Commentary: It matters when celebs like Lady Gaga step up in times of tragedy

Lady Gaga arrives at the Patron of the Artists Awards on Nov. 8. On Tuesday, she visited wildfire evacuation centers around Los Angeles bearing pizza, coffee and comfort.
(Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Lady Gaga decided to carry the pizzas herself as she made her way around Los Angeles-area wildfire evacuation centers earlier this week, delivering food, coffee and compassion to those displaced from their homes.

The show of support Tuesday came the same day the pop star and actress celebrated World Kindness Day, her favorite day of the year, according to a video she shared on Twitter.

“I encourage you all to do one act of kindness,” Gaga told her followers, “even if it’s for yourself.”

Gaga’s charitable display was nothing new for the star, having long made social activism and advocacy a central part of her fame. From LGBTQ rights to anti-bullying to numerous charitable campaigns (including her own Born This Way Foundation), the musician is nothing if not actively seeking to do good.


Yet it’s easy, especially when it comes to Hollywood, to be suspicious.

Gaga is a front-runner for an Academy Award for her acclaimed turn in “A Star Is Born.” Of course she’s out there hand-delivering pizzas and rubbing shoulders with the less fortunate!

There’s a cynicism that sometimes shadows celebrity charity, an assumption that every move is calculated and that good publicity is priceless.


Why do we care so much about what celebrities do anyway? And when they do good things, why are we so suspicious of their motivations?

Plenty of stars have announced their good deeds in the wake of recent California tragedies, including Sandra Bullock’s $100,000 donation to the Humane Society and Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth donating $500,000 to the Malibu Foundation. But why promote it? Why tell the world all about the good things you’re doing?

Because like it or not, some of us still value what famous people do and think and care about.

When venturing out to visit shelters this week, Gaga was seeing people at the very worst moment in their life, driven away from their homes by flames and worried there will be nothing left to return to.


But one of the biggest stars on the planet stopped by and visited, brought them pizza and talked for a while. Made them feel human at a moment when it would be easy to think the whole world had already forgotten about them.

By not just donating funds, but arriving on the scene, Gaga sheds a global spotlight on victims of a tragedy that continues to unfold.

Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth donated $500,000 to the Malibu Foundation in the wake of recent California wildfires.
(Evan Agostini / Invision/Associated Press)

You see this in the wake of many tragedies, including Lin-Manuel Miranda’s activism for Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria or J.J. Watt after Hurricane Harvey, celebrities using their powers for the greater good.


And the recent California crises are no exception, as stars have used their platforms to support first responders and victims of both the wildfires and the Thousand Oaks shooting, whether it’s on social media or from the podiums at awards shows.

Good works are good, no matter the motive. Some people are moved to donate when they see the generosity of celebrities. Some lives are improved when someone untouchable shows them kindness. Artificial light shines just as brightly as the real thing, and the world is too dark as it is.