Cause and Effect: Young Female Celebrity Activists

With 'Scandal' actress and political activist Kerry Washington turning 40 today, we look at some other young female celebrities who are at the forefront of causes they believe in.
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Kerry Washington Scandal Photo

ABC's 'Scandal' stars Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope.

If you thought Olivia Pope was a woman to be reckoned with, then you haven't met Kerry Washington. The Scandal actress turns 40 today, and besides the impressive resume she's built over the years in film and television, Washington has also been a strong voice outside of Hollywood, advocating for women's causes and voting rights. If she isn't passionately making her point on political hot button shows like Real Time With Bill Maher, she's supporting anti-cancer programs for women and speaking up about gay rights and diversity in Hollywood. In 2012 Washington spoke at the Democratic National Campaign for the reelection of President Obama and is also an active member of the Creative Coalition, an artists' group that discusses challenges within the entertainment industry and society at large.

In celebration of Washington's 40th and her passion as an activist, we explore five other young female celebrity activists, who are packing a punch with the causes they believe in.

America Ferrera

America Ferrera Women's March D.C. Photo

America Ferrara speaks onstage at the Women's March on Washington on January 21, 2017 in Washington, DC.

Whether she was hitting the campaign trail for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton (in both 2008 and 2016) or speaking passionately at the Women's March in D.C. less than two weeks ago, America Ferrera has always had activism on the brain. In fact she almost gave up acting for it. Thankfully, though, she found a way of having it both ways. In addition to working with organizations to encourage Latinos to vote, The Ugly Betty and Superstore star also recently joined forces with the Epix channel to become a celebrity correspondent on immigration issues for its documentary series America Divided.

Emma Watson

Emma Watson 'He for She' Campaign Photo

Emma Watson, Ban Ki-Moon attends the launch of the HeForShe Campaign at the United Nations on September 20, 2014 in New York City.

The beloved Harry Potter actress Emma Watson has established herself as a highly sought-after adult actress in her own right, but her passions go beyond the big screen. As a graduate of Brown and Oxford universities, Watson's left a huge impression with the women's rights community when she became a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. Using her star status, Watson helped launch the campaign He for She, which aims to persuade men to help fight for gender equality.

Rosario Dawson

Rosario Dawson Bernie Sanders Rally Photo

Rosario Dawson gives opening speech at Bernie Sanders rally at Saint Mary's Park on March 31, 2016 in New York City.

Besides being known for films like Kids, Rent, Men in Black II, and Sin City, Rosario Dawson is almost equally famous these days for her political activism. She's the co-founder of Voto Latino, which encourages Latinos to be active in the political arena, and she supports numerous philanthropic causes, including The Nature Conservancy and Doctors Without Borders. Dawson's also no stranger to protest. In 2004 she was arrested for protesting against George W. Bush, and in 2016, she found herself handcuffed again at the Democracy Spring in Washington D.C. She was also widely known for being a staunch supporter and surrogate for Senator Bernie Sanders during his run for president in 2016.

Shailene Woodley

Shailene Woodley Dakota Access Pipeline Protest Photo

Shailene Woodley, and North Dakota Native American children participate in the Stop The Dakota Access Pipeline protest at Union Square on August 7, 2016 in New York City.

Speaking of Bernie supporters, Divergent and Big Little Lies star Shailene Woodley also played a visible role as a celebrity surrogate for Sanders in 2016, crisscrossing the country to campaign for him. When the senator's presidential campaign ended, she joined the board of his Our Revolution organization to help educate voters about politics and to further progressive issues. She was also a recent famous face in North Dakota when she joined thousands of protesters to fight against the oil pipeline at Standing Rock, and subsequently got were arrested with 26 other protesters.

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga Orlando Shooting Rally Photo

Lady Gaga speaks during a candlelight vigil and rally, hosted by the Los Angeles LGBT Center, at Los Angeles City Hall, for the victims of Sunday's shooting massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

If you asked Lady Gaga, she'd probably offer a "Million Reasons" why she stays active for causes that are close to her heart. Famous for her LGBT advocacy, Gaga is also a vocal advocate for the anti-fracking movement and education against HIV and AIDS. In 2012 she founded the Born This Way Foundation, which focuses on empowering youth and promoting anti-bullying measures. In 2016 she joined Vice President Joe Biden for the It's On Us campaign to fight against sexual assault on U.S. college campuses.