JACKSONVILLE, Alabama – There are remarkable female musicians who prosper in the donation game to support causes and raise awareness. Ten women over the years have redefined what it means to be a dedicated philanthropist.
Female rapper extraordinaire Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott exemplifies the hard-working ethic of a part-time entertainer and a part-time donor. When she is not in the studio, Elliott dedicates her time as an activist to raise awareness for AIDS research, animal rights and abuse alleviation, among others. In 2007, Missy Elliott garnered national television attention when she granted underprivileged teens several scholarships to weight-loss programs, as means to sustain a healthier lifestyle.
Another groundbreaking woman to hit the philanthropic margin is Janet Jackson, who has recently sparked headlines for her much-talked about return to the pop forefront. Jackson has been active in giving back to communities by relieving social discouragements in youths. During the release of her 1989 album, “Rhythm Nation,” Jackson donated ticket sales of her high-grossing “Rhythm Nation 1814 Tour” to educating programs like Cities in Schools, which works to prevent and minimize the academic drop-out rate.
The singer would additionally channel support for AIDS research with the foundation amFAR, to which Jackson donated proceeds from her 1997 recording “Together Again.” Jackson has served as the organization’s longtime ambassador to urge nationwide attention in support for AIDS testing.
Another go-getting woman includes R&B singer/actress Ashanti, whose charitable contributions date as early as 2003. The former Jennifer Lopez backup artist and longtime gay rights activist grasped alarming attention with her moving urban-pop visual, “Rain on Me,” which illustrated the extreme horrors female victims face in an environment of domestic abuse. The music video saw heavily rotated release on BET and MTV during March of 2003, which coincided with National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Aside from raising awareness about abuse, the “John Tucker Must Die” actress has also branched support in giving back to children. A longstanding supporter of the Make-A-Wish foundation, Ashanti made headlines throughout 2012 when she was selected as ambassador for Jumpstart’s Read for the Record, a campaign dedicated in providing high-quality early education, and sought to break academic records by encouraging youths to read the same book on the same day.
It is not just R&B/hip-hop musicians that mobilize as charitable powerhouses.
British soul-pop singer Joss Stone has aided those victimized by natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina. In 2005, the “Spoiled” British vocalist partnered with New York-based North Shore Animal League America to raise awareness about saving homeless pets following the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Stone maintained a strong desire in providing awareness due to personal frustration concerning the strays being “ignored victims.”
In 2007, Joss Stone was branded a “Change Ambassador” for her partnership with CBS Radio. She implemented several private meet-and-greets during a New Orleans tour and collaborated with 40 selected fans to aid in rebuilding homes for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
In the past decade, Stone has additionally steered the humanitarian wheel as an effective proponent for the international foundation Amigos, a small Uganda-based charitable organization. Amigos requested Stone’s involvement in the opening of an education-training center for underprivileged teens.
Similarly, Shakira, a native of Colombia, has touched stones with her work as a founder for the Pies Descalzos Foundation, or Barefoot Foundation, which gives back to impoverished youth within Colombia and its neighboring countries.
Among the many goals of the organization, Shakira disclosed to “Americas Quarterly” that the Barefoot Foundation will not rest until every child acquires quality education and the promises of the Millennium Development Goals have been met. With the former in mind, Shakira further elaborated that she and the organization will continually strive in setting early childhood development (ECD) as every Latin American nation’s priority.
Since 1997 the Barefoot Foundation, named after Shakira’s third LP, has established over five schools alongside implementing proper access of nutrition and education to over 30,000 families and children in the exotic Colombia.
In December 2002, the hypnotic “She Wolf” singer donated over 10,000 pairs of tennis shoes to impoverished children of her native Barranquilla, Colombia, on behalf of Barefoot Foundation.
In between work for Barefoot Foundation, Shakira and her close friends founded the ALAS Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to eliminate poverty and stabilize ECD programs across Latin America.
Shakira’s continuous endeavor to raise awareness of international education granted her the title as the youngest “Goodwill Ambassador” of UNICEF in 2003. Shakira went on to use her popularity as a voice-box for the foundation. In 2011, she met with a group of impoverished girls in Rajasthan, India, some of who were married off before the age of 18, to voice awareness of the young girls’ potential to increase economic growth for Rajasthan through proper education.
No stranger to providing a unique cause, multi-platinum seller Alicia Keys is known for her work as a key humanitarian in aiding causes such as AIDS and global poverty. In 2003, the “Fallin’” songstress took part in the foundation Keep a Child Alive to impement care and support for those largely affected by AIDS. In the same year, Keys was appointed as the organization’s ambassador.
To further solidify her statement, Keys collaborated with fellow humanitarian Bono of U2 in November 2005. The two recorded a song titled “Don’t Give Up (Africa).” The track was recorded to provide awareness of suffering children in impoverished countries in Africa.
In 2006, Alicia Keys took part in a missionary trip to Durban, Africa to explore and treat those infected by HIV/AIDS. Keys told ABC reporters that she and Keep a Child Alive were preparing a fundraiser to garner one dollar per child for daily use of an anti-retroviral treatment.
In 2007, Keys spoke with New Jersey reporters of “Teen Ink” to share some of the tactics American youths are taking to generate awareness. These tactics include lemonade stands and opening several college chapters.
Additionally, Keys has been involved in “Frum tha Ground Up” and “Teens in Motion,” in order to motivate underprivileged youths and provide safe environments for those aspiring to dance and sing.
R&B/pop’s highly renowned Beyoncé follows similar suit with her string of accolades.
In late 2007, Beyoncé and Kelly Rowland donated over $500,000 to their hometown church for a recreation center in Houston, Texas; this later initiated a collaborative idea with the church’s pastor in launching a multipurpose recreational complex named the Knowles-Rowland Center for Youth. The pair would additionally utilize their star-power years later to designate an accompanying organization, the Survivor Foundation. The Survivor Foundation acquired $400,000 in donations that were focused toward relieving those victimized by Hurricane Katrina.
In March 2002, MTV reported that Destiny’s Child had further endeavored to raise attention of HIV/AIDS by donating a combination of 300 custom-made Destiny’s Child dolls and over $30,000 to the retreat program AIDS Foundation Houston.
Since 2003, in the wake of her groundbreaking success as a solo performer, Beyoncé has been a proponent in aiding global regions suffering from hunger. In November of 2003, Ms. Knowles took part in a South African concert to raise awareness of the relief program Unite Against Hunger, which aims to provide immediate hunger aid to more than 80,000 South African natives per month. Support for the foundation derived from Beyoncé fans donating canned goods.
Four years following the courageous tactic, Beyoncé partnered with America’s Second Harvest, the Nation’s Food Bank Network and the Greater Chicago Food Depository in a hopeful effort to repeat similar results within the United States. They hoped to achieve success by holding donation drives during pre-concerts of “The Beyoncé Experience Tour.” The “Crazy in Love” musician requested attendees to either donate canned goods or contribute $5 or more in efforts to relieve Chicago of domestic hunger.
Roughly a year later, Beyoncé donated her $4 million worth paycheck of her acting gig in “Cadillac Records” to the nonprofit drug rehabilitation center Phoenix House. Additionally, she would go on to open a beauty center within the recovery facility to provide comfort and healthy social interaction among female patients yearning for a better conditioned life.
Hip-hop’s Lil’ Kim may be known for her pornographic-styled lyrics, but her stint as a philanthropist adds a soft touch to the rap star’s “hard core” image.
In February 2001, Lil’ Kim served as a spokeswoman for M.A.C. Cosmetics’ Viva Glam III campaign, going on to break records for acclaiming M.A.C. AIDS Fund to philanthropic victory with over four million dollars raised for HIV/AIDS victims, the most raised in a lone year.
Later in the year, the controversial “Jump Off” rap-star would go on to take part in a radio recording with fellow philanthropists like Beyoncé, Alicia Keys and Bono to raise money for AIDS research. The Marvin Gaye-sampled tune was released in early December 2001 under the collective title “Artists Against AIDS Worldwide” to coincide with World AIDS Day.
Proceeds garnered from the single were donated to United Way’s September 11 Fund, an organization dedicated to healing those victimized by the 9/11 attacks.
As early as 2004, following an abusive relationship, Lil’ Kim would launch the respectively titled Lil’ Kim Cares Foundation, as a hopeful effort to heal battered women and neglected children and assist in crises such as HIV/AIDS and homelessness.
Inspiration for the establishment derived from Kim’s personal experience with domestic abuse, which began to grow increasingly violent. The musician developed blotted blood clots along her spine alongside a repeatedly fractured nose.
In 2007, the “La Bella Mafia” superstar kick-started the foundation into further movement by donating personal high-priced collectibles to a silent auction at Washington D.C.’s missionary center MusiCares, an also-known charitable factor of the Grammy’s Foundation. Support for the donations came from urban entrepreneurs like Diddy, LeBron James and Kimora Lee Simmons.
Aside from her personal foundation work, Lil’ Kim has been a component in support of the nonprofit Children Uniting Nations program, which provides stable mentors to foster youth. The record-breaking female rapper’s endorsement would go on to accumulate partnership from high-profiled organizations such as “Billboard” magazine.
Mariah Carey has also been highly proactive in various charitable organizations over the decades.
In late 1993, Carey donated proceeds from her eighth consecutive number-one seller “Hero” to those affected by the New York-affiliated Long Island Rail Road massacre.
The following year, the “Butterfly” heroine donated over one million dollars to the nonprofit summer program Fresh Air Fund, in an effort to establish awareness of Camp Mariah, a camp for specialized servicing to impoverished children of New York. Those enrolled in Camp Mariah were typically children under the age of 14. These children are encouraged to take on science and media classes alongside career skills courses and athletic activities.
In 1995, during the release of her timeless classic “Always Be My Baby,” Carey promoted awareness via the single’s music video. Three years following the music video release, the unstoppable record-breaker attained further recognition when she was appointed by former New York mayor, Rudolph W. Giuliani, as a celebrity spokesperson of Administration for Children’s Services, or ACS. Carey’s goals as an influential speaker included her national public service announcement to aid foster children with permanent, caring families and establishing key plans outlined within the ACS Reform Plan.
A supreme vocalist and longtime Make-a-Wish proponent, Mariah Carey has held additional ties with VH1’s Save the Music Foundation, an establishment dedicated to saving academically-based music programs. In 2003, Carey auctioned an autographed microphone alongside personal belongings in an effort to rally high bids that would go directly to the organization.
Aside from in-state work, in 2005, the “We Belong Together” starlet worked alongside fellow philanthropists Alicia Keys, Joss Stone and Beyoncé. The philanthropists were featured in the free, five-continent Live 8 concert series to provide awareness of extreme global poverty.
As further aid to relieve global threats, in 2008 Mariah Carey signed on as Hunger Ambassador for Yum! Foundation’s World Hunger Relief to eradicate global starvation and serve as the literal “poster child stamp” for 36,000 franchises, such as Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, in over 100 selected countries. Carey’s contribution managed to raise roughly $20 million for United Nations World Food Program, surpassing Yum!’s collective amount of $16 million the year prior.
Last but not least, the late Whitney Houston, more affectionately known as “The Voice,” dominated the 90’s with her numerous philanthropic contributions. Among them include her role as founder of a global nonprofit, the Whitney Houston Foundation for Children Inc., a relief center caring for those largely disabled by homelessness.
Donations yielded by the foundation were noted as early as 1991 when Houston’s foundation donated hundreds of thousands of dollars from her “Star Spangled Banner” Super Bowl rendition, which was directed toward families of military personnel who served in the Gulf War.
In 1997, the foundation garnered $300,000 in proceeds of ticket sales from Whitney Houston’s Washington D.C. concert’s opening night. The massive funds would then be donated to the Children’s Defense Fund, which serves underprivileged minority children.
Generous grants collected throughout the 90’s would then be utilized by the foundation for the establishment of various recreational facilities such as the Whitney Houston Pediatric Special Care Unit at New Jersey’s UMDNJ University Hospital. Increased funding would then support the Harlem, New York Hale House’s and accompanying support center Rainbow House’s respective recreational programs, such as the former’s “Time Out for Moms.”
Aside from funding disbursement, Houston supported various activities within the Whitney Houston Foundation for Children Inc., often implementing fun get-together programs that would range from children’s holiday parties to summer sports camps within both the United States and Africa to generate vast interest. In 1999, the “My Love Is Your Love” legend collaborated with friend Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott in organizing a celebrity choir for the foundation’s annual Christmas party.
Among accompanying charitable contributions, the “I Will Always Love You” power vocalist donated a staggering $300,000 to South African children charitable organizations.
Moreover, Houston would go on to heavily endorse the Children’s Diabetes Fund and the St. Jude’s Hospital Fund in combating life-threatening diseases in energetic, optimistic children. Houston would later be pinpointed and awarded for her contribution of six million dollars for Children’s Diabetes Fund.
Each of these ten aforementioned superwomen manages to redefine the meaning of a consistent, hard-working philanthropist. Scoffing at the ideal of publicity and attention, these women continue to inspire future generations of donors and contributors who wish to follow in their footsteps to cement a life-changing difference.
– Jeff Varner
Sources: H.E.A.R., NME, BMI, MTV 1, MTV 2, Billboard 1, Philly.com, The Lisa Lopes Foundation, Lidrock, Jump Start, PRNewswire 1, PRNewswire 2, BBC, Los Angeles Times, UNICEF 1, UNICEF 2, The New York Times 1, ABC News, Billboard 2, Billboard 3, Teen Ink, The Women’s Conference, Life Beat, MTV 3, PRNewswire 3, Marie Claire, MTV 4, News 24, St. Petersburg Times, Market Wired, Billboard 4, MTV 5, MTV 6, All Hip Hop 1, My Fox, All Hip Hop 2, The New York Times 2, MTV 7, NYC.gov 1, NYC.gov 2, CBS News, The Washington Post, E!, Oprah, PRNewswire 4, The Whitney Houston Foundation for Children
Photo: Entertainment Industry Unity Movement Team