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Rajesh Mirchandani, the vice president of communications at the Center for Global Development, agrees. But there is a down side, he notes: Celebrities can be distracting because of their celebrity. "If they [celebrities] are too famous, or infamous, the media is going to be more interested in their personal doings than the project they are supposed to be fronting," he said.
An "unlikely but powerful" example of a celebrity who has been able to walk the tightrope between offering an organization much-needed publicity and awareness while also acting as a strong role model is actress Angelina Jolie, says Mirchandani. Jolie began her work with the UNHCR as a goodwill ambassador in 2001 after adopting eldest son Maddox while filming Lara Croft: Tomb Raider in Cambodia and becoming interested in the local history of refugees. Jolie developed a focus on the needs of refugee women and emergency medical relief. In 2012, the U.N. offered her the rare distinction of "special envoy," recognizing her role in attracting attention to the refugee cause.
"In the best cases, the most enlightened celebrities understand that their fame and wealth is not the objective, but the platform from which to make a real difference in the world," says Mirchandani, ruefully adding, "If only they all did."