Each year, Variety highlights five prominent women who are using their clout and influence to bring attention to worthy causes. This year’s honorees are: Jessica Chastain (Planned Parenthood), Chelsea Clinton (Alliance for a Healthier Generation), Gayle King (SEO Scholars), Blake Lively (Child Rescue Coalition), Audra McDonald (Covenant House), and Shari Redstone (Legal Services Corp.).
“It’s very important in our society to protect women who financially don’t have the means to pay for healthcare, and Planned Parenthood does that,” says Jessica Chastain. But the nonprofit, which is 100 years old, has been under fire. The Trump administration and pro-life Republicans are threatening to cut funding for the organization that provides medical services for women, including abortions. >> READ MORE
After Bill Clinton underwent emergency heart bypass surgery in 2004, he reached out to the American Heart Assn. to see what he could do for the organization. He envisioned it would want him to be the poster child for men visiting their doctors more regularly — but the group had another mission in mind: “The American Heart Assn. said, ‘Yes, please talk about that. But what we really need help on is childhood obesity,’” recalls Chelsea Clinton. >> READ MORE
Gayle King grew up in a household where it was never a question whether she was going to college. “I couldn’t wait,” she says, of attending the University of Maryland, where she double-majored in psychology and sociology. “Who’s going to be my roommate? What classes am I going to have? Filling out the application form.” But for many children raised in modest-income families, these conversations aren’t part of their upbringing. >> READ MORE
Blake Lively wants to use the power of the web to crack down on child pornography. The movie star (“The Shallows,” “Café Society”) is working with the Child Rescue Coalition on promoting a groundbreaking technology that flags the IP addresses of people who share and download sexually explicit images of minors. >> READ MORE
The most decorated star on Broadway regularly spends the night on the sidewalk. For the last few years, six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald has joined Sleep Out: Broadway Edition, which invites hundreds of members of the New York theater community to pass an entire night on the street, regardless of weather. The annual event is a fundraiser for Covenant House, the organization that helps homeless teens in 30 cities across six countries. >> READ MORE
“The entire legal system was built upon the assumption that people would have adequate representation. When they don’t, the system fails and the laws don’t matter,” says Shari Redstone. That’s where Legal Services Corp. comes in. The group that Redstone supports provides funding to 134 legal-aid organizations, which, in turn, give counsel to close to 2 million people. >> READ MORE