One of the most popular posts on this website is my Crown Jewels list of Hollywood role models. Seeing the article’s success has reminded me that it’s always more satisfying to point out the positive in this world than the negative. Because of that, I’ve joined forces with good friend and fellow author Charity Tinnin to bring you a second list of even more people who are using their influence for the greater good of those around them, setting examples we can all learn from.
Again, inclusion in this list does not mean we endorse everything these people say and do. They are human, just like you and I, and they’re going to make mistakes. Today, we’re choosing to focus on the good rather than the bad, and there’s plenty of good to go around. With that said, here are our top ten Hollywood role models in addition to those from the last list.
10. Zachary Levi
After gaining nerd fame with Chuck, Levi used that power to create The Nerd Machine, a place for geeks to come together and share their love of all things nerdy. But this community is more than a forum to get excited about stuff; their motto is “Don’t build monuments, start movements to touch lives.” Through The Nerd Machine and Nerd HQ’s Conversations for a Cause, Levi and his community have raised thousands for Operation Smile, a charity that offers free and safe surgery to impoverished children suffering from cleft lip and cleft palate. And that’s something to get unironically excited about.
9. Emma Stone
Looking at Stone, you wouldn’t suspect that she was anything but self-assured. Yet she’s overcome childhood panic attacks to become one of Hollywood’s most talented, confident, and honest actresses (Stone still has occasional attacks, but she channels her anxiety into her work and baking). Not only that, she regularly speaks out against sexism and encourages others to be confident in who they are, regardless of whether or not they’re “traditionally beautiful.” On occasion, she’s been known to use her paparazzi photos to endorse charities, and she’s open about her real life, including her fondness for cupcakes and her one-time addiction to Farmville. For those of us who can’t serve charities in other countries or mobilize millions on social media, Stone is probably the most attainable role model in this Crown Jewels list.
8. Ben Affleck
As he puts on the cape and cowl for Batman, Affleck has already distinguished himself in a role that would have made Bruce Wayne proud. He founded the Eastern Congo Initiative in order to help that country stem its violence and cure its illnesses. Not only does he give money toward the cause, but he also spends time with the people in order to truly understand their situation. Why is Affleck so dedicated to making a difference in this country? Because, in his words, “A life lived for yourself is not much of a life.” Words to live by.
7. Chipo Chung
Chung is a lesser-known actress with parts on Doctor Who, Sherlock, and most recently A.D. The Bible Continues as Mary Magdalene. Not only did she graduate from Yale cum laude with a double major in Theatre and Fine Arts, but she also founded a charity called Sponsored Arts For Education, which uses local theatre and films to open doors for workshops to combat AIDS, female genital mutilation, unsafe drinking water, and abuse of the environment and of women. Chung is also involved with several other charities and organizations, including Peace Direct, RADA Council, and British Equity’s ICAF, making her a brilliant example of giving back to her community.
6. Penelope Cruz
Cruz is yet another celebrity who isn’t afraid to get involved and make a difference. She’s volunteered in Nepal, Uganda, and India, which included spending some time working at a leprosy clinic at Mother Teresa’s mission. She even donated the salary from her first movie to the mission. In 2002, she served as the president of a branch of the Sabera Foundation which provides education, employment, and health care to women in Calcutta. She’s visited the Pacific Lodge Boys’ Home, a shelter/school for rehabilitation of gang members and substance abusers, and she’s had at least one conversation that empowered a young man to beat his addiction. Wherever she goes, Cruz uses her photography skills to capture and share the stories of the less fortunate she’s met. Her humility and genuine desire to help others definitely earn her a place on this list.
5. Taylor Swift
Since Swift starred in The Giver, she counts as a Hollywood role model. And quite the role model she is, using her influence on social media such as Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram. Not only does she interact with fans on a regular basis, developing personal relationships with them, last Christmas she bought and wrapped personalized gifts for many of them, even delivering a few in person. When one fan couldn’t make a student loan payment, Swift wrote a check for the exact amount that fan needed. Recently, when Swift discovered her mother had cancer, she wrote an open letter to her fans sharing the news and encouraging them to make sure their parents are screened for cancer. Swift is a great example of tearing down the wall of fame and building relationships with others.
3 & 4. Chris Evans & Chris Pratt
These two are too close to call, and not just because they’re both Marvel heroes named Chris. Chances are good you’ve heard about their Superbowl bet which resulted in both of them visiting children’s hospitals in their respective cities, but this is far from the first time they’ve visited sick children, and it won’t be the last. Both have held Twitter campaigns for sick fans, and both publically support our military. Meanwhile, Evans has spent some time filming promos for his local history museum (appropriate for Captain America) and was spotted helping sweep a Marvel set and escorting Betty White to the stage at the People’s Choice Awards. Pratt, on the other hand, is an upstanding family man who stayed strong during his son’s premature birth. With two guys this awesome, it’s hard to pick one over the other, especially when everyone wins!
2. Harrison Ford
Ford may be famous for being an action hero, but he’s actually quite the hero in real life as well. He’s flown medical supplies and volunteers for Operation Smile and for Haiti earthquake relief, taking time to visit with the victims of that quake. Despite the fact that his flights saved many lives, he shrugs it off, saying, “This is not about me, it is just about doing what I can to help Operation Smile and the people of Haiti.” As if that weren’t enough, he once piloted his private helicopter to rescue a lost boy scout, an act worthy of Indiana Jones. Plus he’s provided free transportation to Special Olympics athletes and cancer patients in need of treatment, and he teaches kids to fly through the Young Eagles program. Definitely a pilot with a cause.
1. Stephen Amell
Another hero in real life as well as onscreen as the Arrow, Amell has made the most of Facebook, sharing life with his friends (he never calls them fans) and mobilizing them to fight cancer or to champion more honest, open, Sincerious dialogue about mental illness. He doesn’t just help with the big causes either; he’s also helped give a voice to smaller efforts like Prayers for Sophie, with everything from charity auctions to actually taking his family to hang out with Sophie and her parents. That’s the level of involvement we’re talking about here; whenever he can, he’ll personally meet and spend time with people who need his encouragement and support. As another example, he met with a family who had just lost a child to stillbirth, and he even dedicated his appearance at a Dallas Comicon to them. It’s that personal touch that puts him at the top of our Crown Jewels.
Do you agree with our list? Who are your favorite role models who should have made this list? Let us know in the comments below, and again, a huge thank you to Charity Tinnin for working with me on this article. Without her ideas and research, I couldn’t have done half of this. Check out her book Haunted, a semi-finalist in the 2015 Clive Staples Award, and give her author website a visit!