7 Times Celebrities Inspired Us In 2014

by Rosalyn Oshmyansky 12:30 PM PST, December 15, 2014
Photo: Getty Images

The influence of star-power can never be underestimated. While celebrities inspire us every day, these seven celebrities moved us in unexpected ways over this past year.

1. Emma Watson

Earlier this year, the Harry Potter star spoke at the United Nations and gave a passionate speech about gender equality. She used to platform to launch the HeForShe campaign, an initiative to get men to join the fight against gender inequality and to combat the negative connotation of the word "feminism."

"The more I have spoken about feminism, the more I have realized that fighting for women's rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating," she said. "If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop. For the record, feminism by definition is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes."

Following in Watson's footsteps, many celebrities, including Joseph Gordon Levitt, Forest Whitaker, and Ellie Goulding, spoke up in support of feminism and her campaign. Watson suddenly went from starlet to "game-changer" after rallying the attention of Hollywood. 

2. Viola Davis

During Variety's Power of Women event, the How to Get Away with Murder star gave an incredible speech that brought both the audience and her to tears.

At the event, Davis was honored for her work with the Hunger Is campaign. What was not expected though was her personal story about growing up hungry.

"I did everything to get food. I have stolen for food," she said, describing her poverty. "I have jumped in huge garbage bins with maggots for food. I have befriended people in the neighborhood, who I knew had mothers who cooked three meals a day for food, and I sacrificed a childhood for food and grew up in immense shame."

And as she opened up about her hardship, she motivated others. She asked others to join "the service train" in order to remove one word from our vocabulary.

"The word I would like to eradicate today is 'unspeakable,' because I think everything should be spoken...I think shame should be spoken." 

NEWS: The 8 Most Inspiring Moments From Viola Davis' Speech

3. Malala Yousafzai

This year, Malala became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize recipient at the age of 17 reminding us that today's youth has the power to move us in incredible ways.

In 2012, Malala was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman because she was publically campaigning for education for girls. She did not give up her fight though. Her activism efforts continue in Birmingham, England, and she is a world inspiration for her spirit and determination.

When she accepted her Nobel Peace Prize she said, "This award is not just for me. It is for those forgotten children who want education. It is for those frightened children who want peace. It is for those voiceless children who want change." She continued, "I am here to stand up for their rights, to raise their voice. It is not time to pity them. It is time to take action so it becomes the last time that we see a child deprived of education." 

NEWS: 17 Reasons to Be Inspired By Malala Yousafzai

4. Justin Baldoni

Inspiring social change, Jane The Virgin star Justin Baldoni started a happiness movement through an experiment. He created a social campaign called the "Good 30" to inspire people to make each other happy and to send him the video of a good deed in 30 seconds or less so that he can combine them all into the longest crowd-sourced viral video to show that "happiness is not a limited resource."

"It's our job to create a better world, and it starts with each of us," Baldoni said of the campaign, hoping to inspire people from across the world with just one emotion. 

5. Miley Cyrus

When the "Wrecking Ball" singer won her MTV Video Music Award for Video of the Year, she did not waste her acceptance speech time on herself. Instead, she let Jesse Helt, a homeless runaway teenager, speak "on behalf of the runaways and homeless youth."

WATCH: Miley Cyrus Give Her Speech Time to a Homeless Teen

"I have survived at shelters all over the city," Jesse said. "I have been an extra in your movies. I have been an extra in your life. Though I have been invisible in your life, I have the same dreams as many [of you]." After the awards show, Cyrus lent her voice to My Friend's Place, a Los Angeles organization that supports homeless young people on the streets, raised $200,000 in just two days.

6. Shonda Rhimes

Perhaps this was the most unusual, motivational graduation speech, but the creator behind Grey's Anatomy and Scandal told grads to "ditch the dream" at her alma mater Dartmouth's commemoration.

"I think a lot of people dream. And while they are busy dreaming, the really happy people, the really successful people, the really interesting, engaged, powerful people, are busy doing," she said.

"Dreams are lovely. But they are just dreams," she added. "Fleeting, ephemeral, pretty. But dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It's hard work that makes things happen. It's hard work that creates change."

For Rimes, the dream may be abstract, but the hard work and perseverance is real.

7. Luke Bryan

Country music star Luke Bryan did not have to do much to be inspirational this year. It just took 49 characters.

After learning about Kenna Taylor, a fan suffering from Cystic Fibrosis, through a Twitter campaign started by James Woods, Bryan responded the only way he could. When doctors told Taylor to make a "death plan" earlier this year and her last wish was a simple one: a tweet from Bryan.

Photo: Twitter

And when she tweeted back, you could feel her disbelief, excitement and happiness all at the same time.

Photo: Twitter

Even though it was just a tweet, it was a powerful one at that. Bryan's impact went beyond making the day for one fun; it reminded us all how far the little things go in life. 

Follow Rosalyn on Twitter: @RosalynOsh

Check out the video below to hear how Shonda Rhimes, Robin Roberts and Mindy Kaling get their inspiration.