Celebrity Pandemic Posts Have Us Wondering—Do We Need Famous People?

Actress and Goop founder Gwyneth Paltrow wears a mask to the farmers market. (Photo credit: Instagram/@gwynethpaltrow)

There’s something about a multimillionaire—in this case, Madonna—talking in a bathtub filled with roses about a global pandemic being a “great equalizer” that makes us wonder if we ever need celebrities on the frontlines of awareness campaigns. Madonna, who has an estimated net worth of $850 million, could’ve volunteered to cover some people’s rent or mortgages as the United States shuts down to prepare for the continuing spread of coronavirus, but instead, she offered up some saccharine nonsense that helped no one. Luckily, some celebrities are making more sense: Britney Spears appeared to call for a strike and for wealth redistribution in a regrammed Instagram post of a Mimi Zhu quote that Spears captioned with, “Communion goes beyond walls” along with three rose emojis (the official emoji of socialists). Meanwhile, Hillary Duff called out people who aren’t taking Coronavirus seriously, and JoJo wrote an entire song about it.

Ultimately, as Dark Sky Lady and Clarkisha Kent wrote in a recent piece for Wear Your Voice, “Celebrities are also proving lately that they don’t know what the fuck to do when the world is not revolving around them and their vapid asses for once.” Here are some of the best and worst celebrity responses to COVID-19 to mull over as we all ponder the actual usefulness and cultural relevance of celebrities.

The Bad

1. Gwyneth Paltrow

On February 26, actress Gwyneth Paltrow, who’s also the owner of Goop, posted a photo on Instagram in a pretty complex-looking mask—as doctors are scrambling to find masks and being forced to reuse them, while people with disabilities who regularly rely on masks are finding it impossible to find them. Under the selfie, Paltrow wrote, “En route to Paris. Paranoid? Prudent? Panicked? Placid? Pandemic? Propaganda? Paltrow’s just going to go ahead and sleep with this thing on the plane. I’ve already been in this movie. Stay safe. Don’t shake hands. Wash hands frequently.” She donned the mask a second time on March 23, sharing on Instagram that she wore it for a walk to her local farmers market. Dr. Jen Gunter (who Paltrow has a long, strained history with), commented underneath, “Why do you need gloves and a mask? Isn’t your immune boosting supplement that you were promoting at the start of flu season effective?”

GladRags

2. Vanessa Hudgens

On March 17, Vanessa Hudgens, most known for portraying Gabriella Montez in Disney Channel’s High School Musical franchise and attending Coachella every year, decided to discuss COVID-19 on Instagram Live as she applied her makeup. She said Coronavirus is a “bunch of bullshit,” before saying, “Like, I dunno, I think it’ll last, like, a month?” She fluffed her hair and admired her own appearance while sharing this misguided and uninformed advice with her more than 38 million Instagram followers: “You know it’s like, be responsible, be chill, be prepared.”

3. Sia

On March 22, Sia tweeted a bright blue graphic that read “Virus.” The first three letters were crossed out in pink crayon, and the singer captioned the graphic “US” with a heart emoji. One commenter wrote, “So you giving any money or.” Others quickly began editing the graphic, with some turning it into a pro-Russia graphic and others creating their own versions that read “PANIC.”

4. Pharrell

Pharrell, who has an approximate net worth of $150 million, asked people to donate money to provide medical supplies to hospitals.

5. Priyanka Chopra

Self-proclaimed feminist Priyanka Chopra filmed a video of herself clapping on her balcony. Why? To join those clapping for social responders on their own balconies. This wouldn’t be such a horrible gesture if she weren’t an extremely rich woman married to an extremely rich man who hasn’t publicly committed to donating a dime.

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The Not-So-Bad

1. Mandy Moore

Singer and actress Mandy Moore posted a pretty standard photo on Instagram of nurses holding a sign that read, “We stay here for you. Please stay home for us.” The caption read, “Thank you endlessly to the doctors, nurses and all frontline healthcare workers. Let’s continue to do our part to help them out. #socialdistancing” It’s a safe choice in the range of celebrity pandemic posting.

2. Wu Tang Clan

Whomever runs the Wu Tang Clan’s official Twitter account tweeted an acrostic poem to inspire people to, per the “T,” “touch nothing,” and per the “N,” “never touch your face with unclean hands.” They’re also distributing prints of the graphic across New York City to remind people that social distancing is important.

Embedded rich media on Twitter

3. Cardi B

Cardi B has been vocal about Coronavirus, and in a recent Instagram Live video she called out celebrities for having easier access to medical resources, including COVID-19 tests, than the general public. “If 45 is getting on a podium and saying if you don’t have any symptoms of the Coronavirus…do not get tested, because we don’t have enough tests to test everybody. But if a celebrity says, ‘I don’t have no symptoms, I’m feeling good, I’m feeling healthy, I don’t feel like nothing, I got tested and I’m positive for the Coronavirus, that causes confusion.” She continued, saying middle- and working-class people are “not getting treated like…celebrities.” Cardi B then explained the testing process, the importance of self-quarantining, and the class divide preventing everyone from being able to quarantine. “All this shit….I feel like the government should not charge people for it.”

4. Fran Drescher

“Capitalism has become another word for Ruling Class Elite!” Drescher tweeted in response to another tweet calling for a strike on Tuesday. “When profit is at the expen[se] of all things of true value, we gotta problem.”

5. Daniel Dae Kim

Last week, The Good Doctor actor shared on Instagram that he’d been diagnosed with COVID-19. “Yesterday I was diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus,” Kim wrote in his caption. “Looks like I’ll be ok, but I wanted [to] share my journey with you in the hopes that you find it informative or helpful. Hope you all stay safe, calm, and above all, healthy.” He’s continued using his platform to discuss the virus, and more specifically, the racism Asian and Asian Americans are currently facing. Kim has also been vocal about the way sellers on platforms like eBay are taking advantage of the lack of medical supplies and selling false or expired products to people who desperately need them.

There’s more…

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by Rachel Charlene Lewis
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Rachel Charlene Lewis is the Senior Editor at Bitch. She has written about culture, identity, and the internet for publications including i-D, Teen Vogue, Refinery29, Glamour, Autostraddle, Ravishly, SELF, StyleCaster, The Frisky (RIP), The Mary Sue, and elsewhere. Her literary work, reviews, and interviews have been published in Catapult, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Normal School, Publisher’s Weekly, The Offing, and in several other magazines. She is on Twitter and Instagram, always.