Last week, Wonder Woman actor Gal Gadot, for reasons not yet named, released a video of herself and a number of other famous people from Hollywood, including Kristen Wiig, Zoe Kravitz and Sia, singing lines from John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
The video consisted of Gadot and friends crooning lyrics into the camera and aimed to prove that “we’re all in this together.” But while Gadot forwarded the performance on with a hope that it would ~inspire~ people, it’s done anything but that.
Suffice to say, the video has been met with heavy criticism. Unlike the rest of us, who are tackling fears we might lose our jobs (and the thousands of us who already have), potentially having to go on for months with no proper liveable income to pay rent and bills, other increasing economic and social challenges and mental health impacts of this Covid-19 self-isolation period, these celebrities are living much more comfortable and protected lives.
Compared to the problems most people face, the video feels tactless and insensitive. It’s another reminder of the economic and social gap between us and celebrities. In fact, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, it made me realise that celebrities need to do better.
Stop capitalising on our Coronavirus fears and make a difference
On 19th March, Rita Ora launched a series of anti-Coronavirus merch called “#StopTheSpread.” The line featured shirts, hoodies and stickers with a germ symbol, peace sign and the words, “Stop The Spread, Play Your Part,” slapped on. As Ora explained, all proceeds of the merch go towards supporting the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Covid-19 Solidarity Research Fund.
“If you want to do something about Covid-19[,] stay safe and clean, and Play Your Part by getting this merch and helping the cause,” she wrote on her Instagram post.
While Ora’s heart is in the right place, what would’ve been better is if she actually gave some of her celebrity-level money to the WHO’s Covid-19 Solidarity Research Fund instead of turning it into a marketing campaign. According to the Wall Street Journal, only one percent of discarded shirts are recycled into new clothing, with shirts ending up as single-use, thrown out and part of America’s mass waste problem.
Ora’s merch merely adds to that problem, and as people are criticising her for on Twitter, it suggests she didn’t think about what she could actually do to help.
Next to Gal Gadot’s “moment,” Ora’s response reminds us that celebrities can still be largely divorced from the people actually affected by this crisis. Celebrities may be able to catch the virus just like us, but that doesn’t mean they’re suffering from financial hardship because of job cuts and instability like we are.
As Gadot and Ora demonstrate, many have the influence to make a difference and clearly have finances to support people and institutions in need of funding during these times, but often don’t approach it in the best or most sensitive way.
So how can celebrities like Gal Gadot be better
Ultimately, celebrities have a duty in times like these to use their platform to educate their followers on appropriate social measures and procedures. The importance of social distancing and flattening the curve, what it’s like to be tested and even, the experience of having it and warning others.
Even ignoring the very sheer amount of wealth they have to offer to the WHO, United Nations and national and international government and medical bodies, celebrities can just encourage people to take this seriously. Just like Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande and Idris Elba have done, use your privilege to make a difference for others rather than just for self-gain.
In fact, this self-isolation period will make us cherish what really matters to us, and whether we really need people like celebrity-like figures around. As TeenVogue’s Gianluca Russo puts it, “we are currently living in a time where we are being questioned about which parts of our everyday lives are essential, so it only feels right to question everything else, too.”
And, there are some celebrities that are setting a good example
Earlier in the month, Cardi B shared a video of her dressed in a stan-worthy golden chain dress criticising the Trump administration’s response to Covid-19 and people who were continuing to go outside and not take the virus seriously. Echoing her gift as a musical rapping genius, she ended the clip with a naturally rhythmic warning, “Coronavirus! Coronavirus! Shit is real! Shit is getting real!”
Soon after, iMarkkeyz remixed the closing statement into a beat he made, turning the song into the internet’s newest banging anthem, “Coronavirus.” The song soon became a TikTok meme, and, as of Friday, sits at no. 4 on the U.S. iTunes charts. In response, Cardi B and iMarkkeyz have announced that all proceeds of the song will go towards organisations dealing with the pandemic and families affected by it.
While both Rita Ora and Cardi B are turning their brand into charity, the way they came about it is extremely different and important.
And, Cardi B is just one of a handful of celebrities who are donating their near infinite supply of money to a greater cause during these trying times.
According to Billboard, when Covid-19 was first sweeping through China in early February, Justin Bieber shared a video on Instagram, reminded people in China to hang in there and donated money to the Beijing Chunmiao Children Aid Foundation. BTS’ Suga donated roughly $800,000 USD to a disaster relief organisation in his hometown, as Army members donated their concert ticket refunds to coronavirus relief groups.
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Watching the news I couldn’t imagine how scary it would be if a new disease was effecting my wife and my family and friends. China we stand with you as a collective humanity and have made a donation to support. Whether it be this or the fires of Australia we all need to be there for eachother. Shout out to my friend @kriswu for the conversation.
Lil Nas X and Megan Thee Stallion both turned to Twitter and pledged to send money to fans who had been financially affected by the Covid-19 pandemic via Cash App.
Choices, Ora. Choices.