Between 12 to 27 million people are enslaved all over the world RIGHT NOW. That doesn’t even seem possible, right? And what’s even crazier is most peeps have no idea that slavery still exists.
While mtvU’s Against Our Will campaign galvanizes the amazing activist energy of college students to spread awareness and take action against human trafficking, it never hurts to have a little boost from pop culture. Celebrity advocacy can really tip the engagement scales on an issue -- so here’s our list of the Top Anti-Trafficking Celebs who’ve used their famous voice to put the world on alert.
+ Mary J. Blige for Girls Educational & Mentoring Services (GEMS)
Mary J. is a R&B queen who’s been pushing positive messages in her feel-good jams for a hot minute -- and back in 2009, she took her musical class act to the next level. The incomparable Lady Mary teamed up with Sinead O’Connor (the badass & bald 80s Irish rocker) and Girls Educational & Mentoring Services (GEMS) to create a powerful charity single benefiting the New York-based org, the largest of its kind in the country, and its work supporting survivors of sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking. “This Is To Mother You” also introduces Martha B., a survivor and member of GEMS, who sings Sinead’s lyrics alongside Mary J. -- making the song’s message of solidarity and hope for all the girls who are still struggling on the streets that much sweeter.
+ Esperanza Spalding for Free The Slaves
You might remember her as the crazy talented jazz bassist/vocalist/composer who stunned an army of rabid Beliebers when she snagged the Best New Artist Grammy from Justin Bieber in 2011. Sorry J.B., but I saw the mesmerizing Esperanza open for Prince last year and she tore it UP with that bass. (Plus, she even gives the Biebz a run for his money in the best hair category.) But forget the dramz, because what you should know Esperanza for is her remarkable work supporting Free the Slaves (FTS) – one of America’s leading anti-slavery organizations. A portion of all sales of merchandise on her current North American tour will benefit FTS and help end the heinous practice of human trafficking.
+ Ashley Rickards for The Somaly Mam Foundation
The star of MTV’s hit series is anything but awkward in real life – especially when it comes to her passionate “hunger” for activism. The rising star is a big-time backer of the Somaly Mam Foundation, started by a courageous Cambodian survivor of the child sex trade, and its PROJECT FUTURES campaign, which aims to engage and inspire young people all over the world to tackle this issue with their unique Millennial skill set (social networks, online campaigns, etc.)
+ Ricky Martin for People for Children
When Ricky isn’t teaching Spanish or shaking his bon-bon on Broadway, he’s working to improve the lives of children all over the world. The Ricky Martin Foundation’s principal project is People for Children, an ongoing effort to combat the exploitation of the world’s most vulnerable population through campaigns like "Guerreros de Luz" and "No a la Trata," both focused on ending human trafficking. The international singing sensation is looking for “warriors of light” to take action for the many children that are enslaved each year because it -- contigo comienza -- starts with you!
+ Alicia Keys for the Coalition Against Trafficking of Women
The pop songstress’s soulful ways are well known -- she co-founded the nonprofit Keep a Child Alive, was honored with the 2009 BET Humanitarian Award, and even endured a charitable digital death that raised $1 million. So when she decides to get her actwivism on, you know it’s gonna be legit. Like last year when caring Keys tweeted support for her advocate mama Terria Joseph and the Coalition Against Trafficking of Women protest held in front of the Village Voice’s HQ in NYC. The talented artist asked her followers to demand that the popular publication stop working with Backpage.com, the platform that hosts the paper’s personal ads -- which are allegedly bought by sketchy peeps with links to human trafficking rings and illegal sexual exploitation of minors.
+ Ashton & Demi for the DNA Foundation
Now it gets tricky. Not only because Hollywood’s most beloved cougar couple has called it quits, but because the high-profile anti-trafficking awareness campaign that their DNA Foundation (guess what those letters sadly stand for) launched last year caused quite a stir. “Real Men Don’t Buy Girls” was a send-up of the child sex trade featuring Justin Timberlake, Bradley Cooper, Drake, Sean Penn and more that raised eyebrows amongst advocates and experts with its comedic approach to the problem. But there’s no denying that the controversial PR stunt got tons of people talking about the sex trafficking epidemic – plus, both Ashton and Demi have proven to be amazingly articulate and extremely committed to the cause of ending child slavery.