2016 has been a roller-coaster of a ride of emotions for us all, particularly in the wake of the presidential election of Donald Trump. From the Dakota Access Pipeline protests to the very much still-necessary Black Lives Matter, the public has reacted, assembled, and made moves. It is a public, of course, that includes many celebs fighting for justice in 2016 — stars who have taken their fame and their celebrity and their platform and who have chosen to use it to fight for causes that are important to them, important to us all, and important for this country.
While it is empowering to see anyone go about bringing change and participating in something that they feel particularly passionate about, it is hard to deny the power and influence that comes with being a celebrity — and it is heartwarming to see that the following celebs have used their voices and their influence to encourage others to take a stand.
From Shailene Woodley's arrest while protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline to Lady Gaga's courageous admission of her own sexual assault — leading to a stunningly powerful Oscars performance bringing awareness to sexual assault — check out the celebs below who went above and beyond in fighting for justice this year.
1. Shailene Woodley
Shailene Woodley was on the frontline in North Dakota, protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline, when she was arrested and charged with criminal trespassing and engaging in a riot, TIME reported. (She pled not guilty.) At the heart of the matter, Woodley wrote in an impassioned essay in TIME, is that if we don't protect our water and our Earth, how will future generations even live?
"I was in North Dakota, standing in solidarity, side-by-side with a group of over 200 water protectors, people who are fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline," she wrote. "People who carry a rainbow of colors on their skin. People who gathered together because they realize that if we don’t begin taking genuine steps to protect our precious resources — our soil, our water, our essential elements — we will not have a healthy or thriving planet to pass on to future generations."
2. Katy Perry
In the wake of Donald Trump's election, Perry donated $10,000 to Planned Parenthood.
Beyoncé's Lemonade was one dose of female empowerment after another, but it also specifically celebrated her — and other women's — blackness. "I like my baby heir with baby hair and afros," she sings on "Formation." "I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils."
4. The Cast Of Hamilton
When VP-elect Mike Pence went to see Hamilton on Broadway, the cast had some serious words for him.
"We, sir, we are the diverse America, who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights," actor Brandon Dixon told the politician. "But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us."
5. Jesse Williams
In a deeply thoughtful, powerful, and moving speech at the 2016 BET Awards, Jesse Williams spoke from the heart about the Black Lives Matter movement.
"The burden of the brutalized is not to comfort the bystander. That’s not our job. Stop with all that," the actor stated. "If you have a critique for the resistance, for our resistance, then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression. If you have no interest in equal rights for black people, then do not make suggestions to those who do. Sit down."
6. Laverne Cox
Laverne Cox is arguably the most visible transgender woman in Hollywood — and certainly the one who is most willing to be an advocate for great change. In speaking out about the all-too-common violence against transgender women of color — while continually to break down barriers for trans people everywhere, like playing roles like Dr. Frank N' Furter in FOX's Rocky Horror Picture Show remake — Cox continues to be an advocate (and a hero) for trans people everywhere.
7. Matt McGorry
Orange Is the New Black actor Matt McGorry is an outspoken feminist, utilizing his social media presence to bring awareness to everything from Black Lives Matter to #NoDAPL to feminism.
8. Camila Cabello
With Trump's comments about wanting to "build a wall" between the United States and Mexico to stop immigrants from coming in, Fifth Harmony's Camila Cabello penned an emotional essay detailing her own immigration story on PopSugar. She wrote, in part:
I am so proud to be Cuban-Mexican. This country was built on immigrants. People who were brave enough to start over. How strong we are to leave behind everything we know in hopes of something better. We are not fearless, we just have dreams bigger than our fears. We jump. We run. We swim, we move mountains, we do whatever it takes. And so next time, when anybody wants to tell you they want to build a "wall" on our border, remember behind that wall is struggle, determination, hunger. Behind that wall, could be the next cure for cancer, the next scientist, the next artist, the next drummer, the next anything they work hard enough to become!
9. Lady Gaga
Sexual assault survivor Lady Gaga bravely sang "Til It Happens to You" — which she wrote for The Hunting Ground, a documentary about campus assault — at the 2016 Oscars in a hauntingly powerful performance. During the Oscars performance, Gaga was joined onstage by dozens of other sexual assault survivors, making for an incredibly powerful and courageous performance.
Kesha made headlines this year for her lawsuit against Dr. Luke (real name: Lukasz Gottwald), in which she alleges that the producer sexually assaulted her (Luke vehemently denies the allegations and sued Kesha for defamation). But she also made headlines for some inspiring words. In an Instagram post in May 2016, Kesha revealed that she has been "battling depression and an eating disorder" in an incredibly heartfelt post, but that she has "decided to take my life back."
"I have been battling depression and an eating disorder for a while now. my career is in a strange place and it feels like I'm fighting an uphill fight some days. but I have decided to take my life back. my freedom. my happiness. my voice. my worth," she wrote at the time. "I will not just f*cking be quiet and hide. today I will say f*ck it and live. So F*CK it. today I'm making that choice. AND IM HAPPY AS A DAMN CLAM. and also a big ol f*ck u if u wanna hate on my body. just remember that makes u look like a d*ckhead."
11. Kim Kardashian
In the wake of many black men being unjustly killed by police this year, Kim Kardashian penned a powerful response, using her celebrity and social media platform to urge everyone to take a stand — and contact their legislators and donate to the families whose sons were killed.
"It is our responsibility as Americans and as parents to create a safe future for our children. We must do something NOW. We must speak up until we are heard and real, effective changes are made," she wrote. "Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Sean Bell … and unfortunately so many more. Hashtags are not enough. This must end now."
Thank you for your voices, your words, and your actions, celebrities — and may you continue to use them.