support Malibu and its environs in the wake of the Woolsey Fire.

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Getty Images

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Musician Miley Cyrus and actor Liam Hemsworth lost their California home in November

A rep for Cyrus said at the time: “Miley and Liam lost their home, but are very grateful to be safe along with their animals.

“Their community and state are very special to them and they want to give back to the place that has created so many beautiful memories for themselves and others.”

The cash will go towards “community rebuilding, wildfire prevention and climate change resilience,” the statement said.


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