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10 Trans Trailblazers Who Made History

It has been an exceptionally noteworthy year for the trans community but the work to advance visibility and safety is far from complete. The extraordinary individuals below are artists, scientists, CEOs and pioneers who have made tremendous strides in bringing acceptance and equality to the fore and who continue to work tirelessly to keep up the momentum. We celebrate their creativity, love and fearlessness as an integral part of Pride week.

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Photo by David X Pruttig/BFA.com
Laverne Cox
The actress is practically a household name due to the runaway success of the Netflix series Orange is the New Black and her memorable Time magazine cover in spring of 2014 highlighting the progress and state of transgender individuals. Cox fearlessly champions trans issues, most notably violence against trans men and women and especially against trans people of color. She does not let the recent, and very welcome, wave of trans awareness obscure the danger that the trans community still faces on a daily basis.

christine jorgensen.jpgChristine Jorgensen
Trans visibility is challenging and dangerous enough but imagine living it during McCarthyism when your life could be ruined for simply having friends who might be communist. Jorgensen was the first widely-recognized trans woman to go through SRS and returned to the states in 1952 after a highly-publicized procedure in Europe. She challenged the idea of herself as a curiosity and  was a role model for trans women and men as a fiercely intelligent and graceful advocate until her death in the late '80s.

martine rothblatt.jpgMartine Rothblatt
Rothblatt is a pioneering attorney and entrepreneur who founded SiriusXM radio and helped create the first satellite technology. She writes prodigiously on subjects like the future of 'cyber-humans' and devotes much of her time to research and development of medical technology, specifically lung transplants. She frequently tops the list of highest-paid female CEOs.

jazz jennings (insta).jpgJazz Jennings
At just 14, Jennings is a YouTube star and recently landed a groundbreaking gig as a spokesperson for Clean & Clear, the skin care line owned by Johnson & Johnson. She was named one of the '25 Most Influential Teens of 2014' by Time and her show, All That Jazz will premiere on TLC later this summer.

juliana huxtable (BFA).jpgPhoto by Madison McGaw/BFA.com

Juliana Huxtable
The artist and performer is one of the most closely-watched and compelling figures in the New York art world. She was the author and subject of several pieces in the 2015 New Museum Triennal and is unflinching about her own agency as a trans woman working in the culture and art spheres. Once asked what the nastiest shade she has ever thrown was, she gave a perfect response: "Existing in the world."

 chaz bono.jpgChaz Bono
Being in the public eye was nothing new for Chaz as the child of legendary parents Cher and Sonny Bono. But it was his very public journey as a trans man that became his most important story. The documentary about his transition, Becoming Chaz, was a Sundance hit that chronicled his struggles and triumphs as he transitioned. He was also the first transgender individual to compete on Dancing With The Stars reaching upwards of 10 million viewers per episode.

janet mock (BFA).jpgPhoto by Madison McGaw/BFA.com

Janet Mock
In her groundbreaking book Redefining Realness Mock writes, "I believe that telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act." As an author and activist she has been a proponent of eloquently addressing both formal and casual transphobia in language and action especially in the media.

caitlyn jenner.jpgPhoto by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair

Caitlyn Jenner
Jenner's story as a trans woman is arguably one of the most significant news moments of 2015. Her instantly iconic Vanity Fair cover shot by Annie Leibovitz showed a woman in full command of her body and identity and  put to rest years of dogged and transphobic speculation in one image. Jenner's own reality show I Am Cait highlights her public journey as Caitlyn Jenner along with the very real highs and lows she experiences as her family and the world accept her for who she has always been.

alan L hart.jpegAlan Hart
You may not have heard of him, but the story of Dr. Alan Hart, a trans man who worked as a doctor in the first half of the 20th century is truly fascinating. He pioneered X Ray technology and developed a successfully patented Tuberculosis screening in the 1930s when the disease was responsible for nearly 1 in 6 deaths. He died in the '60s leaving behind his widow who fiercely protected his personal writing and letters, given the prevailing transphobia of the period.

caroline cossey.jpgCaroline Cossey
The English model and actress also known as "Tula" was the first transgender woman to appear in Playboy (1981 and 1991) along with international editions of Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. She has written two memoirs and appeared regularly in the '80s and '90s as a presenter on television. She contemplated suicide when a British tabloid outted her as a trans woman after an appearance in a James Bond film but continued to work and tell her story, ultimately paving the way for trans models and actresses working today.

aydian dowling.jpgAydian Dowling
The trans hunk made headlines when he entered a Mens Health competition for 'The Ultimate Guy' in the spring of 2015. In the process Dowling shattered preconceptions about what the male physique is and how it can be presented in media. Dowling also began a clothing line, Point 5cc, that raises money for trans-specific surgeries and a binder exchange program. Our bet is on him for the win!

The Sunday Funnies

dukes of hazzard.jpg
These Duke boys have already made some appropriate changes to their ride.

But only after Mario gets rid of the Confederate flag in the first place.

We find out the real cause of all of the good news this week.

While looking back at Key & Peele's newly relevant advice for how to be good guests at gay weddings.

Watch these interns run!

In other breaking news, all future breaking news will now come from this dog.

A woman engages in mortal combat with a computer.

And Amy Schumer discovers the pitfalls of being a Disney princess.

We imagine a world where The Wizard of Oz clashes a little too violently with the most recent Avengers movie. [via TastefullyOffensive]

As well as a world where Mike is just regular, instead of magic. [via TastefullyOffensive]

Use Your Voice: Joan Jett

joanjett_useYourvoice.jpgNine living legends of music, the causes they believe in and the worlds they envision. Welcome to PAPER's Use Your Voice portfolio. Get ready to get inspired.

Her love of rock 'n' roll is arguably a moral imperative in itself, but recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Joan Jett is also an inveterate supporter of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA). We were lucky enough to get a moment with Joan during her Use Your Voice photo shoot on Long Island. Below, she talks about her Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, her friendship with Miley and her personal definition of rock 'n' roll.

So, Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. You're on tour with the Who.  You're at the top! Where do you go from there?

It's been a great year, really wonderful, and it feels like I'm achieving what I set out to do -- I know that I'm achieving what I set out to do, but that other people are noticing, and not just other musicians or fans, but the business, and so that was sort of startling: to finally realize that some people are really recognizing me. It was emotionally overwhelming 'cause I've fought for so long and so hard just to be in a band and be taken seriously, you know, which you don't think is gonna be a big deal, but it had been all these years. And the tour with the Who is incredible because they helped the Blackhearts get our start. We couldn't get signed in the beginning, and we had music to make and I was working with Kenny, and Kenny had worked with the Who for years. We were kind of in a spot, and the Who basically said, "Go record, do what you gotta do, pay us when you can," and that album was Bad Reputation. So really they enabled us to get a start without having to resort to signing a terrible record deal, and it was really amazing of see it come full circle now.

You felt like you weren't getting that recognition until recently?

Well yeah. It's hard to talk about... I try to have humility about what goes on. You can't do anything without the fans, but also you can't get heard without radio stations, without magazines writing about you, without all these things. We didn't have a lot of that because we didn't have the big labels, and the fact that we did things on our own and had success with it -- we had 23 record labels, major and minor, listen to "I Love Rock 'n' Roll,""Crimson and Clover,""Do You Wanna Touch Me,""Bad Reputation" and one other song, and all of them said, "There's no hits here, lose the guitar," -- when we then went and did it ourselves from the street, when DJ's used to still be able to play the music they wanted and we had some friends in the Northeast that would play our records, and it was this groundswell between the radio and the fans and then media starting to take note. And then we have this huge number one record with a song that everybody laughed at, so to me it felt like the industry was saying, "Way to go! Now do it again without our help." The fact is, we did it and we survived, and all these years I felt like people had that attitude of, You did it on your own; you don't need help from us and we're not gonna help you. I don't know if anything shifted on any kind of major level, but when you have a lot in the industry, whoever was there, standing up for you, and it's instigated I heard by people like Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, you feel good about that, you know?

That's as good of a recognition as you could possibly get, the Who and the Beatles.

Totally. I remember being in my bedroom and listening to Paul McCartney's first solo album, and it's so freaky the way things, you know, move around. I remember, right after forming the Runaways, getting to hang out with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page and them wearing Runaways shirts and thinking, Damn man, literally three years ago I'm in my room getting yelled at by my dad going, "What the fuck is that?" It feels like a fantasy life, so I just kind of roll with what the rock 'n' roll gods bring me.

You had all this help early on from all these icons. Now that you're in that position, do you feel the need to mentor people? I know you're friends with Miley; do you see yourself in the role of the mentor?

I feel kind of like that's not humble if I say "Oh yeah I'm the mentor." I think that, yes, if you've got something to impart to people, certainly I would love to tell people what I know -- if they want to know. I think that the friendship Miley and I have struck up is born out of genuine... from what I can tell, that she's a fan. She told me she auditioned for Hannah Montana to "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" and "Do You Wanna Touch Me?" I first met her the year that Oprah was going off TV. I think it was 2011. So she was having a few people on, Miley being one of them. And Miley was supposed to pick someone she looks up to, to sing with, and she chose me. We sang a couple songs on Oprah and from then on we've just kind of been friends. She's much more into rock 'n' roll than people know. As a fan, she listens to a lot of varied music; I think people would be surprised at the variety that she listens to.

What was your impression of her before you actually got know her?

To tell you the truth, I didn't really think about it a lot because it wasn't in my world. I wasn't young enough to watch Hannah Montana and I didn't have kids that would watch it.

But did she surprise you at all when you met her and started talking about music? 

Well it was a pleasant surprise to find out that she loved rock 'n' roll, if I can be cliché and use that term. But she pleasantly surprised me in a lot of ways. Unfortunately a lot of people in this business can be pretty full of themselves and not have humility, and I don't like that, man. I think you've got to always be thankful. You didn't do any of this stuff by yourself. People help you on the way, and when people think that they did it all themselves, it really bothers me. Miley seems to be very down to earth, very real, very approachable, and I like that. It's hard for me to just work with somebody; I have to kind of like them too.

It seems too that you're in a relatively unique position in that when you were out there early on with the Runways, you were maligned by some people. You had trouble getting people to take you seriously. I feel like you're bringing to the relationship an understanding of where she is because she's been doing this music for this specific audience that she might have trouble getting people to take her seriously now.

Yes, and the added thing of the social media world that completely did not exist when I was a kid, so I could do whatever I wanted pretty much and you weren't watched so incessantly every second of the day. I think you have to have some self-policing and just be careful of what you put out there. I remember a time early on, I was 16, and a writer asked me some sexual question and I realized in that moment -- If you answer this question, they will never never ask you questions about music. You must not go there if it's the first question. So I never talk about that stuff unless it's something that I want to talk about because I'm not there to talk about sex; I'm there to talk about music and I have to sometimes remind people of that.

Yeah. Miley has certainly been sexualized by the media.

But you know, look, she's also doing her own thing and figuring out her way and I would not ever be someone to say, "You know what, don't do that." You've got to find what makes you comfortable. Hey man, I did a lot things at her age that were probably more crazy; it just wasn't online. I think that she's very intelligent, she's got a great heart, she's open and I think that she will grow up just fine. And you see that she is using her music to help other people now, and I think that can only grow.

Your main focus in the charity/activism sense has been animals. When did that become the fight that you were fighting?

Well it's not that it's primary. It's just one leg. I just think what Gandhi said; I don't have his exact quote, but that you can judge a nation by how they treat their animals. I used to be a blazing meat eater: bloody red, dripping down my face, I loved I it. And then I started reading some stuff when I was on the road and I couldn't eat heavier meals before I played. I didn't eat meat for about six months -- not really because I was trying not to eat meat but because it was heavy.

It wasn't moral at this point.

No, yeah, it became moral during those six months, because at the same time I was reading a book called Diet for a New America. It was written by John Robbins, of the Baskin-Robbins dynasty. But he wasn't writing it to say don't eat meat; he was writing about what food goes through from farm to table. I found out what happens to the animals and all of the sudden I'm like, "Oh my god! I'm a huge animal lover. Why am I not making this connection?" So I just phased it out, and I have not had any cravings for meat or thought, "Where do I get my protein?" Beans! There's a million places to get protein. So many people love animals, yet they make that disconnect and they want to keep it there. They don't want to know what goes on because if they knew what went on, they'd have to make some changes. You could just put them all to sleep if you wanted to kill them, but the ways we kill them are so horrific. So that is one reason I love to give time and money to the animals. But it's also the environment and children; they're all linked. It really is a three-legged stool.

This gets back to that other idea of people not necessarily taking you seriously. Is it hard as a musician, as an entertainer to get people to take you seriously when you're talking about these important causes? 

I think as I get older, people take me more seriously just because I've been here and they know that I'm not going away. And I think that fortunately or not fortunately, the Hall of Fame gives you a little level of... what would the word be?


Yeah! Maybe not universally, but on a certain level where people want to know your opinions now about things. 

Is there anything that you feel you haven't quite done in your career that you would still like to do?

You know, stylistically, I'm not that interested in changing genres. You know, I love rock 'n' roll, and I love the way it makes me feel.

I like the way that "I love rock 'n' roll" has just sort of organically come up a few times, and I'm assuming that that was part of the creation of that song.

That's how a lot of people feel! They explode when they hear that. But you also know that it was written when music was cheaper, when it was still a dime in the jukebox. Which was really a long time ago. 

I'm curious as to how you define rock and roll, what that means to you. I mean, is it just a kind of music? You'd sort of used the word to describe Miley, which again a lot of people wouldn't do immediately. So what does that mean when you say, "I love rock and roll"?

Good question. Well, obviously it's a style of music -- it's guitar driven. To me, it's got a little bit of that Chuck Berry, Rolling Stones movement. So it's moving. Really it's about sex, but a lot of it has got to do with having some edge. I'm not saying that things can't be polished, but it's dangerous to try to balance -- you need that balance of listenable but edgy. And really, you've got no limit as to what you can write about. People obviously choose to write about sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, but as I grow, I realize I can't always be writing about sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll because that's just not life. You have friends that die, you have life that changes, you have circumstances that change, you have love that changes. So in this last album, Unvarnished, I wrote a lot about that. I lost both my parents. I lost some good friends. I lost my animal friends. And that kind of loss is really heavy. You realize what made you is gone. That essence, the people who told you go for it, they're gone. How do you fill that emptiness? And it's all those things. It's writing about those aspects as well as writing about falling in and out of love or sex. But now I find it almost richer because I can write about more as long as people are willing to listen about more. Because rock 'n' roll shouldn't be just about those things; it should be about life.

For more Q&As from our 'Use Your Voice' portfolio, go HERE.

Learn more about PeTA here.

Makeup by Jason Araujo // Location: Allegria Hotel in Long Beach, NY

Use Your Voice: Dolly Parton

Photo courtesy the Dollywood Foundation

Nine living legends of music, the causes they believe in and the worlds they envision. Welcome to PAPER's Use Your Voice portfolio. Get ready to get inspired.

Two decades ago, country music queen Dolly Parton established Imagination Library, a program that sends books to pre-K kids each month. To date, the Library has donated 70 million books and boasts thousands of regional branches across the country and beyond.

What cause do you care about the most right now, and did you first connect with it?

My favorite cause today is the same one it was 20 years ago -- the Imagination Library. We created it for the kids in my hometown to inspire a love of reading and a love for books by giving them a new book each month until they are 5 years old... and 70 million books later and with the help of thousands of local partners, we are  still going strong. It's amazing what books mean to people at certain times in their lives. I want books to be in every household in the world so every child has an opportunity to love reading and to love learning.

To what extent does your activism inform your art?

First of all, I don't consider myself an activist -- I just always try to speak the truth so maybe I am a truthist! I have always loved to read and I read any and everything I can. Just absorbing the creativity of authors somehow works itself through me and helps with my own writing.

Who has inspired you to do what you're doing?

Where it all really started was with my daddy. He was, without a doubt, the smartest man I have ever known, but he could not read very well. Daddy did an incredible job of providing a good life for our family but there is no telling what he could have achieved if he had learned to read. So the Imagination Library is just one way for me to honor him, and thankfully he lived long enough to see the Imagination Library flourish across the country. Not long before he passed, he told me he was more proud of me for the Imagination Library than anything else I had ever done. I'll never forget that moment. So every time I am called the Book Lady, I think of my Daddy.

Has fame ever hindered your efforts?

No, not all. It helps me do whatever I need to do. One thing that is true is there is a tendency for people to think I do everything when it comes to the Imagination Library. Obviously I don't do everything, and I don't fund it all. I do my part but I rely on the generosity of thousands of people to help make my dreams come true... and in the process I hope their dreams come true, too. 

How do you deal with the inevitable backlash?

I spend much more time worrying about my eyelash than I do dealing with my backlash!

Do you think all celebrities have an obligation to be activists and/or philanthropists?

One thing I never do is tell people what they should be doing. All I can do is speak for myself, and I have always felt I had an obligation to give back. For me, it means a lot of different things. I wanted to help with jobs in my hometown so we all got together and created Dollywood, Dixie Stampede, Splash Country and our DreamMore Resort. You also have to give a big chunk of yourself, but I don't mind all that is expected from me. It comes with the territory and I would not change one thing.

What do you wish you had known when you first became an activist?

Probably how best to say "no." I get asked to do lots of things and it is just impossible to do them all. So you have to say "no" and I just hope people understand a "no" is not a judgement of them or their passion.

What's one thing you want all your fans to know or do?

I've always said that if you see someone without a smile then give 'em yours. 

What change do you most want to see in the world?

I get asked this all of the time, and I want what everybody wants: peace, prosperity, fairness and equality. I know most of the time the world feels like a distressing and depressing place. But I am now and will always be an optimist, so I try to see over the clouds and just follow the light.

For more Q&As from our 'Use Your Voice' portfolio, go HERE.

Learn more about the Imagination Library here.

Use Your Voice: Duff McKagan

duff-mckagen.jpg(Jacket and tank by Chrome Hearts)

Nine living legends of music, the causes they believe in and the worlds they envision. Welcome to PAPER's Use Your Voice portfolio. Get ready to get inspired.

Founding Guns n' Roses bassist Duff McKagan wasn't content to reinvent himself as a advisor to artists struggling to manage their finances; he went on champion The Heroes Project, which has taken injured veterans up the world's seven highest summits. When we spoke with Duff, his new book, How to Be a Man (and Other Illusions) was about to hit the shelves and, halfway around the world, Heroes Project founder Tim Medvetz and a veteran were cresting Mount Everest despite the very recent earthquake in Nepal.

What drew you to the Heroes Project and working with veterans?

Growing up in the Northwest, there's always Mount Rainier in the background. All the world's best mountaineers are around you, and I always wanted to climb it. You know, punk rock and rock 'n' roll happened. I'd gotten sober; I started reading a lot of books. I read Into Thin Air and then I just got into all of these mountaineering books, really great adventure stories, and I thought, "OK, when my kids get grown up a little bit, I want to start mountaineering." And I met Tim Medvetz, who had just come back from Everest. Tim and I became good buddies right when he was starting the foundation. Prior to Everest, he'd been in a bad motorcycle accident, got really fucked up, got a cage around his spine and they fused his left ankle, and the doctors basically said, "You're not going to be able to do much physical activity." And he had read Into Thin Air in the hospital and he'd thought he'd prove all the doctors wrong and climb Mount Everest. Fuck these guys. And he did it! And he was coming back from one of the Himalaya trips and came back through Germany, and Germany is where the Walter Reed [Army Medical Center] is, and that's where you go first if you've been in Afghanistan and perhaps lost a limb or two. So Tim was flying back and flew through Germany and there was a kid -- he'd lost a leg and got the treatment at Walter Reed, maybe a prosthetic. And he's coming back to the States, and Tim sat next to him on the plane and Tim's like, "So what are you going to do, man?" And they guy's like, "I don't know. I guess I'll go back to my mom's in Minnesota." It hit Tim, and he just invited the guy -- "Why don't you come climbing with me? I got a fused ankle and a cage around my spine. I did this thing. You could do it if you want." And the kid assented. And it started this thing. 


And I was starting to climb with Tim at that point. So we started climbing with these guys who'd, like, just lost a leg months prior. Really pretty awesome young dudes, and being out in the mountains with these guys and talking to them and going through shit. These guys just went through it and some of them hadn't dealt with it yet because they're tough Marines, you know? So I just really got into it with these good guys and gals Tim found. His plan was to do the seven highest summits in the world with a different one of these people who had lost a limb or two in Afghanistan or Iraq or whatever. And so they did Denali, which is brutal. I didn't do it with them. It's 21,000 feet, the highest in North America. They've done Vinson, which is the highest in Antarctica. The Erebus, which is the highest in Europe, he did it with another guy. He did Kilimanjaro with a double leg amputee -- this guy had little climbing prosthetics for his legs, and then basically did all upper body strength. Incredible. And these guys train for 10 months with Tim and a bunch of us. We do what we can, but really Tim does it all. It's so selfless of Tim, and I think it's really great for these veteran kids -- they're kids, man, 22 or 23. 

Has your work with the Heroes Project affected your views? I know you wrote that open letter to the President about Afghanistan. 

I'm just a citizen, like you. I'm not in the service. I'm not a politician, but I am well read. I read Thomas Friedman's Longitudes and Attitudes before, like in 2000. And that book was available for the Bush people to read. Dexter Filkin's The Forever War. These books are available, you know? So when you see the carnage of these young people... and I've been to a few of the rehabs at VA hospitals where they stick them on drugs, and the reportage of suicide is just not there. You talk to any of these veteran guys, these guys who are climbing, and they're pissed. They're like, "You don't see it in the news, the amount of suicides of people coming back."

Yeah, the statistics are unbelievable on that. It's more than combat at this point.

Yeah, crazy right? So these guys have gotten me involved. I've gone to the Walter Reed in DC. To say that's eye opening is a huge understatement. But we're Americans, and we've got to take care of our own people. Stop fucking around outside of this country. With the amount of hunger in this country, the militarization of our police, no jobs in our cities, it's like, "OK. We've got stuff to do here." 

Are there particular challenges or frustrations that come with the celebrity part of activism? 

Complications, sure. Life is complicated. No, it's a great opportunity. It's not like I'm some super celebrity. For me, it has to be somebody I know so I know exactly what it does and where the money goes and all that. I don't think I'm making that big of a difference at all, but sometimes if I can tweet or write in the Seattle Weekly and I know that column is going to go out on the Internet and hit a lot of people, I'll do it for sure. 

If you could get your fans and readers behind one idea or to do one thing in their lives, do you know what that would be?

Just don't be a dick, you know?

Don't be a dick. [laughs]

Yeah, don't be a dick. Think for a second before you act. I think that's a common theme. And I've learned it because I've made all the mistakes. I learn as I go. My latest book isn't about liberal answers in there; it's about, here's another mistake I made, and here's what I've learned. It's not like I'm not a dick. "Dick" isn't the right word. But that is the theme: try to think before you act, and think of the overall reach of what you're doing. 

For more Q&As from our 'Use Your Voice' portfolio, go HERE.

Learn more about the Heroes Project here.

Styling by Jessie Cohan // Grooming by Traci Barrett for the Rex Agency using Oribe

Use Your Voice: Angelique Kidjo

(Necklace by Azeeza)

Nine living legends of music, the causes they believe in and the worlds they envision. Welcome to PAPER's Use Your Voice portfolio. Get ready to get inspired.

Few artists have combined music and activism as seamlessly as Angelique Kidjo. Witness her recent Eve album, a celebration of African women -- "their beauty and their resilience." With the Batonga Foundation, Benin-born singer Angelique Kidjo offers scholarships to girls across the continent.

What cause do you care about the most right now, and did you first connect with it?
My main passion is promoting access to secondary education for girls in Africa. Why? Because I was so lucky to have a dad who relentlessly put his girls to school in Benin where I grew up. He gave us the most beautiful gift there is: the gift of education, which allows you to understand the world and find your right place there. I want every girl in Africa to have the same chance I had. Pushing for secondary education is key because it can prevent early marriage and also help understand the health messages we're trying to pass to the population. It has been proven that educating girls raises the GDP of a country in a very significant way. This is why I founded the Batonga Foundation in 2007 with John Philips and Mary Louise Cohen, which provides scholarships to young girls in several African countries.

To what extent does your activism inform your art?
Both are so linked together! You can't separate one from the other. I have traveled a lot with UNICEF as a goodwill Ambassador all over my continent and I have met incredible people who are the true inspiration behind most of my songs. They give me the energy to keep on moving to new artistic territories. For instance my last album, Eve, was inspired by African Women, their beauty and their resilience. I traveled all over Benin and Kenya to record their singing voices, but also to listen to what they had to tell me.

Who has inspired you to do what you're doing?
Since I was a little girl I have always been appalled by injustice. I can't bear it, and I can't help it but I have to open my mouth. It has caused me problems sometimes... But I truly believe that things could be better than they are if people were more outspoken about what they feel is wrong.

What are the greatest challenges you face as an activist who's also a celebrity?
The greatest challenge is to balance my schedule and still have a life. In order to have a career today as a singer you need to perform a lot, which means traveling a lot. In the last two months I have performed on four continents! I spend half of my life in planes. But I also receive so many requests to attend events, partner with organizations, go on visits with UNICEF... Sometimes I am overwhelmed but is is so hard for me to say no if I feel I can be useful.

Has fame ever hindered your efforts?
I don't think so. I think fame gives you an advantage because you have access to more attention from the media and from the various organizations. The real risk is that your efforts can look silly, even if they are genuine. People might think, "who needs another artist who wants to save the world?" Early on when I started to work with UNICEF, Maria Zanca, the celebrity coordinator taught me that publicity of a charitable cause for the sake of publicity can be vacuous. Charitable organizations should not be treated just as a "brand." UNICEF or Oxfam are not "selling" you anything. The programs you're promoting need to have depth and research behind them. You can't be careless with a great cause.

How do you deal with the inevitable backlash?
I am grateful I haven't experienced a lot of backlash, maybe because I am trying to be a kind of bridge between the people that need help and the people that have the means to help. A true human connection is often missing with the people you're trying to help. I always try not to be arrogant or condescending. You have to listen to what the communities have to say and not be arrogant. Be humble! And also acknowledge the fact that you learn a lot from the people you're trying to help: maybe you are the one that actually is being helped the most in this relationship!

Do you think all celebrities have an obligation to be activists and/or philanthropists?
I'm not sure. I think you have to feel the need in your heart and a special connection with people. If it is a burden for you or if you do it for publicity you should not do it because it is not going to be easy and people will be able to tell if you're not sincere. If you are serious about it, it will be time consuming and you have to be very careful when you choose the people you're working with!

What do you wish you had known when you first became an activist?
I feel I have always been an activist! When I was a little girl, my mother was part of a group of ladies fighting for women's rights. They asked me to sing their anthem, which was a cover of a Miriam Makeba song. I was not even 10 years old and already being political.

What's one thing you want all your fans to know or do?
I want them to understand that I was able to accomplish my dreams because I had access to a quality education that gave me confidence to speak on CNN or go to the White House and talk to Michele Obama. I want them to help share this gift with as many African girls as possible. People have so many misconceptions about Africa. It is not the land of war and disease that is so often portrayed. It is a land of culture, solidarity and beauty!

What change do you most want to see in the world?
Less anger, more understanding. Whatever the color of our skin, we're not that different! What is the color of your blood? What is the color of your heart?

For more Q&As from our 'Use Your Voice' portfolio, go HERE.

Learn more about the Batonga Foundation here

Styling by Anthony Pedraza, hair and makeup by Kim White at Artists at Wilhelmina

Location: Drift Studios

Photo Assistant: Tony Farfalla

Use Your Voice: Alanis Morissette

Alanis_Web.jpg(Jacket by La Marque)

Nine living legends of music, the causes they believe in and the worlds they envision. Welcome to PAPER's Use Your Voice portfolio. Get ready to get inspired.

A champion of strong relationships at all levels, as well as women's rights and the crucial activist trait of "showing up," Alanis Morissette works with Relationships First, Equality Now and the National Eating Disorder Association.

What cause do you care about the most right now, and did you first connect with it?

I care most about relationships, of every variety... functionality, boundaries -- all of which allows for a sense of connection and cohesion and ultimately: healing. I co-founded, along with a group of very powerful teachers, leaders and authors, an organization called Relationships First. (john gottman, sue Johnson, harville Hendrix, dan seigel etc).

I care equally as much about women, egalitarianism, and our bodies. I have worked with Equality Now for over 12 years. I reached out to them years ago because I wanted to be part of an organization that reached out to support women on every level around the planet. (Have performed at their events, as well as donated money and tickets to my shows.) My sense is that this is not just a feminist movement, but rather as well a "feminine movement," whose lasting effects could be felt in every area of our lives: from economic egalitarianism, to how we do business, to how we educate, to how we do politics, to how we spend our money, to the consciousness of social culture, the psychological, emotional, spiritual and physical aspects of our day to day, and the fabric of family as well.

In keeping with that, I also passionately support NEDA the national eating disorder association. Having been in recovery from eating disorders for 25 years, this cause is near and dear to my heart and personal journey. My first marathon was done partnering with them.

To what extent does your activism inform your art?

My art and activism are inextricably linked. The fire that catalyzes the writing of a song equally inspires me to lend my writing, my voice, my shows, my money, my time, my advocacy and my Whole Self for a cause I deeply care about. This passion is the thread of continuity that links every art form I participate in, as well as how I spend my time -- what I read, what I talk about when I am having philosophical conversations with my friends, to what I give keynote talks about.

Who has inspired you to do what you're doing?

Both my mother and my Canadian culture taught me from a very young age (age 6 onward) that service was tantamount. She would take us on the weekends to serve food at homeless shelters, and on separate occasions hand out food to families who needed it. I was taught that giving and receiving was a sacred cycle that perpetuates itself (altho receiving is interestingly harder for me, something I watch for my not burning out for "over-giving"). I have never met a more charitable-minded woman than my mother.

What are the greatest challenges you face as an activist who's also a celebrity?

The greatest challenge for me is to pace myself and not dip into my work addiction around service. Service feels like such a right-full seat to me, that I have to be careful to keep my cup full enough to keep giving in a sustainable way. It is also important to me to keep my functional boundaries around self-care, as I have often been swept down the slippery slope for not having paced myself. I have loved that what I write about in my songs, and what I show up for in my charity-life are one in the same. There is no split between them. Being a celebrity has been such a boon for this service-tendency. I am able to serve in a potentially further-reaching way for it. and I have noticed that many people who come to my shows have this same tendency, and so I invite people to join me, and they do!

Has fame ever hindered your efforts?

No. I think because my experience of fame was born from my having been searingly honest about my vulnerabilities, there was no disparity between the humility, lack of apology (empowerment) and fire it takes to show up big for a cause.

How do you deal with the inevitable backlash?

There have been times where my passion for a project was misinterpreted as my assuming I "knew it all" or that I was "better-than" for being charitable. Especially in politics, my being part Canadian and part American came under fire for my "not being aware of the issues in the way a 'full American' would be." These times saddened me because I have always felt uncomfortable being looked at (irony of all ironies), but it would never stop me from showing up. thoughts like "who am I to do this?" and "why would anyone even listen to me" would haunt me, but still, I would show up. I began caring less about "making a difference" and more about what an existential imperative it was for me to let my charitable choices be a self-and-value-defining moment. When I would find out later that things were at times effective or helpful in different ways, I would always be (and still am) deeply moved.

Do you think all celebrities have an obligation to be activists and/or philanthropists?

No, not at all. I think we are all born for different roles, different purposes. I do believe, though, that anyone in the public eye is BY DEFAULT a social activist. Anyone famous is in some ways, unwittingly or otherwise, inviting the audience to define themselves in accordance to them. And this offering, whether consciously chosen or not, is a great gift for a planet of people yearning to define Who they really are, and what they passionately believe in, and what their purpose in being here is. Watching anyone in the public eye (especially around charity or philanthropic work) "doing what they were born to do" invites anyone watching them to move toward the same.

What do you wish you had known when you first became an activist?

I wish I had known that I was not alone. I felt very isolated when I started this part of the journey. I look around now and I am surrounded by so many activists. At the time I began, I felt this massive pressure to keep rolling the boulders uphill, often without companionship. I also had a different approach when I was younger: I thought that I had to have "arrived" in order to be inspiring to others. I quickly learned that simply sharing my vulnerable and authentic journey and SHOWING UP was all that was being asked of me. to keep showing up. For myself, for my family and friends (on the micro) and to the causes I care deeply about (on the macro). Somewhere in there a well-placed hot bath and a nap and some snuggles keeps the flame alive.

What's one thing you want all your fans to know or do?

I would like my fans and friends to know that service and charity doesn't have to look ONE way. I believe that in the eyes of life and love, ANY act of generosity is a declaration of the awareness of our soul-brother-and-sisterhood. that often offering someone your presence is the deepest and most generous act of all. And that charitability is born from what moves you the most, and by FULLY showing up for these moments, big, medium and often especially, small. That there is continuity in the choices you make, and that passion for a cause can permeate every aspect of your life, relationships, careers and art.

What change do you most want to see in the world?

I would want to see the feminist movement shift to being a "feminine movement." Which would allow us humans and our planet to be touched by an empathy, a powerful vulnerability and transparency. A dialogical, win-win, 1 + 1 = 8 approach. Where personal expansion is possible without losing the care for the collective. That we would all have a direct experience with seeing how our personal and collective well-being rely on each other. How moving toward partnership (a true feminine approach -- not relegated to females only) and away from dictatorialism and "autonomism" is the only way this planet and all of the life on it will continue on.

For more Q&As from our 'Use Your Voice' portfolio, go HERE.

Styling by Sara Paulsen at the Celestine Agency, makeup by Katey Denmo at the Wall Group, hair by John Ruggiero at the Starworks Group

Use Your Voice: Quincy Jones

Quincy_Jones_Web.jpgNine living legends of music, the causes they believe in and the worlds they envision. Welcome to PAPER's Use Your Voice portfolio. Get ready to get inspired.

It would be easy to hang your philanthropic hat on an achievement like "We Are the World," but mega-producer Quincy Jones hasn't stopped fighting for global human rights since that song flashed across the globe 30 years ago.

What cause do you care about the most right now, and did you first connect with it?

From child poverty and human rights, to music piracy and arts education, and a host of others, there are so many things that are going on in the world today that I think about, and require our attention as human beings on this planet.  I grew up in depression-era Chicago in my pre-teen years, so I know first-hand what if feels like to be disenfranchised, on every level.  When I first went to the Middle East in 1955 as musical director and trumpet player for Dizzy's first State Department Tour, I remember seeing a little girl with one arm, begging for money.  We gave her some of the money we had and as we walked away, I saw her duck into an alley.  I asked our guide what that was all about, and he told me that she was taking the money to her uncles in the alley. They had chopped her arm off, so that she would be more sympathetic begging for money. I had seen a lot as a kid in Chicago, but as a 22-year-old man that left an indelible imprint on me, the sheer inhumanity of it.  I knew at that moment that if given the opportunity, I would use my music to help shine a light on the darkness.

To what extent does your activism inform your art?

When I was in Paris studying music with the great composer and teacher Nadia Boulanger, she told me that "Your music can never be more than you are as a human being." As artists, we are all just vessels for God's whispers. I believe that if your heart and soul aren't in the right place, those whispers become much harder to hear.

Who has inspired you to do what you're doing?

The list is too long. When I was coming up as a teenager playing music in Seattle, we didn't have role models in America like we do today. There were no Oprah's, Will Smith's or LeBron James', and definitely no Barack Obamas. Our role models were the musicians. I was really fortunate that cats like Clark Terry, Lionel Hampton, Bumps Blackwell, Ray Charles -- who was 17 at the time and remained one of my best friends until the day he left us, Benny Carter, and a host of others, put me on their shoulders and taught me and encouraged me. When we were coming up in the 50's as young be-boppers, we had no choice but to stand together, because all we had was each other. We were all part of one family, relying on one another for gigs to get through those all too familiar rough patches. So that foundation of community is a big part of why I try to stay engaged on so many issues. It's a part of who I am.

What are the greatest challenges you face as an activist who's also a celebrity?

I don't look at the problems that we have as challenges. I look at them as puzzles, and puzzles can be solved. You just have to be willing to look at it from all angles and then approach it from a point of view of putting the right pieces in the right places.

Has fame ever hindered your efforts?

Never. As my brother Bono says, 'you have to use your celebrity as a currency to do good works." As artists, we have a unique opportunity to speak out about things that truly matter.  If your celebrity helps to open a door to shine a light on an issue, that is its purpose. In in 1999 Bono, Bob Geldof and I met with Pope John Paul II as a part of the Jubilee 2000 delegation to enlist his endorsement to end third world debt. The next day, with the Pope's endorsement, $27 billion in debt was relieved for third world countries. That was an enormous fiscal burden lifted off of those countries, and was money that they would presumably direct to helping their people have better lives. Our meeting with the Pontiff, garnered attention for the issue and effected an immediate action, and that is what it is all about.

How do you deal with the inevitable backlash?

There will always be some people who are so out of touch that nothing you can say or do will change their attitudes. But you can't worry about that. When we did "We Are The World," there were negative people who took shots at us, but we raised $60 million to feed the hungry in Ethiopia, and prodded the U.S. government to spend $800 million more, so there you go. I believe that as long as you are on the side of righteousness and love for humanity, you will always be ok. Love, laugh, live and give... that is my mantra.

Do you think all celebrities have an obligation to be activists and/or philanthropists?

I think it is every person's obligation to be involved and try to give back, not just celebrities.  As artists, we have a larger voice to spread the message, but we're all in this together. Can you imagine how much change we could effect if every person who was able to mentored a kid, donated their time at a counseling center, took a little time to do anything to make a little difference in the life of someone who was less fortunate? It would be incredible. Not one person on this planet who has achieved a degree of success in their life did it alone.  Someone, somewhere helped them, encouraged them, gave them a shot. I know everyone is busy, I'm busy, but I know we all benefit as a society if we're aware of and engaged in what is going on in the world, and try to make it a better place. I don't think it is that much to ask, to give back as much as you have been given. 

What do you wish you had known when you first became an activist?

You have to go, to know. When we did "We Are The World," the first plane load of food sat in the desert and spoiled, because the warring factions in the region basically said, "if they want it, let them come get it," which the people obviously couldn't do. Bono and I pledged from that moment that we would really get into the weeds of issues to see how to navigate the obstacles.  I constantly travel all over the world today, and engage with everyone that I can so that I know and understand exactly what's happening on the ground.

What's one thing you want all your fans to know or do?

Do what you love, and love what you do. If you approach your endeavors from a place of love, and not fear, you will always be ok. We are more alike than we are different, so try to engage people, and ideals, and ideas, from that starting point, we'll all be better off.

What change do you most want to see in the world?

There are so many problems that we have in the world today that require our attention.  But I'm a serial optimist.  I know in my heart that if we can come together to address the problems that we have, we can figure out the puzzle. You know the old saying, "shoot for the stars."

For more Q&As from our 'Use Your Voice' portfolio, go HERE.

Use Your Voice: Bryce and Aaron Dessner

Dessners_Web.jpgNine living legends of music, the causes they believe in and the worlds they envision. Welcome to PAPER's Use Your Voice portfolio. Get ready to get inspired.

Compiled by Bryce and Aaron Dessner of the National, the Dark Was the Night compilation featured pretty much every band that defined American indie in the aughts; it also marked the twentieth release of the Red Hot Organization, which raises funds and awareness for AIDS charities. Look out for another Dessner-helmed Red Hot installment down the road: a similarly zeitgeist-embracing Grateful Dead tribute album.

What cause do you care about the most right now, and how did you first connect with it?

Aaron: It's difficult to narrow a pro-social inclination down to one cause, but I feel passionately that access to quality healthcare should be a human right. I started working for the sister design company to the Red Hot Organization, an AIDS charity, in 1999, and founder John Carlin has been a mentor to me ever since. It was amazing to see these great albums being made that were entirely not for profit and dedicated to raising money and awareness for AIDS charities. 

Bryce: Education and health care for children here in the States and in developing countries is a cause we have long been involved in. I first connected with that cause when I was in high school: I spent summers teaching children in a National summer school program in Cincinnati (our hometown) called Summerbridge. Our work now with the Red Hot Organization and AIDS/health-care organizations throughout the world is still focused on providing health care access and education to children. We also donate a dollar or more from every ticket sold to National shows to the Plus One program, which benefits Partners in Health who do incredible work in Haiti and throughout the developing world. I also help raise money for a few Arts non-profits in New York (the Kitchen and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus), which I think is a hugely important cause.

To what extent does your activism inform your art?

A: I think all five of us in the National are wary of using our songs to preach or expound on a particular political or social perspective, but inevitably the values we have as individuals do find their way into the activity of the band one way or another. And of course there are some songs that have political or social undertones (or overtones). We have embraced the fact that we are fortunate enough to be in a position to raise money and awareness for causes we believe in. 

B: In terms of subject matter -- very little, I would say; we've always tried to keep the songs separate from our political or activist agenda. However, we have no problem getting behind a cause that is important. Once the band became popular enough to have a voice that people might listen to, I think we felt it was important to use that when needed.

Who has inspired you to do what you're doing?

A: There's such a long history of activism in the arts. I've always associated the music I love with social consciousness whether that's through Woody Guthrie or Pete Seeger or Bob Dylan or John Lennon or Michael Stipe or Patti Smith. In terms of our peers, Arcade Fire are our friends and they have definitely set a strong example with their work with Partners in Health. 

B: Michael Stipe and Philip Glass are two artists I know well who we've also been involved with over the years artistically and on various causes. They have such a full-hearted, intuitive and honest approach to activism that was very helpful to be around. I remember Michael holding up the Mr. November T-shirt we had made for Obama on his first campaign in front of 20,000 people in Atlanta and getting booed by his own fans. (We were there opening the 2008 R.E.M. tour).

What are the greatest challenges you face as an activist who's also a celebrity?

A: I wouldn't say I'm a celebrity. The biggest challenge is to take a great idea and actually have the stamina and commitment to push it up and over the mountain into reality. We would never have accomplished Dark Was the Night or this new record without the help of many close collaborators and a very supportive community of friends and artists.

B: Our parents generation was so associated with the '60s political unrest and the musicians of that time, that maybe it always felt uncomfortable to us the slightly self-aggrandizing celebrity up on the soapbox so to speak. Its striking a balance between doing projects where we are helpful (raising money and awareness) versus some projects which can be more about the artists involved than the actual causes they are supporting. I still love directly working with children, for instance: I have a years-long collaboration with the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, which I don't see as charity at all because it's a deeply enriching artistic relationship for me.

Has fame ever hindered your efforts?

A: Whatever credibility I have has an artist has only opened doors or encouraged our peers to participate in these projects so I suppose it has helped us along the way. 

B: Shortly after we got very involved in the Obama campaign one of the Bush daughters was on CNN and said we were her favorite band. It was was a pretty funny moment! I guess music has no boundaries.

How do you deal with the inevitable backlash?

A: If there ever is any backlash (against charity?) or ignorance directed our way, we actually find it absurd and amusing. 

B: We have had very little backlash. Sometimes you might read some mean blog comments but that's been the worst of it.

Do you think all celebrities have an obligation to be activists and/or philanthropists?

A: I think it's callous and selfish not to try and use the ridiculous currency of celebrity (however minor or major) to do some good for people who are less fortunate.

What do you wish you had known when you first became an activist?

B: Celebrities can be incredibly narcissistic and self-involved, so yes, I think it's important to think about something bigger than your own social media presence or career strategy. I also think it's important to think locally, where can we have the most direct impact? What cause might your fans be most motivated to support. What area of work is most in need?

What's one thing you want all your fans to know or do?

A: This charity record we are making that celebrates the music of the Grateful Dead includes some of my favorite recordings we have ever made. This is music anyone can appreciate, not just fans of the Dead, and I hope you'll get lost in the music and spread the word for a good cause.

What change do you most want to see in the world?

A: The list is too long, but suffice to say I wish we would stop destroying each other and Mother Nature.

For more Q&As from our 'Use Your Voice' portfolio, go HERE.

Learn more about the Red Hot Organization here.

Use Your Voice: Imagine Dragons

imagine-dragons.jpg(Platz wears Jenny Schwarz blazer, Diesel shirt, Levi's jeans, and Frye shoes; Ben wears a Guess blazer, Decks shirt, Boris Bidjan Saberi pants and Pail shoes; Dan wears a Guess blazer, Diesel shirt, Levi's jeans and Frye shoes; Wayne wears a DSquared jacket, Topman pants and Kooples shirt and shoes)

Nine living legends of music, the causes they believe in and the worlds they envision. Welcome to PAPER's Use Your Voice portfolio. Get ready to get inspired.

The easiest way to get the four members of Imagine Dragons to light up like Christmas trees is to ask them about someone named Tyler Robinson. He, the namesake of the youth cancer foundation they founded two years ago, was also their friend and a constant source of delight during the few years they collectively knew him. 

As the band was on the rise, Tyler's brother had reached out via Facebook to lead singer Dan Reynolds the night before a 150-capacity show in Utah. He wanted to let him know that his little brother would be coming and that, as he battled chemo, the 14-year-old had fallen in love with the band's song "It's Time." That night, Reynolds told Tyler's story on stage and, sure enough, the crowd began chanting his name, even going so far as to raise the pale, thin Robinson onto their shoulders.

"It was probably the most magical moment I've ever had on stage," Reynolds says while sitting with his three band mates after a photo shoot in Los Angeles.

"I don't know if you guys feel differently," he continues, looking to the semi-circle of guys to his left. Drummer Daniel Platzman, bassist Ben McKee and lead guitarist Daniel Sermon firmly nod in agreement as Reynolds continues the story of how they, a multi-platinum band that's helped reinvigorate the sagging rock genre on the Billboard charts, came to be charity founders.

Reynolds goes on. They were preparing to play a show in a city that Reynolds struggles to remember for a moment. All three band mates quickly chime in: "Chicago." McKee says the date, "March 4," as if by reflex. 

Tyler had texted just days before, asking like a typical 16-year-old about bringing a girl to an upcoming show, this time at an arena. But he had become gravely ill overnight and passed suddenly and without warning. The band called Tyler's family and asked how they could help -- wanting to do more than throw money at one of many cancer foundations. And they learned that the unseen costs of having a child with cancer are desperately overwhelming to families like the Robinsons -- involving everything from airline flights to mortgaging the house in order to pay bills. 

The band can get lost inside of talking about the foundation, each rattling off facts they've learned about the lives of cancer patients and the ways the foundation works. But Reynolds stops himself at one point, making sharp eye contact. "It is the absolute most important thing that we do as a band and our favorite thing that we do," he says, and then lowering his voice amid the buzz of stylists and photographers in the background. "It's great to do photo shoots and interviews, but it's a very selfish lifestyle to be a musician. The most refreshing part of tours is [when] we go meet a family and hear their story."

As organizers of their very own charity, these men all teetering on either side of 30 have kicked things off with a bang. The foundation has already raked in millions, even putting on a gala last year hosted by NFL star Steve Young. But that doesn't mean they're immune to stumbling blocks. 

Reynolds tells a particularly cringe-worthy story: after the first time they'd mentioned the foundation publicly, at the televised Billboard Music Awards, they received a phone call from their manager, who was in tears. Apparently, they'd brought in $11 million in donations overnight. 

"Everyone called their parents and all of us were crying. And we're not criers," Reynolds says.

After a few hours, the phone rang again, this time with an apology from their manager. It turned out the foundation's website hadn't been braced for bogus amounts entered by pranksters and teens with no real access to money, and their donations had been counted towards the actual sum. The real amount, though substantial, was nowhere near $11 million. 

The band squirms remembering it. "So that was a little hiccup," Reynolds says. "The things you learn in the early days of having a foundation." 

The band's dedication to using their international fame for philanthropic measures extends beyond their own foundation. They've partnered with Amnesty International -- a group that Reynolds notes the band is particularly passionate about -- as well as Playing It Forward, an organization for school music programs. Reynolds has also opened up publicly about his own battle with depression in recent years.

And as far as what causes get time and attention of the band, it requires all four bandmates must wholly sign off. "It needs to be something that [we're] actually passionate about. We do a vote together," he says. "It has to be something that's real for us." 

And then the foursome is off again, reminiscing this time about a spunky child from the foundation who wore an orange superhero cape backstage and whose cancer was just declared to be in remission. Says Reynolds, "The families we've met -- these stories have just been the highlight of everything in this band by a long shot."

For more Q&As from our 'Use Your Voice' portfolio, go HERE.

Learn more about the Tyler Robinson Foundation here

Use Your Voice: Russell Simmons

Nine living legends of music, the causes they believe in and the worlds they envision. Welcome to PAPER's Use Your Voice portfolio. Get ready to get inspired.

Def Jam cofounder and hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons has served as Chairman of the Foundation For Ethnic Understanding, worked with legislators to repeal draconian drug laws, promoted education initiatives in communities affected by the diamond trade and more. Our own Abby Schreiber got on the phone with him to chat about the challenges and rewards of living in cultural, corporate and activist spaces all at once.

Would you say that there is one cause that we can talk about in particular that you are really passionate about right now?

Gay rights, animal rights, human rights, the prison-industrial complex... compassion is my cause. Compassion and equality. The rights that you want for yourself, you want to give those rights to everybody. So you could just say that's the cause. To promote equality. The things that you want for yourself, I want that for everybody else, so that's my cause. I run four philanthropic organizations and a lot of social and political causes that kind of speak that language I support.

 Are there any that you can call out in particular that you are involved with that work towards the quality and understanding?

GLAAD, Mercy for Animals, PETA, The Justice League in New York. Those kids that Harry Belafonte is mentoring -- those young political scientists and lawyers -- who have been doing the #BlackLivesMatter have been brilliant.

 Do you remember how you first connected with some of these causes?

On Saturday I am hosting my event for the Diamond Empowerment Fund. It's about higher education for Africans who live where diamonds are natural resources. 

 To what extent does your activism inform your creative projects and your businesses?

I try to be what I refer to as a "business yogi" -- a person who is concerned about the choices he makes for business, he gives things that he likes, so I have to give things that I think are useful: comedy, music, fun stuff that I like and that I like to share. Also businesses like the financial service company that really changed the dynamics of a lot of people from underserved community members' relationship with the financial world. Otherwise without a card you couldn't exist. People talked about the RushCard, saying, "Oh, it's a credit card." It's not a credit card; it's a debit card for people who don't have bank accounts. When I created it, people I made the card for had to get their check, had to go to the check cashing place, get cash and than wait online to pay their bills. So now they wake up, their money is in their account two days early before it even clears. They can call and pay the bill without getting on line. So it was a convenience issue -- people who didn't have cards were locked out of the American dream. Now I have many competitors, but no one could imagine that. The way that you build a business, there's one way if you're not a real numbers guy and you make someone else's business cheaper and better. But an independent, innovative entrepreneur creates what's not there. And people need what's not there.
Who would you say has most inspired you to do what you are doing in terms of the activism and involvement with some of these organizations?

A lot of people, a lot of people from Harry Belafonte to just a lot of people, you know who ever is an activist. My father was an activist. He was a poet and he became a professor of black history when I was older, but he was an activist and that's where I got it. 
What are some of the greatest challenges you face as an activist who is also a celebrity? 

Being a business guy -- forget being a celebrity. As a business guy, when I have to fight corporate control of our government or greed or when I occupy, for instance. How are you rich and you occupy? Well, what the hell? The rich can't help the poor? Then how do you work in the corporate structure where you're partners with some of the biggest companies in the world, and yet you're questioning the tax code? You know, the prison-industrial complex is probably my biggest focus over the last 20 years -- I've probably spent more hours fighting the prison-industrial complex than anything else. 

Do you think that all celebrities have an obligation to be activists or philanthropists? 

Nobody has an obligation. It's in the scripture that what makes you happy is to make other people happy and what makes you, you know, whole is to give other people what you have. So to the extent that you want to be selfish and want to be happy it's important.

What's one thing you want all of your fans to know or do?

I wish that everybody would just accept what they tell them in the scripture -- not to be religious, but to accept that all those promises were true. In other words, what your mother told you is true. I wish I believed it. To gain faith in what they promised you regarding the pursuit of happiness -- that giving makes you whole. That basic stuff that I didn't believe that we have to gain faith in as we get older. The broad idea, it kind of sounds like bullshit, but I wish I could give everybody around me. 

What change do you most want to see in the world?

Well, if we're going to survive, everybody has to go vegan. If we want to save the world we have to stop 100 billion animals from being killed, slaughtered, not killed, slaughtered and abused so that we can get cancer, so we can be sick, so we can destroy the planet, the ozone layer and all our natural resources. It doesn't make sense. We can you know change that. Right?

For more Q&As from our 'Use Your Voice' portfolio, go HERE.

Photos From Our Pride Brunch With Diesel

With the Supreme Court ruling in favor of gay marriage just the day before Gay Pride weekend, NYC's LGBT community had a truly monumental reason to celebrate. My personal Pride Weekend kicked off at Hôtel Americano for a brunch co-hosted by Diesel's Nicola Formichetti. The Misshapes DJ'd making the 1pm shindig seem like 1am. Revelers included Gayletter's Tom and Abi, superstar journalists Michael Musto and Lynn Yaeger, model RJ King, YouTube star Aaron Rhodes and a cavalcade of tattoo'd partygoers. Mini-inflated pink swan cup holders were a hit with the kids while giant couch-sized inflated swans provided the perfect location for gay pride selfies. Take a look at photos by Rebecca Smeyne, below.

Diesel's Niccola Formichetti, models and Mr. Mickey

The Misshapes's Greg Krelenstein

Mr. Mickey and Lynn Yaeger

Jodie Harsh (second from left), Candy Ken and Nicola Formichetti

Candy Ken (left)

Niccola Formichetti, Richard Chai and friend

RJ King and Simon Huck


Candy Ken and Nicola Formichetti

Riccardo Tisci Brings Givenchy to NYC

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 11.07.57 AM.png(Photo by Theo Wenner for PAPER)

Today WWD announced that one of the world's most high-profile designers, Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy, will be showing his Spring 2016 collection in New York City. Tisci is known for his love of America ("it gives me so much energy, and I'm very inspired by the culture. I feel free when I'm there," he told WWD) and spends a great deal of time in the Naked City. He was even photographed with muse Erykah Badu on the NY City subway for our October 2014 issue. The relocation of the show is only party of Tisci's charm offensive in the Big Apple; Givenchy is opening a new store on Madison Avenue in August, their first retail location in the city since the closing of their previous store in 2006.

Tisci is also celebrating ten years as creative director of the brand, which is known for mixing the highest of high fashion with influences from street culture, nightlife and music. While there's no doubt that NYFW will get a strong injection of glamor and sophistication courtesy of Tisci and Givenchy, it hasn't gone unnoticed that the show will take place on September 11th, fourteen years after the terrorist attacks. Some, like New York Times' Vanessa Friedman, are urging Tisci to note the somber anniversary in some way during his show and it's clear the designer is taking this to heart. "It's a very delicate day for America, and so the show is going to be a celebration of family and love," he told WWD. And as any casual observer of Tisci's Instagram knows, those are two themes the designer holds dear to his heart (and his feed).

Mr. Mickey's Pride Parade Diary

After kicking things off on Saturday with a brunch, Diesel kept the party going with their float in the Heritage of Pride parade. LOVE was the theme and the float was decorated with giant L-O-V-E letters. Diesel's Creative Director, Nicola Formichetti, was the star, working a million different social media channels as the float inched its way down Fifth Avenue. He did Persicope, Twitter, Instagram -- the works. Also on the float was Candy Ken, the Berlin-based muscle man with a penchant for Hello Kitty accessories. His Pride look was aqua Diesel underpants (the new kind from their Hero Fit collection that claim to enchance your package) along with giant pink sunglasses and a Hello Kitty tiara, necklace and bicep bracelet. London DJ and party queen Jodie Harsh contributed to the international glamour quotient and an army of wildly dressed (and semi-undressed) cuties danced on the float and alongside it. With the crowds watching the parade delirious with the excitement of the Supreme Court decision, everyone was truly in the mood to cut loose and have an amazing time. Take a look at photos, below.

Mr. Mickey riding the Diesel "LOVE" float

Candy Ken and Nicola Formichetti

Mr. Mickey and Nicola Formichetti

Candy Ken

Jodie Harsh on the Diesel "LOVE" float

Jodie Harsh

Check Out the Crowd-Sourced Video for Jack Ü x Justin Bieber's Banger, "Where Are Ü Now?"

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 11.58.48 AM.png
Ok, I'm prefacing this all by saying that "Where Are Ü Now" is a straight-up banger. After all, I listen to the Jack Ü x Justin Bieber collab regularly in the shower, on my morning commute and waiting on the bodega sandwich line -- and I unabashedly make fellow snobby music writers listen to it on the reg, because it is simply that good.

So obviously I'm overjoyed by the new video that premiered this morning on Good Morning America, especially since it's a fan-created, crowd-sourced concept. Cut together entirely from individual film stills customized by fans, the whole thing -- which is filled with things like Ronald McDonald, a snarky "FUCK IT" (no "FUCK Ü"??) and a crossed out "Jelena 5Ever" -- it's a tad headache-inducing but very sweet on Jack Ü's part. 

And while Justin may be playing all back-lit brood sad boy in the vid, it's definitely one of the lesser annoyances we can put up with. All we have to say is, cheer up, J. She'll find ü someday.💛

Is This You? Read This Missed Connection From the MoMA

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 1.21.25 PM.png(Photo by Andrew Tess)

Last week, we ran photos from Yoko Ono's sunrise performance, MORNING PEACE 2015, at the MoMA. More like a (very) very early morning concert than art show, the event featured live performances by Ono and Blood Orange and a DJ set by Virgil Abloh. The cute, colorfully-dressed crowd got rowdy, with people crowd-surfing, dancing and, in the case of two young guys, kissing.

Shortly after, we got an email from one of the fellas who had found the photo on our site and said that he despaired of ever seeing his would-be MoMA mate again. (Like so many nights -- or mornings -- it appears that when the party was over, the two parted ways without exchanging phone numbers...or even Instagram handles.) He asked if we'd run a 'Missed Connections' ad on our site and how we could say no? Below, a note from 'Anonymous Cinderella Boy' seeking his missing babe:

The morning was hazy, but your kiss was unforgettable.

We met during Yoko Ono's Morning Peace. You tapped my shoulder. And then all I can remember next is magically being in each other's arms. That's the important part after all, right?

As daylight emerged, we danced and made out like we were the only two in the room. I don't recall a single word being exchanged. No names, no phone numbers, nothing; simply a mutual gaze and touch of desire.

I stepped away for a moment, and the next you were gone. As light filled MoMA, I ran around looking for you, but to no avail.

I'm hoping you see this so we can reconnect, and pick up where we left off that perfect early morning.

- Anonymous Cinderella Boy

If you're the guy in question, please email abbys@papermag.com who will forward all responses to A.C.B.

Shia LaBeouf Accused of Plagiarizing (Again) on Viral "Freestyle"

Shia LaBeouf, noted artisté, Transformers actor and useful Chrome extension, can probably add "serial plagiarist" to his CV at this point, as he's (once again) been accused of plagiarizing a prominent underground rap crew in his newly-surfaced freestyle.

Incomprehensible and painfully awkward for the entire video's duration, MC Beouf compares himself to Tupac, all while throwing down odd tuna casserole-centric insults and um, tying in a reference to Galileo with potatoes (???). However, what we're mostly interested is why LaBeouf just can't come up with any original art -- especially as these new (and pretty founded) accusations come after last year's blow-up with comic artist Daniel Clowes, his string of blatantly copy-pasted apologies (from King Guwop, no less) and his whole Thomas Pychon paper bag "art" thing. 

The latest instance is even more cringeworthy as it comes straight from an underground female MC crew known for an independence-driven ethos that comes as a direct result of being women in the male-dominated hip-hop industry. And to add insult to injury, he's gone viral for this new, previously unknown "talent," even though the rest of his (actual) freestyle is pretty weak. 

As crew member Pri the Honeydark points out, LaBeouf takes his gas mask joke and "the rare commodity, the quality is what it's gotta be, and my philosophy is farther than what your eyes can see" line from the crew's 1999 track "Perfectionist," completely unattributed, unreferenced, etc. etc., which is problematic in the sense that he's continuing to make headlines for directly stealing from women-of-color artists. Stick to making headlines for your rattail, Shia.

Scenes From the Pride Weekend Westgay Ft. Foxy Brown

Last night, Westway hosted its last-ever 'Westgay' bash (the club is shutting its doors for good next month) and it was a turn up for the ages. The end to the history-making Pride Weekend, the party, which was sponsored by Diesel, brought out scores of kids in their underpants and pasties and a special performance by Foxy Brown. Take a look at photos by Marco Ovando, below.

Sussi Suss (center)

Queen Sateen and Exquisite

Foxy Brown

Frankie Sharp

Nine Living Music Legends Talk to Us About the Causes They Believe In and the Worlds They Envision

Watch the Heartbreaking Trailer for a New Chris Farley Documentary

farley 1.jpgIn the past few months, we've seen the release of several documentaries about stars who died young -- the Amy Winehouse doc, the Kurt Cobain doc, and now the Chris Farley doc. The trailer for I am Chris Farley, which premiered over at BuzzFeed today, suggests the film will dig deep into the problem at the heart of a life like Winehouse's, Cobain's, or Farley's -- how can a single person maintain the demands of a persona, of being "on," throughout an entire lifetime? Interviews with Farley's family and entertainment friends like David Spade, Adam Sandler, and Bobs Saget and Odenkirk suggest that the answer is, sadly: you can't. The soft, moving, and well-handled use of clips from Farley's comedy career and the simultaneous joy and seriousness expressed in the talking head interviews suggest that I am Chris Farley won't flinch in exploring this question, while still maintaining a sense of pride that someone so funny and beloved lived at all. I am Chris Farley hits some cities in theaters July 31, airs on Spike August 10, and will then be available on demand. Watch the trailer below. [via Esquire]