It is common for Hollywood celebrities and other stars to invest time in charitable causes. But once the cameras are off, the unsung heroes of international famine and despair quickly find out who really cares, and who forgot to leave their ego on the private jet.
Big names like Sean Penn, Bono, Angelina Jolie, and George Clooney come to mind when one thinks of the modern celebrity humanitarian. Always traveling, telling horror stories on late night television, and sometimes, nettling the rest of us with their political messages.
But which celebrities are actually loyal to the cause of easing international suffering?
In a new behind the scenes (and anonymous) exposé published in the Guardian, one aid worker reveals the horrors of actually working with some of these people on the front lines of a disaster, and claims some stars are more worried about the lavish amenities of home than the plight of the people they signed on to help.
Of those receiving praise for their relief efforts, Angelina Jolie, Orlando Bloom, and Matt Dillon are firmly committed to helping victims of disaster, according to the anonymous author.
For her work with the United Nations, Jolie vigorously studies the countries and people she visits, colleagues say.
“She knew more about refugees, and had been to more places than I had,” said one worker. “She had her own cameraman, so all I had to do was find the locations and the refugees.”
Another person who had worked with Jolie agreed, writing: “I was impressed with her in Haiti, in Jordan and in Sri Lanka. She left experts speechless every time.”
Bloom and Dillon allegedly blend right in on their aid missions, and Dillon once went unrecognized while reporting for duty. Even soccer star David Beckham pulls his weight and demands time to coach up local kids, an aid worker said.
However, not all celebrity philanthropists are created equal. According to the tell-all, actor Sean Penn and singer Christina Aguilera turned 2010’s earthquake disaster in Haiti into a calamity of egotism, and one celebrity who was not named likes his booze while on location in Sudan.
While assisting at a camp in Haiti for his Haitian Relief Organization, Sean Penn was allegedly a “camp manager [who] was initially known for turning up at UN meetings and yelling at those present that if they didn’t do what he said he’d name them personally on CNN as holding up the relief effort,” an aid worker said.
Penn eventually learned to “calm down — and learn his trade,” but Aguilera took her diva ways to another level.
“In Haiti, in the UN base where most of the first responders lived, one agency outraged the entire base by taking over the only air conditioned tent — in which some slept due to the sauna-like conditions in the accommodation area — to host a cocktail reception for Christina Aguilera,” the author recalled.
The singer also allegedly had her security team screen potential guests, and sent at least one person away for not wearing enough clothing.
As for the unnamed celebrity, the author writes a friend said after excessive drinking, “I remember a night in a South Sudanese dive bar with a visiting internationally fancied film star.”
Adding: “He was blind drunk and when we went over to talk to him he started lecturing me about not knowing about South Sudan. ‘I mean, no offense, but how long have you actually been here?’ he asked. I said, ‘Over three years now.’ Him: (while creepily stroking my arm) ‘I really love aid workers.'”
While the post does praise some of their efforts, its author also asks if having celebs on board with relief efforts is really worth the trouble, and concludes: “Stop using suffering people as photo ops and props for your beaming celeb.”