Celebrities use their status and influence in many ways. At the beginning of quarantine, we saw the now infamous “Imagine” video, in which celebrities like Gal Gadot and Will Ferrell virtually sang together with the goal of giving us everyday citizens hope for the future. While critics mercilessly mocked the shallow and unproductive video, lately, as we near the 2020 presidential election, celebrities have been using their platforms for more meaningful action. They’re informing their fans about their specific political leanings and urging them to register to vote in this presidential election.
Political activism is not new to celebrities. Colin Kaepernick famously upended his career in 2016 by sitting during the national anthem. Ariana Grande, during her 2019 Sweetener World Tour, led one of the most successful voter registration efforts in HeadCount’s (a company that specializes in voter registration at concerts) 15-year history.
But public figures such as basketball player Shaquille O’Neal, rapper Snoop Dogg, musician Tyler the Creator, and actress and singer Selena Gomez voted for the first time this election. From a global pandemic to national calls for racial equality, celebrities who may have felt like their voices didn’t matter in the past are now taking how much power their voices and their votes have seriously.
In the months leading up to the election, more and more celebrities publicized their political views. Actor Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson publicly endorsed former-vice president Joe Biden for president on Sept. 27. Johnson has never previously endorsed a presidential candidate and said he has voted for candidates from both major parties in the past.
On Saturday, Oct. 3, one month before election day, rapper and singer Megan Thee Stallion performed her hit song “Savage” on NBC’s Saturday Night Live in front of a screen lit-up with the words “Protect Black Women.” She followed up her performance by writing an op-ed for The New York Times entitled, “Megan Thee Stallion: Why I Speak Up for Black Women.” In the article, she discussed the systemic racism that Black women face in this country and the judgment and skepticism she dealt with after she was shot in July this year.
Actress Jennifer Aniston informed her followers that she voted for Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) via Instagram on Oct. 27. She ended her post by writing, “it’s about the future of this country and of the world… PS – It’s not funny to vote for Kanye. I don’t know how else to say it.” While Aniston made large donations to both the 2008 Obama campaign and the 2016 Clinton campaign, she has never been this outspoken about her political affiliations.
Alternatively, rapper Lil Wayne publicly endorsed President Donald Trump on Twitter on Oct. 29, writing, “besides what he’s done so far with criminal reform, the platinum plan is going to give the community real ownership.” (‘The Platinum Plan is Trump’s plan for supporting Black Americans.) Lil Wayne has nearly 35 million Twitter followers and almost 500,000 likes on his tweet supporting Trump. Trump also found brief support from rapper 50 Cent on Instagram, and rapper Ice Cube helped build his ‘Platinum Plan,’ stating he didn’t care about political affiliation, just about who would best help the African American community. Ice Cube has still not publicly announced who he voted for in the 2020 presidential election.
In a year unlike any other, it’s no surprise celebrities are getting more political. As of Oct. 31, the early voting ballot count surpassed two-thirds of all ballots cast in the 2016 presidential election, and the 2020 presidential election is expected to have one of the highest voter turnouts in recent history. A lack of voter turnout was one of the many reasons Trump won his presidential campaign in 2016, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center, and it looks like people all over the nation, celebrities included, are making sure that mistake isn’t made again.