From Stardom to Philanthropy: How Today’s Leading Ladies Are Making a Difference Off-Screen

Orprah Winfrey

Countless female celebrities are known for supporting the causes they care about. Unlike a few who spend time broadcasting their wealth and excess, the majority devote their considerable resources and time to advancing the welfare of others. Indeed their quiet philanthropy has changed people’s lives in extraordinary ways.

But the line between leading ladies and famous activists seems increasingly blurred. Actresses, singers, and other celebrities play meaningful roles in movements such as Climate Change, Black Lives Matter, gender inequality, etc. They want to pass the mic to society, which lacks its own platform. While they wow people through their outstanding musical or acting talent on screen, they also speak up and use their resources to improve the world.

The article highlights 25 leading ladies whose fight for a cause(s) has generated real impact.

What is Philanthropy?

A person who donates their resources, i.e., money, time, or reputation organization that advances the welfare of others is known as a philanthropist. These volunteers donate large sums of money or impact others through their foundation.

People have been using the terms philanthropy and charities interchangeably, but there is a slight difference. Charity refers to the particular action a person or organization takes to improve other people’s lives. On the other hand, philanthropy supplies charities with equipment, personnel, and funds so that they can fulfill their objective. Philanthropists and volunteers have similar purposes, which is to support a noble cause. Both understand that the secret to living is giving and everyone has something to offer.

But society does not approve of all philanthropists. Some are accused of supporting unworthy causes. Communities approve stars supporting charitable organizations or foundations fighting child abuse, gender inequality, human trafficking, hunger, education, HIV/AIDS, cancer, etc.

Notable Female Stars and Philanthropists for All Time

1.      Alicia Keys

Alicia Augello Cook was born on January 25, 1981, in Manhattan, New York City. The American songwriter, singer, and pianist is professionally known as Alicia Keys. She started composing songs at 15, and her debut album, Songs In A Minor (2001), was commercially successful.

Many media outlets refer to the actress as the “Queen of R&B.” Alicia Keys is ranked among the world’s best-selling music artists for she has sold millions of albums and digital songs. The singer is the co-founder and ambassador of the non-profit organization “Keep a Child Alive .”This organization provides orphan care, social support, and medical supplies to families with HIV/AIDS in Africa and India.

  • Live 8 concerts (2005) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to raise awareness about poverty in Africa.
  • Shelter from the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast & ReAct Now: Music & Relief (2005) to raise for programs supporting victims of Hurricane Katrina.
  • “23 Ways You Could Be Killed If You Are Black in America”, a video highlighting actions against systemic racism in the US.
  • Key speaker in the Women’s March on Washington in 2017 after the inauguration of Donald Trump.

2.      America Ferrera

America Georgina Ferrera was born in Los Angeles on April 18, 1984. The American actress has been acting at a young age and appeared in a feature debut with the Real Women Have Curves (2002). The comedy-drama earned her praise for her outstanding performance. She has won multiple awards throughout her acting career, including the Screen Actors Guild Award, Golden Globe Award, and Emmy Award.

America Ferrera has been participating in the #MeToo campaign since October 2017. The actress was sexually harassed at nine, but to date, Ferrera has never revealed any details about the abuser. In January 2018, together with other Hollywood celebrities, Ferrera founded Time’s Up and established Time’s Up Legal defense fund to support victims of sexual harassment.

3.      Angeline Jolie

Angeline Jolie Voight was born on June 4, 1975, in Los Angeles, California, and her parents were actors. Watching films with her mother as she was growing up inspired her acting interest. At age 16, Jolie entered into professional acting. She appeared in several movies and music videos, including Cyborg 2 (1993) and Love Is All There Is (1996), a Romeo and Juliet adaptation.

The actress, filmmaker, and humanitarian is widely praised for her performances and has received several awards. Because of witnessing the effects of the humanitarian crisis when filming, she decided to support charitable organizations. She first contacted UNHCR to find out about international trouble spots, visit refugee camps and learn about their conditions.

After meeting Afghan refugees in Pakistan, she donated $1 million following a UNHCR emergency appeal. In 2001, she was named UNCHR Goodwill Ambassador, a position she held until December 2022. She has continued to focus on major refugee crises and visited several countries, including Syria, Colombia, and Iraq. Jolie supports the conservation of the environment, and created wildlife recognition, Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation (MJP). She also advocates for child immigration and education and funds schools in refugee camps such as Kakuma in northwestern Kenya.

4.      Angelica Huston

The American actress and director was born in Los Angeles on July 8, 1951. Her father was an actor and director, which influenced Huston’s acting career. She portrayed Claudia in A Walk With Love and Death (1969). She has gained recognition and fame throughout her acting career.

Angelica Huston is a member of the advisory council of Save the Chimps. She has been exposing some chimpanzee abuse by entertainment, laboratories, and the NASA program, which led to massive death through explosion and impact. Huston has consistently urged his Hollywood colleagues not to use great apes in their films, advertisements, or television. She helped produce a 2020 documentary Breaking the Chain, highlighting how PETA fieldworkers help neglected animals.

5.      Ariana Grande

Ariana Grande-Butera was born in Boca Raton, Florida, on June 26, 1993. The American actress, songwriter, and singer started her music career at 13, inspired by Hepburn’s style. She featured in Victorious (2009), a Nickelodeon television show. She released her single Put Your Hearts Up in December 2011. She has several albums under her name and has received multiple nominations.

Grande began supporting charitable organizations at an early age. At 10 years, she co-founded Kids Who Care, a youth singing group in South Florida that performed at charitable fundraisers. Her Happy Hippie Foundation supports LGBT and homeless youths. Grande wrote to Congress alongside other celebrities, lobbying the legislators to pass the Equality Act in June 2021. The acts protect marginalized communities.

6.      Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Kathleen Ruston was born in Brussels, Belgium, on May 4, 1929. She began acting by taking ballet training. She played in Dutch in Seven Lessons (1948), accepted a Ballet Rambert scholarship, and moved to London. She portrayed Princes Ann in Roman Holiday (1953) and continued to act until 1993.

Hepburn received several nominations and awards. She was appointed Goodwill Ambassador of UNICEF in 1989 and continued to engage in its several field missions. She visited Vietnam, Somalia, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, and more. For her contribution to humanity, UNICEF honored her in 2002 by unveiling a statue.

7.      Barbra Streisand

Barbra Joan “Barbra” Streisand was born in Brooklyn, New York, on April 24, 1942. She began singing early, and her neighborhood recognized her for her voice. She was invited to sing in summer camp and weddings at nine. Streisand made a demo tape with her mother’s support and pursued an acting career. The American actress, singer, and director is known for her different studio albums and films.

The American actress began supporting charitable organizations in the early 1980s. Through her live performances, she raised funds for these organizations to support education, preserve the environment, and address women’s issues and civil rights. In October 2009, she sold 526 items at Julien’s auctions and channeled the funds through her Streisand Foundation. In December 2011, she appeared at an event to raise funds for the Israel Defense Forces’ charities and gifted Gianna Floyd, George Floyd’s daughter, her Disney shares in June 2020.

8.      Beyoncé

Beyoncé Giselle Knowles was born in Houston, Texas, on September 4, 1981. She is a woman who wears many hats, including actress, dancer, singer, songwriter, and record producer, among others. Beyoncé is popular for her successful performances, vocal abilities, and boundary-pushing artistry.

She attended an audition at eight and met LaTavia Roberson. Beyoncé and other girls were placed in a group dubbed Gir’s Tyme, where they rapped and danced in Houston’s talent show circuit. In 1996, the group was renamed Destiny’s Child. She is famous for Crazy in Love.

Beyoncé, Tina Knowles, and Kelly Rowland constructed a community center known as Knowles-Rowland Center for Youth in Downtown Houston. Through Survivor Foundation, launched in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina, Beyoncé, and Rowland provided transitional housing to the displaced. She also became the 2012 World Humanitarian Day campaign ambassador. Together with Jay-z, Beyoncé donated funds to bail out protesters for the Black Lives Matter movement in Baltimore and Ferguson. She also supports organizations that provide mental health and personal wellness services,

9.      Chrissy Teigen

Christen Diane Teigen was born in Delta, Utah, on November 30, 1985. The American model and television personality is married to John Legend. In 2010, Teigen was named the Rookie of the Year following her appearance in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. She continued to feature in channels and competition series.

John Legend and Chrissy Teigen support cause such as HIV/AIDs, Human rights, the environment, education, etc. They channel their donations through charities like Andy Roddick Foundation, American Foundation for IADs Research, Baby2Baby, Happy Hearts Fund, City Harvest, Planned Parenthood, Show Me Campaign, and more.

10.  Dolly Parton

Dolly Rebecca Parton was born in Pittman Center, Tennessee, on January 19, 1946. The actress, singer, songwriter, businesswoman, and philanthropist began her music career in 1967 following Porter Wagoner’s invitation to join his organization. Patron is popular because of her songs, such as Just Because I’M a Woman (1968), Jolene (1973), I Will Always Love You (1974), and Love is Like a Butterfly, among others.

Parton supports several charitable efforts.

  • In the mid-1980s, she used Dollywood Foundation to support literacy.
  • In December 2006, together with Emmylou Harris, they authorized their music to be used in a PEFA ad campaign to promote pet protection and encourage pet owners not to chain them outside.
  • In 2016, Parton participated in raising funds for the Great Smoky Mountains wildfires.
  • In 2020, she generously donated funds to the Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), i.e., a $1 million donation to fund the development of the Moderna vaccine.

11.  Elizabeth Taylor

Dame Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor was born in London, England, on February 27, 1932, and died on March 23, 2011, in Los Angeles, California. The British American movie actor started her acting in the early 1940s while still a child. However, by the 1960s, the actress had earned worldwide recognition and became the highest-paid actor. Taylor was popular because of her performance in films such as A Place in the Sun (1951), Butterfield 8 (1960), Zee and Co (1972), and The Flintstones (1994).

In 1985, Taylor co-founded the American Foundation for AIDS Research, and in 1991 she founded Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation. She received multiple accolades for her philanthropic efforts from the 1990s to 2011. She retired from the scene to devote her time and resources to philanthropy.

12.  Emma Watson

The English actress was born on April 15, 1990, in Paris. Emma Watson is an actress, model, and activist known for her excellent roles in blockbusters and independent films. Her Oxford theatre teacher recommended her to the casting agents, and producers loved her confidence. Thus she was featured in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. She has appeared in music videos, magazines, and fashion events.

Emma Watson promotes education for girls. As a result, she has traveled to Zambia and Bangladesh to campaign for girls’ education. She was appointed the UN Women Goodwill ambassador in July 2014. The actress is the founding member of Time’s Up UK and donated £1 million in February 2018. She helped launch a helpline in July 2019 to help people report sexual harassment in the workplace. Other activities include climate change mitigation and environmental justice activism. Alongside climate activist Greta Thunberg as a guest, Watson hosts a panel on climate change.

13.  Jennie Ruby Jane

Jennie is a rapper, singer, and songwriter born in South Korea on January 16, 1996. The artist has been featured in various music videos. She changed her name from Jennie Kim to her stage name Jennie Ruby Jane. Besides featuring in multiple videos, she has partnered with different fashion brands like South Korean luxury beauty brand Hera, Channel, Gentle Monster, and more.

Jennie is also a philanthropist. Since 2018, the singer has supported the “Protect Our Family” campaign. Cheongdam Woori Animal Hospital rescues abandoned dogs and protects pets.

14.  Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer Lynn Lopez was born on July 24, 1969, in the Bronx, New York City. Lopez began her professional career in 1989 following her tour in Europe for five months together with Golden Musicals of Broadway. The American actress, singer, and dancer is known for films and songs like Selena (1997), Anaconda (1997), J-Lo (2001), Como Ama una Mujer (2007), Marry Me (2022), etc.

Jennifer Lopez is involved heavily in charitable activities. Lopez and other artists appeared severally in philanthropic events to raise funds for individuals affected by the tragedy. She is passionate about kids and has been supporting children since early in life. For instance, Rebirth was dedicated to an eleven-year-old cancer patient, Paige Peterson.

She launched Lopez Family Foundation alongside her sister, Lynda, to increase access to healthcare by women and children from underprivileged communities. From 2021, she will use her new partnership Limitless Labs, to empower and support Latina business owners and entrepreneurs.

15.  Lady Gaga

Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta was born on March 28, 1986, in Manhattan, New York City. The American actress, singer, and songwriter is known as Lady Gaga. She began playing piano at four, took piano lessons, and practiced them. This enabled her to create music through listening rather than reading. Her parents supported her music career throughout her childhood.

Her song Born This Way (2011) sold over eight million copies and received multiple nominations. She has toured the world, starred in various movies, and earned numerous nominations and awards.

Lady Gaga has joined various campaign groups in support of Earthquake victims, such as the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan. In 2012, she donated funds to support victims of Hurricane Sandy through American Red Cross. She has heavily denounced racism and white supremacy by supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. Gaga’s significant donation earned her King Center’s Beloved Community Awards and Yolanda Denise King High Ground Award in January 2021.

16.  Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep was born in Summit, New Jersey, on June 22, 1949. Indeed she is the most famous Hollywood female actor who has built an unwavering reputation by playing various roles and challenging characters in dramatic films. Throughout her half-a-century acting career, the American most acclaimed actress of all time has been nominated 21 times in the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories. Out of these nominations, she won 3 times. Meryl Streep played a role in movies such as The Devil Wears Prada, Sophie’s Choice, The Hours, The House of the Spirits, and Before and After, among others.

The actress has made significant donations to the National Women’s History Museum and hosted several events. She established two scholarships in 2014, namely the Meryl Streep Endowed Scholarship for English majors and the Joan Hertzberg Endowed Scholarship for math majors at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

17.  Nicki Minaj

Onika Tanya Maraj-Petty was born on December 8, 1982, in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. Her stage name is Nicki Minaj. The Trinidadian-born, American-based songwriter, singer, and rapper gained recognition and fame following her release of three mixtapes in 2007-2009. Her notable songs and album include Pink Friday (2010) and Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded (2012).

Nicki Minaj has won several accolades and awards, including American Music Awards, Billboard Music Awards, BET Awards, Guinness World Records, etc. In 2011, Mattel created and auctioned a Barbie doll with a resemblance to Minaj to raise funds for Project Angel Food which provide food supplies to people living with HIV/AIDS.

The singer and rapper supports the rights of the LGBTQ community, women, and freedom of expression. Minaj also donated funds to bail out protestors during the Black Lives Matter campaign following the murder of George Floyd.

18.  Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Gail Winfrey was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi, on January 29, 1954. She is a television producer, talk show host, media proprietor, actress, and author. Nearly everyone has heard about her talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, which ran from 1986 to 2011 (25 years). At one time, Oprah was listed as the only black billionaire in the world, known as the Queen of the 20th century, 2007 most influential woman in the world.

Having been born in poverty, Oprah spent her time and resource in support of educational causes. By 2012, she had given more than 400 scholarships to Atlanta’s Morehouse College. In 1998, she founded Oprah’s Angel Network to support charitable projects and offer grants to charities globally. In 2004, she created Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa. The celeb has no biological children, thus maternal feelings to help needy girls in her school.

19.  Rihanna

Roby Rihanna Fenty was born in Saint Michael, Barbados, on February 20, 1988. The Barbadian actress, singer, and businessman formed a musical trio in 2003. She is known for Music of the Sun (2005), If it’s Lovin’ that You Want, and A Girl Like Me (2006). Aside from music, Rihanna was featured in Bring It On: All or Anything (2006), where she portrayed Cameo and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Soundtrack, Lift Me Up (2022).

The actress and singer has earned several Academy Awards for Best Original Song and Golden Globe nominations. Rihanna supports various charitable organizations and causes. These include:

Launched her Believe Foundation in 2006 to help terminally ill children.

  • In 2012, she founded the Clara Lionel Foundation (CLF), whose programs include education programs, Nuclear Medicine at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, and Clara Braithwaite Center for Oncology.
  • In 2020, she donated funds towards Covid-19 relief, followed by a donation of ventilators and personal protective equipment.
  • Rihanna and Jack Dorsey, Twitter CEO, donated funds and resources to children and individuals suffering from domestic violence as a result of the lockdown.

20.  Scarlett Johansson

The Hollywood celeb was born in Manhattan, New York, on November 22, 1984. Johansson began acting at eight and has bagged various roles since then. She has worked on TV, released her album, and played iconic roles in Hollywood movies.

The actress supports charitable organizations like Cancer Research UK, Aid Still Required, Stand Up To Cancer, and USA Harvest. She became Oxfam’s global ambassador from 2005 until January 2014, where she helped raise significant funds to help fight poverty. In 2018, she helped set up Time’s Up initiative alongside other Hollywood celebs to protect women against discrimination and harassment.

21.  Selena Gomez

Selena Marie Gomez is an American actress, singer, producer, and businesswoman born on July 22, 1992, in Grand Prairie, Texas. The Hollywood celebrity began acting at a young age. Her mother, Mandy Teefey, was a stage actress, and watching her prepare stage productions inspired Gomez to act. The actress began by portraying Gianna in Barney & Friends (2002), and after appearing in thirteen episodes of this children’s television series, the show producer removed her because of her age.

Gomez has continued to act, sing and produce films which have helped her gain recognition and fame. The actress was the youngest UNICEF ambassador until Millie Booby Brown replaced her on November 20, 2018. Gomez organized concerts to raise funds to help vulnerable kids without necessities like nourishment, clean water, healthcare, and education. She also supported Disney’s Friends for Change (2009-2012), which aimed to promote environmentally friendly behavior.

The American actress donated funds to help fight Australian wildfires. She also made a food-related donation during her HBO Max cooking show dubbed Selena + Chef. The funds raised on this show go to support non-profit organizations.

22.  Shakira

Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll was born in Barranquilla, Colombia, on February 2, 1977. At 13, the Colombian singer recorded a debut album Magia in 1990 with Sony Music Colombia. It comprised songs she had made at age 8. She learned English and produced an English album. Shakira has been featured in various magazines, including Forbes.

Aside from singing, she is a dancer and has received several awards and recognition for her performance. She has ventured into businesses spread across different industries. The singer formed Pies Descalzos Foundation in 1997 to support education for poor children. She founded Latin America in Solidarity Action with other business leaders and artists to promote childhood public policies.

Shakira is one of the UNICEF Goodwill ambassadors and global representatives. She donated respirators and face masks to help combat the Covid-19 pandemic in Barranquilla.

23.  Tyra Banks

Tyra Lynne Banks, professionally known as BanX, was born on December 4, 1973, in Inglewood, California. The American model, actress, writer, producer, and television personality started appearing on stage at 15. The celebrity is known for co-creating True Beauty (2009-2010), hosting the 12th season of America Go Talent in 2017, and her talk show, The Tyra Banks Show, which ran from 2005 to 2010.

Besides appearing on the screen, Banks created the TZONE program to help with developing leadership and life skills. In 2005, the movie star transformed TZONE into the Tyra Banks TZONE, from a camp to a public charity. Additionally, she launched Tyra Banks Scholarship to enable African-American young women to attend Immaculate Heart High School.

24.  Viola Davis

The actress and producer was born on August 11, 1965, in Saint Mathews, South Caroline. In 2020, Viola Davis was named by The New York Times as the ninth greatest female actor of the 21st century, and in 2012 and 2017, Time listed her among the 100 most influential people in the world. Viola Davis has worked tirelessly throughout her acting career, which enabled her to steal the show. She played different roles in great movies such as Doubt (2008), Fences (2016), Widows (2018), The Suicide Squad (2021), The Woman King (2022), etc.

When she is not on the screen, Davis supports organizations working towards eradicating childhood hunger. She has partnered with Vaseline, where she helps promote the Vaseline Healing Project. Davis has been collaborating with Hunger Is campaign since 2014 to raise funds to help eradicate childhood hunger in the US. In September 2017, together with Hunger Is, started a $30k in 30 Days Project. As a result, the Rhode Island Community received a $1,000 grant to help build a food bank.

25.  Zendaya

The American actress and singer was born in Oakland, California, on September 1, 1996. She is famous for her role in Euphoria (2019-present), which enabled her to win Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. The actress has released a couple of singles and featured in several films.

Zendaya supports numerous charities and causes. She supports campaigns supporting victims of natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy, where she became Conoy of Hope’s ambassador in 2012. She raised funds during her 18th birthday to help Feed Hungry Children through feedONE in countries like Tanzania, Haiti, and the Philippines. Additionally, she supports campaigns for women empowerment initiatives, creates awareness and access to HIV/AIDS treatment, and awareness about marginalized communities. Zendaya supports the Black Lives Matter movement, America Heart Association, Children Mending Hearts

Purity Muriuki
I'm a passionate full-time blogger. I love writing about startups, technology, health, lifestyle, fitness, electronics, social media marketing and much more. Continue reading my articles for more insight.


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