Saturday, August 27, 2011

Celebs With A Cause

Celebs With A Cause
Laaleen Khan
In the words of music icon-turned-activist Bono, “Celebrity is ridiculous and silly…but it is currency…so I wanted to use mine effectively.” He did so by waging campaigns promoting vaccinations for Africa and debt relief to Pakistan and Haiti. As the front-runner of U2, Bono receives the support of world leaders for the same reason that images from refugee camps make worldwide headline news whenever Angelina Jolie visits them: his A-list celebrity status.

Celebrities may have ulterior motives like improving their PR image or receiving payment for campaigning, but many of them are genuinely passionate about their causes and remain active fundraisers. In Pakistan, local celebrities have begun to extend their public personas towards eliminating widespread ignorance and societal taboos that may lead to unnecessarily high mortality rates.

The ‘C’ Word
According to Dr. Faisal Sultan, CEO of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital (SKMH), “Societal taboos about cancer are common and the only way we can overcome them is by talking about them in the public sphere. There is inherent shyness in talking about some cancers, like breast and testicular, and celebrities can play an important role in bringing that dialogue in to the open.” As the hospital’s founder, Imran Khan lends his celebrity status to philanthropic activities that have included participation from Princess Diana, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Elizabeth Hurley, and various Bollywood and Lollywood personalities—Nadeem Baig is their current spokesperson for cancer awareness.

More women die of Breast Cancer in Pakistan than anywhere in the world because it is frequently diagnosed at an advanced stage. Dr. JoAnne Zujewski, M.D., (Head of Breast Cancer Therapeutics at the National Cancer Institute in Maryland) has said that early detection could reduce mortality rates in Pakistan. Recent celebrity efforts have included Faryal Gohar’s Public Service Announcement (PSA) for breast cancer awareness and Garnier’s sponsored workshops and seminars with SKMC featuring their brand ambassador, Juggan Kazim.

Fighters Aren’t To Be Pitied
Survival stories of well-known personalities continue to inspire confidence on a large scale. Actor Christina Applegate battled Breast Cancer with a double mastectomy, went on to win an Emmy award and founded her ‘Right Action For Women’ foundation to provide charity MRI screenings for breast cancer detection. Actor Fran ‘The Nanny’ Drescher survived Uterine Cancer and founded the ‘Cancer Schmancer’ organization for women “to transform into medical consumers and not remain helpless bystanders.” Cyclist Lance Armstrong, a Testicular Cancer survivor, famously went on to win the Tour de France seven times and founded the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Even musician Gregg Allman celebrated his liver transplant anniversary by holding a concert benefitting Hepatitis C awareness.

Innovative Campaigns

Activism is growing increasingly inventive as artists seek new ways to promote important causes. Musician Abrar-ul-Haque founded the ‘SAHARA for Life Trust,’ working to improve health and educational facilities in remote areas.  Celine Dion, who lost her niece to the condition, is the celebrity patron of ‘Cystic Fibrosis Canada’ and performs benefit concerts, films PSAs and makes regular donations. Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher recently featured actors including Sean Penn, Eva Longoria and Bradley Cooper in their “Real Men Don’t Buy Girls” PSAs against child sex slavery. Moore and Kutcher concentrated on social media because, according to Kutcher, “76% of the transactions for child sex slavery are actually happening online.”

Ryan Reynolds has promoted the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Reasearch awareness by running marathons. Maria Shriver, whose father was diagnosed with the condition, produced the HBO documentary, “The Alzheimer’s Project” as well as a report. The Nargis Dutt Memorial Charity Trust promoted the docudrama “1 A Minute,” (referring to the worldwide cancer mortality rate) featuring interviews of celebrity cancer survivors including Olivia Newton John, Melissa Etheridge, Lisa Ray, Mumtaz and Barbara Mori. Survivor Kylie Minogue spearheaded the ‘Fashion Targets Breast Cancer’ campaign featuring print ads shot by Mario Testino and fashion items at Marks & Spencer.

Other major international events have included ‘Live Earth,’ ‘Hope For Haiti’ and ‘Fashion Rocks.’ Bob Marley’s widow recently donated his song, “High Tide or Low Tide” to accompany a short film towards the ‘I’m Gonna Be Your Friend’ campaign in conjunction with ‘Save The Children.’ To benefit the current famine in Somalia, the cause is being endorsed on social networks by celebrities including Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Madonna, Eminem, Muhammad Ali and Justin Bieber.

Celebrity survivors from the subcontinent who eschewed taboos by going public

Iman Ali, 30, model/actor; Multiple Sclerosis
Iman went public with her fight against MS, a chronic degenerative condition of the brain and spinal chord, to spread awareness as it affects 5/100,000 Pakistanis, mostly women. MS hasn’t prevented Iman from continuing her successful career due to early detection and treatmentand she currently stars in the movie, ‘Bol.’

Lisa Ray, 39, Indo-Canadian actor/model; Multiple Myeloma 
Indo-Canadian Lisa blogged about her struggle with this rare form of Bone Marrow Cancer while undergoing a stem cell transplant and is writing a book on her experience. Lisa has continued her acting career since and currently hosts TV’s ‘Oh My Gold.’

Waseem Akram, 45, Former cricketer; Type A Diabetes
Waseem is the subcontinent’s icon for successfully living with Diabetes since he was diagnosed with the condition at 31, at the peak of his cricketing career. Waseem daringly went public about his diagnosis to increase awareness about Diabetes, and hasn’t looked back since.

Mumtaz, 64, Bollywood icon; Breast Cancer
The golden girl of 60s-70s Indian cinema, Mumtaz finally defeated Breast Cancer after undergoing a whopping 6 chemotherapies and 35 radiations. Mumtaz may have lost her hair at the time, but she never lost her sense of humour. Mumtaz has since received an IIFA Lifetime Award.


1 comment:

Sophia Husnain said...

why are most of us women so obsessed with looks? Get a life dude. The minute you start focusing on much more important issues, people may start to take you a tiny bit more seriously.

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