How celebrities are reacting to COVID-19—from charitable to cringeworthy
How celebrities are reacting to COVID-19—from charitable to cringeworthy
Through social media, people can follow and connect with some of their favorite film and television actors, artists, singers, professional athletes, reality stars, and other prominent media figures. Growing social media usage means more people are exposed to the statements celebrities express publicly. And because many believe with great power comes great responsibility, the things celebrities say on social media may be perceived with heightened significance during the current coronavirus pandemic.
Celebrities and public figures have often used their social clout and wealth to promote various causes. While most celebrities are not medical experts and thus not primary sources of health and safety information, it's generally believed that their vast social media presence can promote knowledge and ideas meaningfully.
Amid the current coronavirus pandemic, many celebrities have gone the extra mile to donate face masks and ventilators to health care providers. Others have amplified discussions to help those who are especially devastated by the current pandemic. However, it seems a handful of other celebrities are using their power and social influence irresponsibly. Some have spread misinformation that could prove to be harmful. Others have expressed defiance toward stay-at-home orders or total callousness towards the casualty rate of the virus.
Several prominent figures may have had good intentions with their public statements, but the public may have viewed them as hypocritical if those statements weren't paired with the willingness to donate personal wealth. In fact, many of these celebrity reactions have been viewed as empty, tone-deaf, and overly sentimental.
Stacker scoured local and national news websites from March 2020 onward to compile 25 charitable and 25 cringeworthy celebrity reactions to the coronavirus pandemic. Read on to see if any of your favorite celebrities have been acting in goodwill or in bad faith.
You may also like: 50 celebrities you might not know are LGTBQ+
Popstar Lady Gaga and the group Global Citizen took the lead in a music festival called "One World: Together at Home," which took place on April 18, featured artists like Billie Eilish, Lizzo, and Lady Gaga herself, and benefited the World Health Organization. Even before the concert, which raised $128 million, Lady Gaga herself raised $35 million for WHO.
"Wonder Woman" star Gal Gadot thought that she could raise spirits by virtually gathering several film stars for a group rendition of John Lennon's "Imagine," but it didn't have the quite same effect as "We Are the World." While featuring actors such as Will Ferrell, Mark Ruffalo, and James Marsden, the video from this ensemble of celebrities was lambasted for lacking in any real action.
Legendary country star Dolly Parton made an extraordinary contribution to help combat the coronavirus, giving to the Vanderbilt University Medical Center as they research and develop potential treatments for COVID-19. Parton has a history of making charitable donations, and her $1 million donation will undoubtedly aid in the search for a cure.
"High School Musical" and "Spring Breakers" actress Vanessa Hudgens made comments regarding COVID-19 in an Instagram video that were characterized as insensitive. Hudgens in the video stated: "Even if everybody gets it, like yeah, people are going to die, which is terrible... but inevitable?" She has since apologized for the remarks.
Jay-Z and Meek Mill
Rappers Jay-Z and Meek Mill are behind the organization called Reform Alliance, which aims to reform the United States criminal justice system. With prisoners being largely at risk from COVID-19 due to their confined environments, Reform Alliance saw fit to send 100,000 face masks to several prisons.
In mid-March, "Lost" and "Ant-Man" star Evangeline Lilly expressed defiance toward stay-at-home orders. An Instagram post from the actress showed that she was still dropping her children off at gymnastics camp while attaching the hashtag "#businessasusual." The post was seen by many as irresponsible.
Superstar singer and artist Beyoncé has participated in several charitable acts relating to COVID-19, but one such donation was with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. Beyoncé's BeyGOOD Foundation and Dorsey's #startsmall initiative donated $6 million to mental health organizations in several metropolitan areas, including Houston, New York, New Orleans, and Detroit.
Sports fans were shocked when the NBA completely suspended operations due to the pandemic, with the news even interrupting a Utah Jazz game. It had turned out that Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus—but not before he mockingly touched all of the microphones and recorders in a press room in response to the virus panic, creating a major safety hazard.
Rapper Future has been leading initiatives through his FreeWishes Foundation. During the pandemic, FreeWishes has teamed up with Atlanta Sewing Style to make masks for hospital workers and infected patients. With masks being amongst the medical supplies high in demand and low in supply, this "#MaskOn Campaign" from Future will certainly make hospitals just a little safer.
Rapper Gucci Mane isn't a stranger to controversy, but his latest had observers mark him as significantly insensitive. The rapper very simply tweeted, "I pray my haters die of corona virus," followed with a face mask emoji. As the death toll in the United States has climbed, the tweet from Gucci Mane has been looking increasingly worse.
You may also like: Top 100 country songs of all time
Restaurants all around the country have been shut down by states, and business has significantly faltered as a result. To aid restaurant workers, celebrity chef Guy Fieri started a fund with the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation that aims to help displaced restaurant workers directly.
Which businesses are considered "essential" has been contested by several companies, but the boyfriend of singer Grimes and CEO of Tesla Elon Musk has made a very loud argument for his own ventures. Reopening his company's car factory in California against state orders, Musk put on a challenging attitude saying, "If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me."
Cast and crew of 'Parks and Recreation'
With the production of many TV shows put on pause due to the quarantine, some old TV show casts have taken the opportunity to reunite. The cast and crew behind the NBC sitcom "Parks and Recreation" went further and televised their own reunion to make an original story, with a special episode sponsored by State Farm and Subaru raising $2.8 million for Feeding America.
Indian actress put out a not-so-well-received Instagram video, applauding from the front porch of her seemingly lavish home in "support" of medical workers and first responders. Realizing what was seen as an empty gesture, Chopra appeared to make up for the previous video by using her Instagram to showcase conversations she had with WHO officials.
Actress and model Jaime King shared a bizarre video that may have been well-intentioned but was viewed as completely tone-deaf. The video featured a voiceover that seemed to "thank" the coronavirus "for shaking us and showing us we are dependent on something much bigger than we think," amongst other things. As the number of deaths increases around the world, "thanking" a virus is very much ill-advised.
It should be no surprise that Spanish celebrity chef José Andrés, already renowned for his initiatives of meal donations during natural disasters, is leading a similar initiative in the wake of COVID-19. His World Central Kitchen continues to provide meals to residents and hospitals worldwide—even in the middle of a pandemic.
Actor Michael Rapaport tweeted a confusing and expletive-filled video addressing coronavirus in lieu of a more traditional and calmer PSA. Telling people to "stay the f*** home," amongst other colorful phrases, the video may have had good intentions but is not likely to be shown to children anytime soon.
NBA player Stephen Curry and his wife Ayesha made several charitable moves in response to COVID-19, starting the Feeding America fundraiser, donating over 1 million meals to the Oakland Unified School District, and teaming up with World Central Kitchen. Their philanthropy should come as little surprise, with the couple last year already having founded the Eat Learn Play initiative.
Musician Bryan Adams played a video of himself singing on the internet. It was fairly typical of several celebrity videos—until he later took a sharp turn on social media. Adams wrote an angry tirade blaming "bat eating, wet market animal selling, virus making greedy bastards" for the current world dilemma. Later that week, Adams apologized.
You may also like: 50 best space movies of all time
The Clara Lionel Foundation from musical artist Rihanna donated $5 million to several organizations in response to COVID-19. The groups include and are not limited to: Direct Relief, Feeding America, Partners in Health, The World Health Organization's COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, and the International Rescue Committee.
While many celebrity reactions to the coronavirus pandemic have been downright harmful, a particular response from rapper 50 Cent has been more strange and poorly worded. 50 Cent expressed concern for the health and wellness of those in quarantine, but worded it like so: "...a lot of people are not making adjustments, so they're just going to sit home and they're going to get fat. They'll get fat."
Oscar-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio is already known for his activism, and the coronavirus pandemic certainly hasn't slowed him down. In response to COVID-19 and the impact it has had on communities around the country, DiCaprio cofounded America's Food Fund, which already raised over $12 million to provide meals to people around the country. This is in collaboration with the World Central Kitchen and Feeding America.
You may also like: Best and worst Leonardo DiCaprio movies
In a video that became increasingly stranger, world-famous musical artist Madonna spoke to her followers on social media. Sitting in a bathtub and surrounded by rose petals, Madonna described the coronavirus as the "great equalizer." On the other hand, Madonna claimed that she tested positive for coronavirus antibodies and gave $1.1 million to research for a vaccine.
Television producer and actress Oprah Winfrey is practically synonymous with philanthropy, and her reaction to COVID-19 was no different. Winfrey donated $10 million to several organizations, with $1 million going to Leonardo DiCaprio's America's Food Fund initiative.
You may also like: The 50 richest people supporting the giving pledge
Amidst reports that the talk show host was challenging to work with, Ellen DeGeneres also reportedly kept much of the crew of her show "Ellen" in the dark regarding their pay. About 30 employees received no communication regarding their working hours or pay from producers for over a month, ultimately receiving a 60% reduction in pay.
Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds
Celebrity acting couple Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds donated $1 million to several overwhelmed food banks in the United States and Canada, specifically to the organizations Feeding America and Food Banks Canada. In classic Ryan Reynolds fashion, he also labeled COVID-19 as an "a**hole" in a related tweet.
The reaction to COVID-19 from Oscar-winning actor Jared Leto was more of a nonreaction. The eccentric figure shared on Instagram that he had been on a 12-day silent meditation retreat in the desert. As a result, Leto said he was unaware of the pandemic until returning home. Given Leto's already well-known eccentricities, this story was treated with mockery.
NFL quarterback Russell Wilson and his wife, singer Ciara, donated $1 million to the local Seattle community through Food Lifeline to combat the struggles that community members are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic. The gesture was especially important, as Washington state was one of the first states struck by the coronavirus.
Musician Liam Gallagher, formerly of Oasis, is best known as the lead singer for the song "Wonderwall," which has since become an internet meme and recurring joke. As a result, his rendition of what he called "Wonderwash" during the quarantine period while washing his hands was made fun of. Additionally, Gallagher shared that he believed that he had coronavirus when, in reality, the heat in his house was just up.
You may also like: VMAs: Most popular music videos in 2019
Being such a prolific figure, media personality Kylie Jenner is often under close examination and scrutiny, but some of her actions during the pandemic were widely appreciated. Jenner donated $1 million for face masks and other protective gear for health care workers, also donating 6,000 pounds of hand sanitizer to hospitals in southern California.
Socialite Kim Kardashian is one of many celebrities who filmed brief PSAs telling followers to exercise social distancing guidelines, with her 6-year-old daughter North West interrupting her video. At the same time, Kardashian also took time in March to reignite the feud between her husband Kanye West and country singer Taylor Swift, which was viewed as poorly timed and insensitive.
Singer-songwriter Halsey shared on Instagram that she had acquired 100,000 FDA certified 3-ply masks sourced from China and would donate them to several medical centers in the country. In the same post, Halsey recognized her privilege of living well-off alone and directed her followers to the nonprofit organization GiveDirectly.
Australian musician shared an image on Twitter that simply displayed the word "VIRUS" with the first three letters crossed out to spell "US." Replies to Sia's social media post, which offered no substance regarding the pandemic nor any sort of mobilization for relief or even self-care, were full of mockery and sarcasm.
Across the Atlantic Ocean, international tennis star Roger Federer announced on social media that he and his wife Mirka had donated 1 million Swiss Francs "for the most vulnerable families in Switzerland." In the same post, Federer urged his followers to join in with their own contributions.
You may also like: Controversial figures who still found success
Music artist Pharrell Williams tweeted out a call to action for donations to support hospitals around the country; however, the tweet was met with disdain in the replies, calling on Pharrell to donate money himself rather than asking his lower-income followers. Pharrell would days later respond with an apology and a clarification that he also donated.
Rapper Post Malone decided to relaunch his Shaboink lifestyle brand in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The company then teamed with Direct Relief to donate 40,000 N95 face masks to health care workers. Shaboink also offers hand sanitizers, masks, wipes, gloves, and other cleaning essentials.
The credibility of celebrity self-help guru and television personality Dr. Phil McGraw has long been put in question, but his comments regarding COVID-19 have especially raised ire. Dr. Phil appeared on Fox News, characterizing social distancing and nationwide shutdowns as overreactions and saying that deaths relating to automobiles, cigarettes, and swimming pools have not garnered the same reaction. Unsurprisingly, McGraw was widely criticized for his poor science and reasoning.
The metal band Metallica took Giving Tuesday to a new level by establishing All Within My Hands Foundation and making May a month of giving. Through this foundation, Metallica is supporting "workforce education, the fight against hunger, and other critical local services" and pledging to donate proceeds from merchandise to organizations that they are highlighting.
Media personality and son of singer Ozzy Osbourne, Jack Osbourne, reacted to the coronavirus pandemic rather strangely. Osbourne joked about his father's infamous biting off a bat's head. With urban legend and theories that COVID-19 originated from bats, the younger Osbourne stated: "Here's the thing: I am not letting a disease started by bats kill my dad… This is not some giant revenge plot from bats to get my dad back."
You may also like: 50 ways music has changed in the last 50 years
Through a lengthy and comprehensive Twitter thread, singer and star Ariana Grande shared many organizations that she has given to, while also urging followers to look into these groups and donate money themselves. These initiatives include actions to prevent prison pandemics, to fund immigrant families, supporting mental health, and many others shared weekly by Grande.
Comedian and actress Roseanne Barr has already been rolling in controversy in the past couple of years, and the controversy continued even in the time of coronavirus. Speaking to Norm Macdonald on his YouTube show, Barr shared her conspiracy theory that COVID-19 was a plot to wipe out the baby boomer generation.
Billy Ray Cyrus
Members of marginalized and minority communities have suffered the most from coronavirus in the United States, and some celebrities like country singer Billy Ray Cyrus have used their star power to spread awareness about this. Recently, Cyrus participated in an online town hall that discussed the disproportionate struggles that indigenous people from native nations are going through.
One of the stars of the reality show "Vanderpump Rules," Scheana Shay, came under fire for social media posts that expressed a lack of care over social distancing and other quarantine practices. "Call me 'ignorant' but I'm not gonna stop living!" she wrote in one such post. While Shay doubled down on her comments later in the day, she apologized the following day.
Colombian singer-songwriter and dancer Shakira provided medical support and relief to her hometown of Barranquilla. As the mayor of Barranquilla shared, Shakira donated thousands of N95 masks, along with ventilators.
You may also like: Quaranchella: How music is lifting spirits during the pandemic
Dr. Drew Pinsky
Celebrity doctor and television personality Dr. Drew Pinsky attracted controversy by calling the COVID-19 pandemic a "press-induced panic." Pinsky would later apologize for the remarks, but only after the release of an internet video that pieced together several comments he made on television over two months. Pinsky also claimed that coronavirus would not be as bad as the flu and that the probability of dying of coronavirus was less than being struck by an asteroid.
Glam rock star Sir Elton John utilized his AIDS foundation to launch a $1 million COVID-19 Emergency Fund. Through this fund, John hopes first responders and health care workers will be adequately protected, and the pandemic will not negatively impact HIV care for marginalized communities worldwide.
Television host Dr. Mehmet Oz has long been questioned for his pseudoscience and other inaccurate claims, and the coronavirus pandemic only led to Oz courting even more controversy. In speaking about steps towards reopening the United States from stay-at-home orders, Oz stated that reopening schools was "a very appetizing opportunity," sounding callous as he stated that a 2% or 3% mortality rate was all that was expected.
Singer-songwriter and pianist Billy Joel announced at the end of March that his Joel Foundation would be making a series of donations to help relief efforts spurred on by COVID-19. Alongside the Global Empowerment Mission, the Foundation donated masks and other protective gear to hospitals in New York.
Disgraced actor Kevin Spacey made another unwelcome return to the public eye through YouTube, posting a video containing his response to the pandemic. Spacey, accused of rape and predatory behavior, stated: "In this instance, I feel as though I can relate to what it feels like to have your world suddenly stop," apparently comparing his high-profile downfall as a result of sexual assault allegations to a worldwide public health crisis.
You may also like: Mistakes from the 100 worst movies of all time