I always thought that having an abundant amount of money – like reality star or runway model money – should mean that not only do you have the freedom to buy whatever you want, but you can also use it to help others.
While that may be true, a few celebrities have recently taken it upon themselves to share GoFundMe pages on social media, encouraging their followers to donate to causes even when their own personal fortunes may be more than enough to reach the fundraising goals.
Let’s just say, fans aren’t too pleased – and rightfully so, considering the scope of the celebrity-endorsed beneficiaries. It seems as though there’s an unspoken consensus among a handful of A-listers that their wealth should not be depended on to fully satisfy a charitable cause – even one that affects the individuals they have personal relationships with.
International supermodel Bella Hadid sparked controversy when she requested monetary donations from her followers for her friend Tracy Piper – a “detox specialist, colon therapist, acupuncturist, [and] massage therapist” – and her holistic healing business. The fashion muse, who recently opened up about her 15-year struggle with “chronic Lyme’s disease”, took to her Instagram story to share Piper’s GoFundMe page, adding that Piper was not only a friend, but a sister, angel and mentor.
“I am asking for assistance to complete the purchase of our upstate New York location to continue helping people with health challenges find alternative & holistic ways to improve their health,” Piper’s GoFundMe description read, before noting how the Piper Retreat Center would allow suffering individuals to “relax and detox and experience remarkable changes in their health”. Hadid made sure to admit she had already donated to the “true healer’s” page, encouraging her fans to follow suit.
With the brand ambassador’s massive following of 59.4 million on Instagram, no one can assume she’s ignorant about her level of influence. Hadid’s a known trendsetter in both beauty and style realms, who has inadvertently caused her devotees to identify as “bellabots”. Just this year, a viral paparazzi shot of the famed fashionista wearing itty-bitty boxer shorts and platform Uggs prompted hundreds of diehard fans to try to recreate the look, meaning the furry boots sold out.
No matter what Hadid does, there will always be admirers ready to do the same. That level of influence is what makes her sharing of a GoFundMe page for somebody that she has a personal connection with such an ethical quandary.
On the one hand, some would argue that she’s using her platform for good, spreading awareness about a cause that has the potential to help someone. There are plenty of celebrities out there who are in a position to effect change, but instead use their fame and fortune for personal gain. So it’s refreshing to see somebody with influence motivate their fans to learn about and contribute to small businesses and struggling artists.
However, does that mean it’s OK for wealthy stars to ask their less-well-off fans to part with their cash, when they could theoretically cover the bill themselves? I would say no – especially when the cause in question isn’t life-saving medical treatment or some humanitarian charity.
Back in 2021, billionaire entrepreneur Kylie Jenner was slammed for “encouraging her followers to donate to a make-up artist’s GoFundMe”, according to a report in USA Today. The 26-year-old posted an Instagram story requesting her followers donate to help pay for make-up artist Samuel Rauda’s medical bills after he was involved in a car accident.
“Everyone take a moment to say a prayer for Sam who got into an accident this past weekend. And swipe up to visit his family’s go fund me,” she wrote.
Jenner, who had an estimated net worth of $900m (£709m) at the time, received enormous backlash from her fans. Among other criticisms, they pointed to the fact that the Kylie Cosmetics founder had no issue purchasing her toddler a $15,000 handbag, but somehow felt the need to ask her followers to spend their own money on a GoFundMe she could easily cover herself.
Jenner attempted to defend herself by acknowledging that she no longer had a relationship with Rauda, but her current make-up artist Ariel directed her attention to the GoFundMe. “They had already raised 6k so I put … in 5k to reach their original goal,” she said, claiming her intentions were to “raise awareness” and “be helpful”.
Celebrities like Hadid and Jenner need to be careful. The influence they possess means that their fans may find themselves parting with money they can’t afford to lose, for a cause their celebrity idol could have paid off in the first place.
I do believe that the issue of celebrities sharing GoFundMe accounts depends heavily on the groups or individuals in need. I certainly don’t want to discount the needs of any one individual.
But for the most part, given their influence, the ultra-wealthy could just as easily post information about the causes that are dear to them without asking their fans for money directly, while also reaching into their own pockets to take on the majority of the financial burden themselves.