Cause Celeb

How Africa became the hottest continent for celebrity do-gooders and PR-seekers.


1984

Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” funds Ethiopian famine relief.

1985

USA for Africa responds with “We Are the World.”

1985

Bob Geldof organizes Live Aid; Bono visits Ethiopia, becomes what he calls “the worst thing of all: a rock star with a cause.”

1985

Run-DMC, Gil Scott-Heron, Bono, and other members of Artists United Against Apartheid pledge: “I ain’t gonna play Sun City!”

1992

Issac Hayes is named Honorary King for Development in Ghana. He later boasts, “They gave me my own island! It takes about an hour to circumnavigate it. Don’t know what I want to call it yet.”

1992

Michael Jackson crowned “Prince Amalaman Anoh” in Ivory Coast. Ebony dispels rumor that he refused to shake hands with locals.

1993

Michael Jackson performs “We Are the World” at Bill Clinton’s inaugural celebration. The Clintons and Gores go onstage to sing along.

1998

Clinton takes 12-day break from Lewinsky scandal with a trip to Africa.

2002

Bono and Bill Gates call for “Marshall Plan for Africa.”

2005

Angelina Jolie adopts an Ethiopian girl.

2005

Live 8 concerts. Some performers get $12,000 gift bags.

2005

Jessica Simpson describes her trip to Kenya to People: “They were in awe of the blonde hair. It’s so cute because they look at you like they are just trying to figure you out.”

2006

Lindsay Lohan says she’s headed to Kenya. (She’s not.)

2006

Angelina Jolie gives birth in Namibia.

2006

Namibian official claims Britney Spears is considering giving birth in his country. (She’s not.)

2006

“I Am African” ads feature Gwyneth Paltrow, Liv Tyler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Gisele Bündchen.

2006

Jay-Z goes to Nigeria. Gets a street named after him and is named “King of Entertainment.”

2006

Oprah helps launch Bono’s Product (RED) anti-AIDS brand.

2006

Madonna gets custody of a boy from Malawi; adopts a girl in 2009.

2007

After filming Ali in South Africa, Will Smith says, “We want to move to Africa…I definitely felt like there was magic there and it was a magic I wanted my family to experience.”

2007

Opening of Oprah’s girls’ academy in South Africa attended by Quincy Jones, Tina Turner, India.Arie, Chris Rock, Mary J. Blige, and Mariah Carey. Students get uniforms designed by Oprah and pillowcases embroidered with O’s.

2007

Simon Cowell and Ryan Seacrest visit Kenyan slums for “Idol Gives Back.”

2007

Senegalese-American hip-hop artist Akon defends owning a diamond mine in South Africa: “I don’t even believe in conflict diamonds…Diamonds are the least of our worries.”

2007

Don Cheadle, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon found Darfur group Not on Our Watch. Cheadle cohosts celebrity poker tourney to fight genocide.

2007

Bono edits Vanity Fair‘s Africa issue.

2007

Paris Hilton says she’s going to Rwanda:  “I know [Rwanda] went through a lot of traumatic experiences, and I feel like if I go there, I can help save some people’s lives.”  Instead, she visits South Africa in 2008, where she gushes, “I love Africa in general—South Africa and West Africa, they are both great countries.”

2008

Naomi Campbell says she’s planning on starting a modeling school and rehab clinic in Kenya.

2008

Bono calls for United States of Africa.

2008

Angelina Jolie announces, “We will be building a TB/AIDS clinic in Ethiopia. One we plan for Zahara to take over when she is older.”

2009

Viral video sensation: Salma Hayek breastfeeding a Sierra Leonean baby.

2009

Ashton Kutcher donates 10,000 mosquito nets in a bid for 1 million Twitter fans.

2009

After visiting diamond mines in Botswana, Kim Kardashian blogs, “I used to assume after watching the movie Blood Diamonds [sic] that diamonds were not acceptable to buy from Africa. However, it is the complete opposite!”

2009

The Reverend Jesse Jackson inherits Michael Jackson’s princely title.

2010

Prosecutors allege that former Liberian president and warlord Charles Taylor once gave a blood diamond to Naomi Campbell.

 

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This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

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