The coronavirus is impacting every person on the planet: wealthy or destitute, famous or unknown. Can mankind truly unite in its terror and suffering? While it’s nice to hope that a crisis as horrific as COVID-19 can bring the world together, it may make our differences all the more obvious.
Doctors, first responders, all healthcare personnel are putting their lives at risk every day to help those sickened by this unforgiving virus. Grocery store and delivery workers are leaving the safety of their homes so others can continue to eat while self-quarantining. But in all of this coming together, we are becoming acutely aware of societal differences.
Celebrities, professional athletes, and politicians–even those who haven’t any symptoms–have been able to access the testing and treatment that regular folks have not. It begs the question: What is the role of a celebrity during a real-life crisis? Do their words and actions matter more at this time of life or death?
The nation’s top doctor, Surgeon General Jerome Adams, thinks they do. “We need to get Kylie Jenner and social media influencers out there in helping folks understand that, look, this is serious. This is absolutely serious. People are dying,” Dr. Adams told Good Morning America.
He said the younger generation is more likely to ignore the quarantine despite the risks. Adams referenced his own teenagers: “The more I tell them not to do something, the more they want to do it.”
Perhaps it’s this calling that has led so many celebrities to speak out about the virus. Or maybe, they just want to align themselves with the top headlines to remain relevant. Whatever their motivation, the rich and famous are taking to social media to express their solidarity. They’re staying in, just like us. Sacrificing the jet-set lifestyle to hunker down in their mansions. But their efforts are falling really, really short. The Twitter and Instagram videos they post range from awkward to insulting to downright dangerous. Here’s a look at some of the most tone-deaf celebrity responses (so far).
Picture Madonna, sporting a newly tightened face, soaking luxuriously in her beautiful marble bathtub. Naked, apart from loads of jewelry, she’s surrounded by lit candles and serenaded by creepy background music. The delicate rose petals floating in her milky bath provide just enough coverage to keep the video PG.
He might feel better if he watches Madonna in the bathtub. https://t.co/tciBVGyQAs
— RoseMary (@RoseMaryTBA) March 25, 2020
The Material Girl’s somber demeanor is meant to emphasize the seriousness of her message, She says, “[COVID-19] doesn’t care about how rich you are, how famous you are, how funny you are, how smart you are, where you live, how old you are, what amazing stories you can tell. It’s the great equalizer, and what’s terrible about it is what’s great about it. What’s terrible about it is it’s made us all equal in many ways — and what’s wonderful about it is it’s made us all equal in many ways.”
She closed with, “…if the ship goes down, we’re all going down together.” Madonna followed the video with a still photo post of her naked self, roses strategically covering her nipples. The caption: “No discrimination — Covid-19! #quarantine #covid_19 #staysafe.”
“We are all equal”, said the woman surrounded with candies, floating in a basin of roses petals, very proud of herself and her epiphany that all is now balanced in this world. I’m going to vomit now.
— Thia is with Bernie????? (@ThiaBallerina) March 22, 2020
The 61-year-old pop icon has been vocal about the pandemic, encouraging followers to stay at home, as she has. But her message of being in this together has fallen flat. Even her most die-hard fans have criticized her as privileged and out of touch:
“You’re glad we’re all equal now—do you think someone in the slums of India is sitting in a tub right now full of rose petals? Delete your account.” @RieMcAz
“I always bath in full makeup and jewelry surrounded by out of season flower petals.” @YourMajistiness
“Im a little sick of the wealthy right now..” @gizmorivera
“Meanwhile, some are out there with bare essentials and she’s posted petaled nipples. Stop it, Madonna. I love ya girl but stop.” @jacksonleylidia
“Sorry my queen, love u so much, but we’re not equal. We can die from the same diseases, but the poor will suffer the most. Do not romanticize anything [sic] of this tragedy.”
Madonna has since deleted the video, but as we all know, the internet never forgets.
9 Vanessa Hudgens
You can’t unring a bell. You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. Likewise, Vanessa Hudgens cannot take back her brutally insensitive comments about COVID-19. In an Instagram live video, she cast her doubts on the seriousness of the pandemic. “Um, yeah, ’til July sounds like a bunch of bullshit. I’m sorry, but like, it’s a virus, I get it, like, I respect it. But at the same time I’m like, even if everybody gets it, like yeah, people are going to die, which is terrible but like, inevitable? I don’t know. [laughs] Maybe I shouldn’t be doing this right now.”
Can’t believe the first COVID celebrity death was Vanessa Hudgens’ career
— Emily Andras (@emtothea) March 17, 2020
Ouch. One day later, the High School Musical actress took to Twitter to apologize for what she says was taken out of context. “Hey guys. I’m so sorry for the way i have offended anyone and everyone who has seen the clip from my Instagram live yesterday,” she wrote. “I realize my words were insensitive and not at all appropriate for the situation our country and the world are in right now. This has been a huge wake up call about the significance my words have, now more than ever. I’m sending safe wishes to everyone to stay safe and healthy during this crazy time.”
Hey Vanessa, this is my son, Jace. AKA quite possibly one of the “inevitable deaths” were he to catch COVID-19 being as he has respiratory issues which have hospitalized him multiple times already. Anyway, we want to say sorry that you’re stuck in your mansion! ? pic.twitter.com/nk68cPiLhu
— Lauren™???? (@Happily_Larry_) March 17, 2020
Too little, too late, according to her Twitter followers:
“Am I the only one that thinks Vanessa Hudgens can say all this insensitive garbage about the coronavirus and still get a test kit before us?” @AngelaBelcamino
“As someone who has supported some of your work, it’s deeply disappointing. There are millions of people being impacted not just from the virus but also the collateral damage. Try seeing bey9ond your own robust privilege in the future, especially with such a large platform.” @FredTJoseph
“me, my head scarf, my adrenal system, and my suppressed immune system do not accept your apology. i wish you safety and good health and hope that your insensitivity did not bring you harmful karma. i hope you genuinely learned from this.” @washurhandsmans
“‘I am sorry I offended anyone’ is very different from ‘gosh was I wrong.’” @Grady_Booch
8 Gal Gadot
Gal Gadot may play a superhero on the big screen, but her coronavirus crusade is not about to save anyone in the real world. The homebound Wonder Woman star says she was inspired by an Italian trumpeter who entertained his quarantined neighbors with a heartfelt rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Gadot called upon other celebs to join her in singing the classic, and the result is not good. One wealthy celebrity after another–trying to look like average Joes with uncombed hair, sloppy clothes, no makeup–sing of peace, brotherhood, and the world with “no possessions.” With no real threat that they’ll actually lose their possessions, these famous folks (Sia, Zoe Kravitz, Jimmy Fallon, Will Ferrell, and others) have the luxury of “imagining” such things.
“Literally and figuratively tone-deaf, edited with the finesse of a middle schooler making a vacation slideshow on 2002 software, this ‘#Imagine‘ somehow made a global pandemic feel even more hopeless than it already does”
~quality napalm from @SKornhaber https://t.co/MKtY1jXv7z
— Rob?n Farzad (@robenfarzad) March 23, 2020
The song lyrics are simply not fitting for this crisis. Having no possessions is not idyllic: it’s a terrifying reality for every worker who has been ordered to stay home. Servers, Uber drivers, and millions of so-called non-essential workers are not able to relax in mansions while on hiatus. The economy is quickly tanking, and the road to recovery will be long and difficult.
“We are not in this together. You’re incredibly rich and have access to the best medical care. This is some Marie Antoinette level of tone-deafness.” @courneythebaker [Listverse Fact-Check: Marie Antoinette never said “Let them eat cake”.]
“Wow, this is truly awful. While you’re all sitting around in your mansions bored while your staff tend to your every need, the rest of us are wondering how we’re going to pay the rent this month and how much debt we’re going to be at the end of it all and how we’re going to rebuild our lives again. *You are certainly not part of us that are all in it together that’s for sure.” @lorenpeta
“Glad u have time to feel philosophical while most of us are feeling anxious and afraid.” @thewoodlands
“Imagine there’s no hunger? Yeah, I don’t think you can cause you all will be fine while the rest of us suffer.” @nikkikittums
“Thank god the rich are singing for us I was worried for a second.” @juice_wagon
“You cant advocate for world togetherness from an ivory tower, I’m afraid.” @ellyleggatt
“Imagine front line health care workers not having enough safety equipment while a bunch of smug celebrities sang an awful song.” @susieherbertlight
“I’m sure the peasants appreciate being rejected for testing while celebs can get a test without any symptoms. You’re going to great keep it up we love being patronized.” @swagittarius001
7 Naomi Campbell
Last summer, Naomi Campbell made headlines with her germaphobic airplane routine. That was before the coronavirus pandemic, and the supermodel is now taking extreme measures to protect herself. For most of the world, that would involve staying home. But Campbell (being important and having important places to go) continued to travel. Instead of self-quarantining to help stop the spread of the disease, she opted for even more over-the-top air travel protection.
At the Los Angeles International Airport on March 10, Campbell donned latex gloves, safety goggles, facemask, and a full-body hazmat suit for her flight. She captioned the photo, “Safety First NEXT LEVEL.”
We’re not impressed. Or amused. She and like-minded celebrities (Bella Hadid, Brody Jenner, Kate Hudson) are doing harm. Everyone who continues to travel becomes a potential carrier. And all who are asymptomatic yet continue to wear masks negatively impact the availability of personal protective equipment for frontline healthcare workers and the infected. Masks are needed for those who have the virus (or symptoms of the virus) and for the brave souls who are treating them. Medical experts have repeatedly urged everyone else to stop using up the dwindling supply of PPE. And to STAY HOME.
“You’re ignorant and entitled.” @janeygirl56
“A mask is for infected people to prevent the virus from spreading not for healthy ones.” @sevillacabanis.peggy
“I am a nurse. And mother. And my 70 year old parents are watching my kids when I work. My hospital can’t get N95s [masks]. And yet patients keep coming. And I will keep working. Without a mask, because photos like this have eliminated them for healthcare workers. @spinnstar
6 Gwyneth Paltrow
No list about tone-deaf celebs would be complete without a mention of Gwyneth Paltrow. She, too, posted an airplane face mask selfie. The caption: “En route to Paris. Paranoid? Prudent? Panicked? Placid? Pandemic? Propaganda? Paltrow’s just going to go ahead and sleep with this thing on the plane. I’ve already been in this movie [Contagion]. Stay safe. Don’t shake hands. Wash hands frequently.” That was in February.
More than a month later, she’s still posting photos of herself wearing masks—the latest on a trip to the local farmer’s market. In her lecture-style post, she described how she followed protocol while shopping for fresh herbs and veggies, and she chided others who may not be following the rules so well. Her followers shot back, criticizing the actress for utilizing PPE on a leisurely food run while doctors and nurses face deadly shortages.
“Are you serious? The mask isn’t to protect you from people with corona. The masks are for people who have the disease and wish not to infect anyone. Wake up Sheeple.” @dankje_hd
“A great way to stay healthy is to not go to a highly populated area. Mask or not. That is real. Empathy would imply you had an understanding of others, it seems as though you may be lacking in that. Doctors and those who are legitimately sick need masks. Not people gathering (more) food for dinner.” @misskelg
“Would be great if you could invest into safety and equipment for the front line staff in healthcare and other emergency services.” @v_nik_a
5 Selena Gomez
Washing your hands is one of the easiest ways to ward off illness, including the novel coronavirus. That’s why Dr. Tedros Adhan Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), kicked off the #SafeHands challenge to promote “regular, safe, and effective hand hygiene.”
If there’s one thing celebrities love, it’s a social media challenge. A personal calling to film themselves doing something with a viral hashtag. But watching enthusiastic celebs wash their hands as if they’d never done it before is, well, weird. It’s as if they’re genuinely surprised by the process. Take Selena Gomez, for example. With more than 170 million followers, she could take Dr. Tedros’ challenge to a whole new level. But oh, how she struggled! She even admitted in her caption that she “had to redo this video so many times.” Her followers still love her (she’s as cute as a button, after all), but they had to call her out on her incompetence.
“This is ALL WRONG?? Why would you turn the water off just to turn it back on with your CLEAN hands??Then you turn it off with the napkin just to proceed to re CONTAMINATE your hands Just stay home @selenagomez, it’s definitely you’re safest option.” @kaygoddess_
“You’re supposed to dry your hands and THEN shut the faucet off #FAIL.” @marisaluisaa
4 Arnold Schwarzenegger
Former bodybuilder, actor, and governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger is, in his own unique way, trying to help. As someone who’s admittedly obsessed with disaster prevention, he wants desperately to be “out there” making a difference. But, as a law-abiding citizen, he remains at home and is sharing his wisdom via Twitter instead.
After my home workout, fueling up with Whiskey and Lulu. pic.twitter.com/keXGJye6MK
— Arnold (@Schwarzenegger) March 20, 2020
And that’s where it just gets weird. We accept celebrity quirkiness. But Arnold takes it to another level. The 72-year old has tweeted videos from his kitchen, where he’s sharing his lunch with Whiskey and Lulu. Whiskey is a pony, Lulu is a donkey, and yes, they are IN THE KITCHEN eating spinach off his plate. It’s all oddly entertaining and, in its own peculiar way, softens the seriousness of Arnold’s message. Followers played along:
“He’ll be eating that donkey before the month is over.” @taradublinrocks
“Be careful. One of the first signs of Coronavirus is feeling a little horse.” @MatCostin
“For some reason, and I can’t pinpoint exactly why, but this was the most comforting coronavirus advice I’ve absorbed so far. Leave it to the damn Terminator to actually make me feel GOOD about a freaking global pandemic. @seanpcarragher
But other tweets have not been as well-received by fans and followers. “Here I am at home, taking a jacuzzi, smoking a little stogie,” he preached in a clip titled, “Stay. At. Home. That means you, too, spring breakers.” Not only is his presentation out of touch with the reality most are currently experiencing, but it’s not in good taste that he’s smoking while so many are fighting an evil respiratory disease.
?”Staying at home would be much easier if we were all millionaires with jacuzzis, stogies and no worries. Most of us are scared we’re going to lose jobs, income, not afford food etc,” one user wrote.?https://t.co/fyQBjBWHqv
— Dumbala The Benevolent? (@Zee_Germans_) March 21, 2020
“Arnold, I appreciate your messaging here, but not everyone lives in a mansion with unlimited resources. You’re right in the message itself, but less grandstanding would seem a bit more genuine. Thx!” @edwardebrowden
“Easy for you to say. Some people still have to earn their money and pay bills.” @ValeriRX
“I’m tired of these assholes sending this message from the comfort of their spa with millions in the bank when so many of us are wondering if tomorrow will be the last day of our employment and the possibility of losing everything we’ve worked for is on the line.” @lmarts1017
3 Jameela Jamil
English actress and activist Jamella Jamil is no stranger to controversy. She is vocal about everything from diet shakes to Oprah (whom she says “would never have made it in the UK”). So, it was no surprise that the entertainer tweeted an off-the-wall theory on the coronavirus.
“I can’t help but wonder if this virus is the clap back from Mother Nature we were waiting for. She wants us to stop moving and consuming and burning or she’s going to f*ck us all up. Wishing endurance, strength, and patience to those affected by Corona. It’s all really scary.”
So, the planet has created COVID-19 to punish humanity for global warming? Yeah, okay. Unsurprisingly, Jamil deleted the tweet. Her Twitter account is now full of legitimately helpful tips about helping others throughout the pandemic.
2 Joe Giudice
Joe Giudice (ex-husband of The Real Housewives of New Jersey’s Teresa Giudice) has a history of ignoring the law and following his own rules. (He pleaded guilty to 41 counts of fraud and was deported to Italy.) Now, he’s pushing back against COVID-19 quarantine guidelines. In a March 10 Instagram post, he wrote, “More people die from Viagra (heart attacks and drug overdose) everyday than this Corona virus. People here are frantic because government is ridiculous with [lock] down !!!! Sorry Lock down not for me Never again !!!!! Stay safe [world] eat healthy, exercise, and no shaking hands. #coronavirus #staysafeoutthere #lockdownnotcool #awarenessiskey #washhands”
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More people die from Viagra (heart attacks and drug overdose) everyday than this Corona virus ?. People here are frantic because government is ridiculous with ?down !!!! Sorry Lock down not for me Never again !!!!! Stay safe ? eat healthy, exercise, and no shaking hands . ? ?! #coronavirus #staysafeoutthere #lockdownnotcool #awarenessiskey #washhands
“Sorry Joe but you really need to treat this virus with respect… @sarahallison8046
“The reason it spreads is because people ignore quarantines and lockdowns. Maybe you’re not worried about YOU but think about others, Joe.” @nosillamp
“Therein lies the problem for you. You’re in a predicament in Italy because you refused to follow the rules/laws. Stop believing you’re exempt and take precautions for the sake of your children. Humble yourself.” @sharene.c
1 Evangeline Lilly
Canadian actress Evangeline Lilly (best known for her role on Lost) has really pissed off her followers. She has opted out of COVID-19 containment, saying that she values her freedom too much to be told she must self-quarantine. On March 16, she posted a pic of her teacup on Instagram and wrote, “#morningtea Just dropped my kids off at gymnastics camp. They all washed their hands before going in. They are playing and laughing. #businessasusual.” That is some hard-core tone-deafness right there. Among the comments, she added, “where we are right now feels a lot too close to Marshall [sic] Law.” Ironically, it’s actions like Lilly’s that are more likely to lead to *martial* law: if more people would comply with social distancing, that kind of drastic action would not be necessary. It didn’t take long for #unfollowevangelinelilly to begin circulating (until Instagram censored it on behalf of the actress), and her (former) followers let her have it:
“So incredibly selfish and irresponsible.” @lesleyannbrandt
“I plan on not seeing anything you’re in. I hope others do the same.” @theycallmeamy007
“Your choices can kill people. Beyond selfish.” @simplynaturalevents
“I had to lay off 150 people today in person, one by one. But glad your life is #businessasusual and you’re enjoying your cup of tea. Stay tone deaf and continue to be part of the problem Evangeline.” @hopesdaddy11
“We have lost more people than US in 9/11. Cheers from Italy. Enjoy your tea.” @thefakerael
“This isn’t about YOU or your kids need to go to gymnastics camp. This is about doing the responsible thing to NOT INFECT OTHERS with compromised immune systems from this rapidly changing virus. Give your head a shake and look outside your bubble. @happhealthfreak [Ironically, Lilly’s father, who has leukemia, lives with the family.]
“I am a front line healthcare worker who was exposed to covid19 by someone much like you. A person who lied about their travel history, who refused to self isolate and then went onto develop symptoms and presented for testing. I am now on day 7 of isolation. That person has put my children at risk as well as myself. This is not a joke. My colleagues are stretched to the limit because people like you refuse to take this seriously. We are exhausted, short of beds, PPE, ventilators. For you to deny the reality of what we as Nurses, Doctors, Microbiologists and Virologists are dealing with each and every day is insulting and dangerous.” @ema_seren