Famous person asked to do charity work she finds odious. Does she owe it to her fans?

Another hypothetical thread with optional poll, obviously. If you don’t like these, I frankly do not understand why you are still reading. Masochism?

Today’s story is about Kat, a woman in her early thirties. She starred in a couple of hit Disney Channel shows before reaching 16, then broke free of the Mouse with a Maxim layout and followed that up with several albums and movies: all hits, but all depending on their appeal more on her rack and legs than her singing voice or acting range.

Like many child stars, Kat had horrible stage parents who saw her as an organic ATM. Nonetheless there was a wholesome, loving influence in her life: her sister Lynn. Ten years Kat’s senior, Lynn was never interested in profiting from her sister’s success and wealth, much less following the same route. But she was always there for Kat throughout Kat’s teen years: a shoulder to cry on, a kick in the ass, or a refuge from the paparazzi.

Lynn died at 27 of cancer. This devastated the 17-year-old Kat, not least because of the tabloid headlines and her parents’ shameless attempts to use the tragedy to further Kat’s career. Their behavior then was the main reason she became an emancipated minor and fired them as her managers.

Years have passed. Recently, Kat has been contacted by an organization dedicated to raising funding for the sort of cancer that killed her sister. She knows this non-profit well, having anonymously contributed a good bit of money to them every year. The organization wants her to be their honorary chair for the year, which will entail speaking publicly about Lynn’s death and her own grief, and also talking to other people who have lost loved ones to cancer.

Kat hesitates. Her relationship with Lynn is private, almost the only thing about her life that is entirely hers, and she doesn’t want to give it up. By contrast, both her current manager and her best friend think she should do it. Her manager favors the move because Kat wants to move to weightier projects, and the honorary chairship may make people take her more seriously. Her best friend thinks Kat owes it to her fans to go public about her sister’s disease and its consequences. It’s because of the fans, after all, that Kat is so fabulously wealthy, so she should give something back.

What do you think? Why?

I think Kat should decline the honorary charimanship, and publicly state “Due to my past history of having a loved one die of this disease I am far too emotional about about it to function properly in such a public post. I do support their work, but it wouldn’t be fair to the organization to have a chairman who can’t give 100%”. Then she can go off and find some other “serious” role while quietly continuing to support the charity.

Really, this notion that celebrities somehow “owe” it to other people to make their entire lives public is odious.

I was going to vote in all categories so I could quickly survey the responses without giving my own thoughts away, but that was too much work. Also I didn’t feel like being a dick.

I obviously voted no in all categories. The <other> reason was that I think there’s a social benefit in Kat deciding to keep her private life private; it’s a tiny gesture against the current everything-is-out-there world we’ve created.

Broomstick, if I were Kat’s friend, I’d advise her not to make a public statement about her reasons for declining the chair gig unless it’s forced upon her, by which I mean the organization has made public its offer to her. No need to stir up shit unnecessarily.

I don’t think Kat owes her fans anything but entertaining performances.

I voted she should decline.

If she really wants to be classy, she needs to go on Twitter or Facebook, or offer to make a commercial for the organization gratis, explaining that she supports them, and encourages her fans to do the same, in her sister’s memory, but that she doesn’t feel that she has the necessary background to be a useful chairperson. Bonus props if she can suggest someone - perhaps a doctor or specialist that she knows of through her previous involvement or who was integral in her sister’s care - to be the chair in her stead.

Even if the random Joe on the street doesn’t know about the organization and their offer, SOMEONE in the industry does, and they WILL talk about it, whether she accepts or declines. Her options to remain private at this point are therefore limited, whatever she chooses. If she takes the bull by the horns and states straightforward reasons for her choice (that may not be the entire truth, but are at least honest reasons) then people are more likely to respect that, and it will help quell raging gossip about her morals and motivations.

That’s one gist of it. And for another, isn’t Charity supposed to be volunteer? How “volunteer” can it be when you “owe” it. And back to the first one, when OTHERS are the ones to decide what you “owe”, then it’s odious.

There are many fine charities but I can’t support them all. And to think I become somehow less worthy in someone else’s esteem because my choice of charities is different is not something I base my own self-worth on.

I can’t say how United Way does it today since I refused to have anything to do with them since the early 1970’s. At that time, they were asking for pledges, but most people can’t cough up a couple thousand dollars on a whim. So the organization offered an alternate where a person could donate certain fixed percentages to be deducted from the paychecks. I was willing to donate, but their smallest percentage was still more than I wanted to give. Their response was, and I quote:

“We’ve determined that, based upon your income, your fair share is…”

YOU have determined what MY fair share is? If I couldn’t make my fair share, they didn’t want my money. I was SO crushed that I couldn’t give it away.

A couple decades later, there was another charity, fortunately for them I don’t remember who it was, that needed volunteers to donate their time. I traveled a lot, sometimes for weeks at a time. But I lived well, was paid well, and wanted to give something to my community. So I offered what free time I had when I was home. Not good enough. They needed someone that was more like a part time job, week after week, only without pay. Okay, still understandable, but I’m willing to help where I can. No thank you, we don’t need it.

The problem I’m running into with charities is that so many of them believe that people DO owe it to them. They seem to have forgotten the concept of Volunteer. We do it because we want to, not because you’re entitled to it. So any charity, or person, who believes anyone “owes” it to them is very generous with OTHER people’s resources.


I don’t think Kat owes anything, but, if I were her, I’d do my absolute best to do it, or at least get another celebrity that could. Having a celebrity at the head does carry more wait to the public.

I know that if I didn’t do anything, I would, once I was finished grieving, feel very guilty. It would be false guilt, but I’d still would rather not feel that way. I don’t want my every memory of my sister being peppered with, “I could have honored her memory, and I didn’t.”

Celebrities don’t owe anything more to the public than private citizens do.

My thoughts exactly.

That’s you.

Frankly, I could keep such feelings private without feeling guilt.

It’s not like I felt compelled to join anti-suicide charities after my sister killed herself, or join a support group, or doing anything of the sort - and I haven’t felt the least bit guilty for NOT doing anything like that.

How is honoring a sister’s memory by keeping those memories and feelings private somehow less honorable than parading all that in public? Shouldn’t it be what’s best for the family, not the public at large?

If she wants to keep that part of herself private, then she should.

She already did more than something by contributing anonymously for years on end.

My take would be that ‘privacy’ with this may not be helping her as much as she thinks, and talking about what a great person her sister was might actually help. But to do it because she ‘owes’ her fans or the like is ridiculous.


I waffled between “Take the gig - it will help her move on” and “Decline the gig - her sister deserves the privacy”.

I said she should because I think it would be a nice thing to do. She doesn’t owe doing it to anyone.

I thought this was going to be about Ina Garten turning down the Make-A-Wish boy.

Kat has a right to her boundaries. (So does Ina.)

Also, just because she has a great rack, a Disney Princess crown (slightly soiled), and a dead sister, does not mean that she’d be any good as a Honorary Chairperson - whose main job, lets face it, is to separate the masses from their money. If Kat doesn’t feel compelled to share her sisters story then she probably won’t do a good job at it if she does it unwillingly.

Why would she she find this odious? I don’t get it. Do you think her sister getting cancer was a secret? It’s a big deal - it’s the end of her (the sister’s) own life. She’d have had her own friends. It’s not like this would have been something that only famous person and FP’s sister would have known.

I’d find it odious. I don’t care to speak publicly about my deepest griefs. Heck, I barely talk about them with my closest friends.

You miss the point. It’s not about it being public knowledge, but about her own personal handling of it that she wants to keep private. So, yes, to expect a celebrity to open every facet about oneself to the public is still odious.

Fans pay to be entertained by a celebrity, not to own one.

Damn! I was planning to buy Jake Gyllenhaal when I win the lottery.

I voted she should decline the gig. She has a right to her boundaries. She should only explain her choice if her declining the chair becomes public, other wise keep her reasons to herself.

The one exception I make is that if the illness was horribly misunderstood by the general public, like say during the early years of AIDS, then I as her friend would suggest that speaking out might help to dispel the some of the myths, fear and bigotry. But it would still be her choice not what she owes her fans.

Thanks for making this multiple choice; I voted for two options.

First was “decline the gig. She has a right to her boundaries.” The reasoning for this has been well-explained by previous posters.

The second was “decline the gig because of <blank>”, <blank> being fuck bullshit pathos-based propaganda arguments up the ass with a red-hot rusty nail-studded dildo, no matter what they happen to be in favor of. I don’t care if you’re bolstering an anti-Hitler platform; if your best argument is that mean old Adolf once did something that made you sad, and shouldn’t we all devote ourselves fully to your cause because after all, nobody likes sad things, then you are still a moron.

If horrible things happened to you or yours, then I’m truly very sorry about that…but basing our decisions about allocation of resources on quantity of celebrity sob stories is a really piss-poor decision making process. If Kat wants to be the Cindy Sheehan of [whatever] cancer, she can go for it, but she’s not doing anybody any good.