I think celebrities that help the community are the best kinds of celebrities, don't you? Actually, I'm generally fond of anyone who gives back to their community, whether they're bankers, sanitation workers, or movie stars. Celebrities get a bad rap, with the general public viewing them as spoiled superstars who make a lot for doing very little. It's a mistake to think they're all selfish, however, because there are many celebrities that help the community out of the desire to do good. They give back to their hometowns and schools, worthwhile charities, animals, people, the arts – you name it.
A lot of the celebrities that help the community choose to give back through education, because they recognize the importance of educating children everywhere. Shakira is one of those, having started several schools in Colombia – so she's giving back to her home community. She's also a huge lobbyist, urging leaders in Latin America to increase their support of education, especially in the early formative years. Thanks to her schools, children who come from disadvantaged areas can get an education. Go Shakira!
You simply can leave Oprah out of a list like this. Oprah gives back so much to so many people, seemingly on a daily basis. It's the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa, however, that's making a huge impact. There have been controversies, no doubt, but it's doing such good things for so many little girls who need it. Oprah also donates to charter schools in the United States, cementing her focus on the importance of education.
3 Denzel Washington
Denzel and his wife Pauletta give back so much. Denzel is a spokesman for the Boys and Girls Club, along with spokeswoman Jennifer Lopez, but he and his wife also operate the Pauletta and Denzel Washington Family Gifted Scholars Program in Neuroscience. The couple's focus on education goes even further, with Denzel donating funds to Wiley College.
4 Angelina Jolie
Angelina Jolie is nearly as famous for her philanthropy as she is for her talent. She's well-known for her humanitarian efforts, and used her jewelry collection to open a school for girls in Afghanistan, right outside of Kabul. The great thing about Jolie is that she's not afraid to get her hands dirty, and she doesn't simply donate her time and money when the cameras are on.
5 Chris Rock
Chris Rock may be funny, but he's dead serious about his philanthropic efforts. The thing is, he's also very quiet about them. I won't say that makes him more sincere than other celebrities, but there's something special about knowing that he doesn't give a damn about recognition. Along with his wife Malaak, he donates to his local chapter of the Salvation Army, plus he created the Angel Rock Project. One of its programs, Journey for Change, empowers and encourages young people to serve their communities, and the world as a whole.
6 Rosario Dawson
Rosario Dawson is the founder of Voto Latino, she's a spokeswoman for the Lower East Side Girl Club, she works with PFLAG, Amnesty International, and Oxfam, and she frequently hosts events for charities and important foundations. There's little she doesn't do for her community, and she practices what she preaches. I love to see that!
Usher Raymond founded the New Look Foundation to help youth with service activities, career and professional development, mentoring, and much more. He has also started training programs for business and leadership, and an initiative called Powered by Service, to further help teens and young adults give back to and generally improve their communities.
8 Tony Bennett
Singer Tony Bennett is the co-founder of the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, along with his wife Susan. This is important for several reasons: it provides training and education; it's one of the only audition-only performing arts schools in NYC; and it literally gives back to Tony's community, since it's located near Astoria, where the singer grew up.
Ludacris much more than just a rapper and hip hop superstar. In 2001, he began a grassroots organization with William Engram and Chaka Zulu. The organization is meant to help and give back to young people, improve and strengthen families, and encourage the development of the community's economy.
Not all celebrities take their wealth, fame, and prestige for granted, by any means. So many of them do great things for the less fortunate, and it's really wonderful to see. Who's your favorite philanthropic celebrity? Do you think more of actors and musicians who give back in some way?