Karamo Brown, Bill Nye the Science Guy and Natalie Portman shared their passions backstage at the Forum in Los Angeles.
By Zoe Demarco
Thousands of passionate young change-makers from across the Golden State ventured to the Forum in Los Angeles for WE Day California on April 25, to hear inspiring speakers, talented performers and A-list celebrities.
The biggest WE Day event of the season was full of entertaining and memorable on-stage moments, like host Neil Patrick Harris entering the show accompanied by a marching band, Selena Gomez calling WE Day the “best day of the year” and Chance the Rapper encouraging the crowd to lead with positivity.
But it was in the quiet backstage moments, after signing autographs on the blue carpet and before taking the stage to inspire the crowd, where the day’s speakers had the chance to talk intimately about the issues they’re passionate about and the causes that connected them to WE.
Founded by Craig Kielburger in 1995, the WE movement believes that when we work together we can create a better world. With the original goal of ending child labour, WE has grown into a collection of organizations that work in harmony to change the world. WE Villages addresses the underlying issues of poverty in developing countries and WE Schools empowers students in North America and the UK with the tools and resources to take action on local and global issues. Youth can earn tickets to a WE Day event by taking action through WE Schools.
Check out three inspiring messages from backstage at WE Day.
Settling into her dressing room, Natalie Portman expressed her undying love for The Baby-Sitters Club series. When she quit reading them—“I was getting too old”—she had amassed a collection of over 100 books. The books follow the exploits of a group of girls who start their own babysitting business. The wise entrepreneurs she found in the pages of each B.S.C. novel provided Portman with strong female role models from a young age.
The Oscar-winning actor has been a strong supporter of the Time’s Up movement, advocating for women’s equity, opportunity and safety in the workplace. Portman believes that power exists in unity, and that by creating a global sisterhood we can further the fight for women’s empowerment and equality. When she travelled to Kenya with ME to WE in 2015, she witnessed firsthand the imbalance of power that is created when there are educational disparities between boys and girls.
“A world of empowered women would be where you wouldn’t even have to note someone’s gender in terms of talking about their opportunity or wages or safety or treatment,” she said. “It would be where everyone is just considered a person and treated well because they’re a person, not because of any particularity about their genes.”
Between bites of ME to WE’s award-winning chocolate, the Science Guy talked about his role as CEO of the Planetary Society, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about the value of space exploration and planetary science. Compared to other space ventures, such as military satellites, space exploration is relatively inexpensive, he says. In the flesh, Bill Nye is the same white lab-coat-wearing Bill Nye the Science Guy that made your childhood self believe that science rules.
Nye believes there’s life on other planets and hopes to test that hypothesis in the future – he’s not envisioning little green men in UFOs, but some form of bacteria or other microorganism. The Europa Clipper mission is one way he hopes to find out. Slated for launch in 2023, the mission will send a spacecraft into orbit around Jupiter, where it will be able to perform close flybys of Jupiter’s moon Europa to investigate whether it’s harbouring the conditions for life beneath its icy surface.
“If we were able to discover life, or evidence of life, like some fossilized bacteria, it would change the course of human history. It would be profound. It would be like Copernicus discovering that the Earth goes around the sun, or Galileo learning that the moon has craters,” he said. “There are two questions we all ask: where did we come from and are we alone in the universe? If you want to answer those questions you’ve got to explore space.”
Before he was Queer Eye’s culture expert, Karamo Brown co-founded 6in10.org, an organization that combats HIV stigma and provides mental health support and HIV education to the Black LGBT community. With the amount of knowledge we have as a society about how to prevent HIV, the incidence of cases should be falling. However, in communities of colour and in LGBT communities, the number of infected individuals is rising. Brown believes that there is a mental health aspect that exists when it comes to HIV prevention. When people don’t feel comfortable having conversations about how to protect themselves or about how they’re feeling, there are deeper mental health and self-esteem issues at play. Clad in his signature LA Dodgers hat and a sequined bomber jacket, Brown said he hopes that by empowering people with the confidence to speak up for themselves, as well as providing them with additional education and prophylactics, the number of cases will decline.