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Inspiring Stories

Fantastic Friday: Lady Gaga Edition

Pretty cool stuff from Lady Gaga.  She’s starting a foundation (with her mother no less!), called the Born This Way Foundation, which seeks to “foster a more accepting society, where differences are embraced and individuality is celebrated.’  While she’s often over-the-top and engages in stunts that are designed to shock, if she succeeds in her latest endeavor, to shock people into accepting and being nice to one another, then that will be such a positive thing it’s hard to begin where to start with the superlatives.

But she’s certainly off to a great start, gaining the likes of Oprah Winfrey as supporters.  With Gaga and Oprah on board, how could this not work?  If it does, I suppose she’s probably got Justin Bieber as a “break-in-case-of-emergency” backup plan.  If not yet, she should.  That’s my erudite contribution to the effort.

Anyways, celebrities tend to lend their considerable influence to important issues in a positive manner much too infrequently in my opinion.  I admire that Gaga actually is an exception, in that she was out in front previously in advocating for the repeal of “dont ask don’t tell” as well as pushing for marriage equality and her backing of the It Gets Better project.  At the same time, I am pleased to see that she sees her role as being a facilitator to bring people together to empower them to think about how to find a solution to bullying, violence and hatred as opposed to thinking she has all of the answers.  As she says herself, she’s not interested so much in pressing public policy and legislative changes, given that, “there is no federal law that can change these problems. The only way to solve the problem is to change the environment.”

This is an important distinction, because, in the rare instances where celebrities have taken public stances on specific issues, the focus sometimes tends to shift to the celebrity as opposed to the issue.  And in some cases, this effect, despite the celebrity’s best intentions and the attention they bring to the table, can also be negative in certain ways.  For instance, I have heard horror stories from people in development of Sean Penn’s involvement in Haiti post-earthquake as he allegedly tried to dictate how things should work there without real knowledge of the local communities.  Similarly, some say George Clooney’s involvement in Darfur, while illuminating the issue, which was sorely needed, may have ended up prolonging the conflict because the repeated usage of the word “genocide” by he and his organization may have ended up alienating the Khartoum government.  And of course there is Bono, which depending on how you feel about him is either saving Africa through heroic efforts or is hindering the development of the continent by diverting funds that would have gone to smaller, local, potentially more effective organizations due to his sheer force of personality and celebrity.

I’m hoping that Lady Gaga and the rest of her star-studded crew don’t repeat those same mistakes with the Born This Way Foundation.  They have already served to bring attention to a very important issue, which is terrific.  Finding the solutions will be much harder, and will likely take a combination of the increased focus along with working together and empowering others who have already been or want to begin working on these issues.  Her initial statement is very encouraging in this regard as she says:

“The goal of the Born This Way Foundation is to challenge meanness and cruelty by inspiring young people to create a support system in their respective communities.  This is about changing . . . the school environment, and not putting the power in the hands of the teachers or the government.’’

Have a Fantastic Friday everyone!

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