• Paula J Leon

Living for Giving

Updated: Mar 7, 2021

In late 2020, professional model and “Pose” actor Indya Moore launched TranSanta, an initiative to support transgender youth in need by giving them Christmas gifts. Online donors could anonymously send a gift to those who told their stories and wishes in a letter to TranSanta.

“Trans issues don't receive much visibility or attention unfortunately, but this year has been the most violent and deadly for my community. It has been very upsetting,” Moore said on Instagram video announcing the launch of TranSanta in early December.

This initiative is just the latest of Moore’s many projects to advocate for trans rights, which have come to characterize the 25-year-old New York actor. My affinity for Moore began when I finally sat down to watch “Pose,” and only grew as I began to follow them on social media. I was impressed by how active they are online, constantly holding Instagram lives when danger strikes against the trans community. Moore, who has a networth of $3 million, is well-known for giving back to their community through outreach projects, something that many other bigger and wealthier names aren’t doing. Celebrities like Kanye West, who has a net worth of $3.2billion, have created their own charities but oftentimes the results haven’t been what was expected. West launched Kanye West Foundation a couple of years ago with the aim to fight school dropouts in underserved communities, but instead, all the money raised by the foundation went toward administrative costs and eventual shut down of the organization. It may not come as a surprise that West isn't the most charitable person given the fact that he said that his biggest pain is that “I’ll never be able to see myself perform live.” … ok. Meanwhile, Moore uses their platform and growing celebrity status to bring light to the truth of the dangers and struggles faced by the trans community.

Other artists worth mentioning who are giving back to their community include America Ferrera and Dr. Dre. Personally, Ferrera is someone whose career I aspire to achieve. I grew up watching “Ugly Betty” and “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” and always saw myself represented by her characters in many ways. Ferrera often uses her platform to educate her community through her work with Voto Latino, a grassroots political organization focused on empowering a new generation of Latinx voters in the United States. She also does a lot of work advocating for women’s rights and fighting sexual harassment. In October 2017, Ferrera began her participation in the #MeToo campaign, publicly revealing that she was sexually harassed when she was nine years old. Then, in early 2018, Ferrera became a founding member of the “Times Up” legal defense fund. Most recently, she became an investor in a primarily female group that was awarded a Los Angeles-based franchise in the National Women's Soccer League. The new team has since been unveiled as Angel City FC and is scheduled to start playing in 2022.

American rapper and entrepreneur Dr. Dre has given back to his community by donating $10 million dollars to fund a performing arts center at Compton High School in his hometown of Compton, California. The center is accessible to all students as well as to the community and features a 1200-seat-theatre as well as state-of-the-art facilities and equipment for digital production. When announcing this project, Dr. Dre said that he hoped it would be “a place for young people to be creative in a way that will help further their education and positively define their future.”

While there are great examples of celebrities utilizing their wealth to support their communities in meaningful ways, the list of famous names who don’t engage in purposeful philanthropy is longer. I’ve always wondered why more celebrities didn't donate to the Actors Relief Fund when Broadway shut down for almost a year. There are so many artists out there who are talented and hardworking but don't get the lucky big break. So why don't A-list celebrities with over a billion net worth give back to their community during this tough time? It could have just as easily been them, unless of course they were born into their career because of their parents like Ben Platt and Odessa Adlon… but that is some separate tea.

So many actors lost work since March 2020 when the lights shut off on Broadway and theatres across the world. While it is hard to estimate unemployment rates in the American entertainment industry, it is estimated that 170,000 people worked as actors, directors, camera operators, lighting technicians, set designers and other production workers and a large portion of them are currently unemployed. The Actors Equity was able to help their members for a short period of time to pay rent, but this doesn’t represent the majority of actors. It astonishes that actors like Chris Pratt, who was homeless before being discovered as he was waiting tables in Hawaii, didn’t donate to the Actors Relief fund. Same goes for “Schitt's Creek’s” Annie Murphy, who only had $3 under her name before she got her star role in the show, and now she doesn’t seem to care about helping actors who are as unfortunate as she once was. It's not like these actors are actively saying they don't want to help out but they haven't put a significant effort into using their fame and platforms to help out fellow actors. Sadly, if you didn't notice by these two cases, it is very much about luck. These two actors got to where they were because someone luckily decided to take a chance on them.

In government spending, historically, arts are the first thing to be cut. It isn't seen as necessary but what is everyone doing since the lockdown in march 2020? Consuming media, shows, movies, miniseries, comedy specials, Youtube videos. The entertainment industry is highly valuable, probably more worth of government spending than the large funds sent to the military. It is about time that everyone realizes the real value of the arts.

If you now see the value in helping the artists in your community, here are some ways to help:

  • Start a fund, or look for an existing one, to support your local theater

  • Hire local artists to do an online show for your Zoom birthdays

  • Do you know an artist who is good with kids? Hire them for a personalised princess adventure for your children

  • Hire them for acting lessons or public speaking coaching

Get creative in giving support and creating work for the arts community. Just because the faces of your local artists aren't on a billboard doesn't mean they are less hardworking or talented. And please, please, please. Stop asking them to do things for free, pay them.

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