Who said politics and celebrity shouldn’t mix? When our politicians fail to voice matters of deep concern in our communities, celebrities are taking a stand and using their platforms and status to get important messages heard.
“I don’t believe my music is saying anything new in a sense…” said Ben Lee, musician, singer-songwriter and multiple ARIA Award winner.
“I think we need solutions at this time of our evolution to do with the environmental crisis, political stalemates, our understanding of enlightenment and the way we have been locked down in rigid belief systems… We need solutions and I don’t have any solutions, but what I can do as an artist is help create an atmosphere that is conducive towards solution-based thinking.”
Internal guidance for all
Like many celebrities, Ben started his career in the music industry hungry for fame, attention and validation. But with time, effort, failure and success, he gradually lost interest in these goals and now continues for different reasons.
“I think we have to look carefully at the impulse to want to have a platform… I definitely wanted a platform more than I had a sense of what I wanted to do with it, which is common for people who want to become famous…
“Today the size doesn’t matter so much. I could be playing to 10 people, 100 people, it doesn’t have to be in the thousands… it’s more about the quality of what I am sharing.”
Ben educates his fans on issues like spirituality, systems of knowing, the power of community, and creating change through his music, speaking, charitable projects, and ethical business coaching, because in his words, “We’ve clearly made simply unintelligent decisions with the way we treat each other.”
“If I can help my audience to relax, and be positive, and be hopeful and be focused, then hopefully they’ll come up with the solutions. It’s like parenting. You can’t tell your kid what to choose in their life exactly because they have their own journey, but if you help them relax, feel confident and feel safe, then you trust that their own internal guidance will take over from there…”
In March, Ben released his latest album Ben Lee Signs Songs about Islam for the Whole Family at the time of Donald Trump’s restriction on travel to the United States for people from six Muslim-majority nations.
Ben explained that, originally, it was going to be a series of five albums for the five major religions, but then he felt it was urgent to launch this album immediately on its own. “It stands for solidarity, not with a political movement or religious agenda, but with an eye for compassion, and urges us towards interfaith dialogue because we can learn so much from different religions when we approach them with an open heart.
“I am not a Muslim, but a student and admirer of the beautiful truths found in all religions. This is an album designed to draw attention back to the peaceful, spiritual and philosophic concepts at the heart of Islam.”
All proceeds from Ben’s album go to ACLU, which advocates for the freedoms of people who have been denied their entitled human rights.
A stand against trafficking
Then there’s Bethany Joy Lenz (or Joy, as she’s affectionately known by her friends), an actor, musician, director, producer and writer, who also uses her fame for social good. She works philanthropically with numerous global women’s rights organisations to use her platform and status to make a difference. “I think if you can create space to educate people, then do it,” she shared.
Joy admits that after starring as Haley James Scott on the television drama One Tree Hill for some time, she hit a lull. “It provided me with an opportunity to branch out into other areas I was passionate about.” A friend introduced her to the international human rights organisation Love146, which work to end child trafficking and exploitation through survivor care and prevention schemes.
“Nothing has struck me so deeply than how rampant child trafficking is… to me, harming children is the most heinous crime… this organisation is rehabilitating these children so that you can return to society and go back out in the world and contribute.”
Joy learnt that it is mostly young girls who are trafficked and her research into the very real implications of gender discrimination led her to discover the work of Equality Now, an international network of lawyers, activists and supporters who hold governments responsible for ending inequality, sex trafficking, sexual violence and harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation and child marriage.
“This group of lawyers will travel all around the world and stay in certain countries until laws are changed… Say, for example, in Yemen on the child bride issue or in parts of Africa or the Middle East where rape victims are forced to marry their rapist, they’ll stay there until the law is changed and the rapist is held accountable. Sometimes it takes years and years, but this is what makes the difference.”
Joy commits to donating 10 per cent of her pay check to these organisations and other causes she is passionate about, and speaking at events and across her online platform to educate her audience on how they too can help.
To learn more about these artists and their mission to speak up, visit the Dream For Others podcast by award-winning business and life passion coach, entrepreneur, writer and speaker Naomi Arnold.