9 Celebrity Role Models We Love

These famous folks go the extra mile to make a stand, help others, and speak their minds. By Polly Conway
9 Celebrity Role Models We Love

Celebrities usually become popular for how they look on-screen, at awards shows, or on Instagram. But some might say stars have an extra responsibility to show their fans how to change the world. 

These picks are great role models for kids and teens who want their celebs to stand for something. This diverse group clearly takes that concept to heart -- they've all found their own ways to make a difference, from upholding important values and doing meaningful work to drawing attention to causes that matter. Kids can visit the websites of their favorite stars to see how they're giving back to the community and follow in their footsteps, or they may simply get inspired to explore local volunteer options (check out our own list of resources for a start). 

Rowan Blanchard. Best known for her role as Riley in Disney's Girl Meets World, this multitalented teen can act, sing, and write. With nearly 5 million Instagram followers, she uses her account to speak out on issues close to her heart, including feminism, political activism, and transgender rights (Blanchard herself identifies as queer). Did we mention she's only 15?

John Legend. His 2013 mega-hit song "All of Me" may still be in your head, but this musician, songwriter, and actor (recently seen as a jazz--funk bandleader in La La Land) also knows how to give back. His philanthropic efforts include raising awareness for Hurricane Katrina victims, performing for U.S. military troops, serving as a member of the Young Global Leaders, and sitting on the boards of at least three charities.

Lin-Manuel Miranda. This guy just never stops! His breakout Broadway musical, Hamilton, which he wrote and starred in, has inspired countless kids, teens, and adults to learn more about American history and theater. Right after that, he composed and performed some incredible music for recent Disney smash Moana. He's about to star in the Mary Poppins remake, is an outspoken advocate for arts education, and spreads goodwill and positivity daily through his Twitter account.

Halima Aden. Aden made waves and history last year as the first person to wear a hijab in an American beauty pageant, proving that beauty doesn't always mean going with the flow. The Miss Minnesota contestant also bravely sported a burkini (a modest piece of swimwear) during the swimsuit portion, staying true to herself and inspiring many young Muslim girls in the process.

The Rock. It's nearly impossible to feel anything but love for Dwayne Johnson, aka the Rock. This utterly charismatic wrestler-turned-actor recently lent his voice to the 2016 blockbuster animated pic Moana, which opened doors to talk about his own heritage as a Pacific Islander. He's a champion of all things Hawaii and filmed the 2017 Jumanji reboot in Honolulu.

Yara Shahidi. This 16-year-old Iranian-American star of the hit sitcom Black-ish may soon be starring in her own spin-off series -- she calls her portrayal of angsty teen Zoey "my activism through art." Also a model, she's spoken out for more representation and diversity in Hollywood and the media. Another cool thing? Shahidi embraces her natural hair, serving as a role model for young girls who feel the pressure to process and straighten their own hair.

Nyle  DiMarco. Yeah, he's won both Dancing with the Stars and America's Next Top Model, but the handsome and talented DiMarco is most devoted to his work as an activist for the deaf community. Last year he started his own foundation that helps deaf children get access to the resources they need. This guy's an all-around winner!

Aly Raisman. This 22-year-old Olympic gymnast has won two gold medals and led her teams to glory in 2012 and 2016. She's an athlete who's both physically and mentally powerful; known for speaking out about body-image issues, Raisman is a spokesperson for Reebok's #perfectnever campaign. When she was in junior high, boys mocked her for looking "too strong," to which she responded on Instagram: "My muscular arms that were considered weird or gross when I was younger have made me one of the best gymnasts on the planet." Go, girl!

Chance the Rapper. Wildly popular musician Chancelor Bennett, aka Chance the Rapper, expresses ideas about life, faith, and love through his independently released mixtapes. But he's also been devoted to charitable causes since he was a teen, especially in his hometown of Chicago. One of his coolest endeavors is his Warmest Winter initiative, which has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to make sure Chicago's homeless have warm jackets.


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About Polly Conway

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As Common Sense Media's Senior TV Editor, Polly is responsible for championing the latest and greatest in TV for kids and families. She's an expert in the realm of shows that are created for (and/or appeal to -- not... Read more

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Comments (9)

Parent of a 6 and 9 year old written by Sarah D.

Love these choices. The reason I and the people I know come to this site is to get advice that is based on age-appropriateness, not religious dogma and bigotry. Other sites exist for those that want to find out if media contains their particular religious peccadilloes. Thanks for affirming your mission and values in this list. I will continue to recommend CSM to other parents.
Parent written by shaunah1

While some of my greatest role models are Olympians, I'm not a fan of Aly. She has recently posed in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue which is pornography. I'm disappointed in this list. It's full of activists and there is no one who represents a different viewpoint. There is more to life than activism. These people do not represent our values.
Parent of a 7, 9, and 10 year old written by Brian V.

I think you let the politics of your San Francisco home get into this article a little too much. Your #1 celebrity role-model for kids is a 15 year old militant homosexual, and the only person of faith on your list is a Muslim? Where is Nick Jonas, Carrie Underwood, Tim Tebow, Jim Caviezel, etc... all public Christians (arguably a much harder thing to be in Hollywood?) Where are Michael J Fox, or Will Smith... morally strong, long term married couples? You feature Aly Raisman for overcoming bullying, but her teamate Gabby Douglas overcame far greater obstacles. Was it because Gabby credits God with making that happen? Secular, liberal families can get their reviews and role models almost anywhere, but many traditional (and/or Christian, in some cases) families count on your service. We don't have many places to go. This article makes me wonder whether we can still count on your reviews to warn us of sexualized messages, homosexual scenes, and gender redefinition in the films you review. Please let this be an aberration. I know you're in San Francisco, but many of your readers are intentionally seeking to avoid San Francisco values.
Parent of a 17 year old written by SuKo

Seriously? How is a sexually immoral teen a role model? You have people on this list that unfairly and inaccurately spoke out again the president and vice-president! Have you listened to the lyrics of Chance's songs? Most of this is a disgrace. Someone is not a "good role model" because they are famous. When did this site become so biased and liberal. It makes me question your judgement on the shows and movies you recommend for kids. I'm glad I don't have young kids anymore. You don't list a single Christian role model. This is shameful.
written by Mom to two twee...

Rather than write a scathing opinion of your "role model" list, I will just agree margiej. I'm DONE!!!
Parent written by lozeerose

I think all of the parents here are spot on. Common Sense Media is starting to show a lack of common sense in order to push a one-sided agenda. Ms. Conway and Common Sense Media, I'm certain that you're already aware that not all of the parents who look to you for unbiased, fact-based information about media in the 21st century are socially liberal. Stay away from these commentaries that applaud liberal ideals but fail to recognize conservative ideals. And if that's not possible then stay away from it altogether and work to promote, educate and advocate on behalf of what all parents can agree on: this is what's in this book, show or game and it's on you "parent" to make the choices you feel are necessary for your kids.
Parent of a 16 year old written by SFV mom

I have to agree with other readers, there are some questionable inclusions here. If CommonSense is going to call out celebrities who champion liberal causes, it should also call out a few who are supporting conservative causes. With some of its recent posts, CommonSense seems to be supporting the notion that there is only one way to think in this country, that certain viewpoints are right and others are wrong. I'd love for Common Sense to take a look at the hypocrisy of all the young female celebrities who champion feminism, but continually allow themselves to be styled in a sexual provocative fashion, all the while knowing that pre-teens and teens are modeling themselves after their celebrity "role models." That is not feminism in my book. There's nothing wrong with looking sexy, but they need to realize the impact their publicity photos have on their audience - a group of girls who already feel like they are not pretty/thin/sexy enough, thanks to the media and peer pressure.
Parent written by Tony M.

Decent list... thanks for compiling it. My only thought would be that Rowan Blanchard isn't necessarily a role model. There's a difference between being outspoken and being someone kids could/should emulate. She's simply in the spotlight, and her gender/sexual journey being public doesn't make that something to aim for either. I'd also offer the Rock is a great action star, but he's pretty loose with his tongue. I downloaded his alarm app and about half of the time he was cursing in what he said. Perhaps he's been in some family films and done well with causes, but maybe we need a better checkmark than that? Maybe we can look for some alternative options, like how Russell Wilson and Ciara committed to stay sexually pure before marriage.
Parent written by Prof.Sra.Dav

I completely agree! Couldn't have said it better myself. This is a thought provoking comment. Thank you for taking the time to comment.


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