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CELEBRITY DIPLOMACY

by on May 16, 2014

The association that celebrities have with politics and diplomatic affairs goes as far back as the cold war, more specifically in the early 60’s. America sought to reformulate American culture and values and that was done through the exposition of music, movies, sports including various other forms of entertainment. The Americans were right to believe that this was a strategic and powerful tactic to influence and reshape perceptions of their country, their people and their government. As this is evident today, America is a country that is largely embraced and celebrated by other western countries and even has many countries particularly in the global south that look up to America as a great role model.

The deployment of Jazz music artists such as the famous Louie Arm strong in the 60’s was their beginning of a global and ultimate move towards the remolding of belief systems abroad and a new painting on the canvas that portrayed the American cultural and value systems. For scholars such as Davenport, he believes that the deployment and more specifically the governmental funding towards the musicians was a tool to exercise soft power by countering the ideals of the Soviet Union and creating a quasi-Utopia model of governance (democracy) (Davenport 2009)

As America has grown to the extent which many believe; is the leader in the international community, their relations with celebrities has increased, so much to the extent that celebrity involvement in politics is now in various cases pivotal to the success of political campaigns that are held by state leaders. More significantly the involvement of celebrities in politics has now been institutionalized within the United Nations.

Big film stars such as Angelina Jolie of the sequel ‘Tomb Raider’ was formally recognised as a goodwill ambassador. Her transition from an ambassador saw her appointment as a special envoy of UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterresin the year 2012. in this role Jolie’s roles comprise of focusing on crises associated with population displacements, representing UNHCR and Guterres at the diplomatic level and finally overall advocacy and engaging with political decision makers on a national and international level.  Below is a picture of Miss Jolie on her trip in Ecuador where she met Colombian refugees living in the most deprived and extreme poverty conditions.Image.

 

What’s interesting about celebrity diplomats is that they can certainly reach a wider audience than politicians. They do to an extent fill that gap that international relations creates in the relations between politicians and the people. The outreach of a celebrity diplomat in most cases does reach the most disengaged whether socially, politically and quite significantly economically, as it is seen in the visit of Miss Jolie.

Another case is the indirect involvement of governments. An example would be the World Food Programme which is simply an extension of the democratic agency of the west, saw the deployment of Rapper & Entrepreneur ’50 Cent’ into Somalia during the famine in both Kenya and Somalia in 2012 where he vowed to provide 1 billion meals, plus a regular donation to WFP of 10 cents from every sale of a new energy drink called Street King that he has endorsed. This was out of his personal will as he was not appointed.

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To conclude, Nick Couldry & Tim Markham (2007) argue that people who follow celebrities are disengaged in the world of international politics. While some argue that celebrity diplomacy is just a tool to further democracy and international weight & power, while this is true, celebrity involvement creates dialogue as they reel in audiences through their political works. The latest campaign named #BringBackOurGirls which is centred around the incident involving the 200+ girls abducted in Nigeria by a militant group, has seen the likes of stars such as American singer & song writer Aleisha Keys actively participate as it seen in the picture below.

 

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It is safe to say that this has caused a domino effect gathering the publics, particularly her fan base and creating awareness. In this era, it seems as though ‘style’ is bypassing traditional forms of politics. This is a day and age where celebrity culture has become an essential in public dialogue and debate especially among issues that need public resolution. The existence and growth of celebrity culture means that it can no longer be ignored in the world of public issues. (Rojek 2001; Turner 2006)

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Davenport, L. 2009: Jazz Diplomacy Promoting America in the Cold War Era. Jackson
Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi.

 

US RAPPER 50 CENT VISITS KENYA & SOMALIA DURING 2012 FAMINE 

http://africandiplomacy.mobi/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1194:us-rapper-50-cent-visits-famine-victims-in-somalia-kenya&catid=140:health&Itemid=91&lang=en – 

 

ANGELINA JOLIE ON MISSION IN EQUADOR 

http://www.unhcr.org/4f958a586.html

 

Rojek (2001) Celebrity

 

 

 

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