From LeBron James to the Cuomo brothers, these stars used their platforms to enact change, comfort a scared and grieving nation.
Let's face it, it's been a tough year. From a global pandemic to a racial reckoning, 2020 has been filled with challenges and obstacles. Thankfully, there were a select group of stars who helped inspire us throughout one of the most difficult years in recent memory.
From taking a stand to putting us at ease, these folks dominated the celebrity news world for the best possible reasons. Whether they were some of the faces of the Black Lives Matter movement or provided a source of calm as we learned about the coronavirus pandemic, many stars stepped up to the plate to help 2020 be a little more bearable. Some, like Chrissy Teigen and Amanda Kloots, were able to channel their own grief into a source of comfort and solidarity, while others, like Chadwick Boseman, inspired us after their lives had ended.
Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson
In March, news broke that the A-list couple were the first reported celebrities to contract the coronavirus while working in Australia. With so much unknown at the time and fears of the pandemic around the globe, the pair understood their responsibility to use their platforms to help calm the public. They regularly posted updates on social media and encouraged their fans to continue safe practices.
“We are all in this together. Flatten the curve,” Hanks wrote on one of his posts while sharing a health update. The Oscar-winning actor continued to donate plasma for months following his recovery to help other victims of the disease. He also hosted Saturday Night Live’s first at-home episode in April, helping to bring levity to a difficult time.
"It is a strange time to try to be funny, but trying to be funny is SNL's whole thing, so we thought, 'What the heck, let's give it a shot,'" Hanks shared.
Wilson used her experience with COVID-19 to help spread awareness about flu season, encouraging fans to get their flu shot and help nurses and frontline workers, who already have a lot on their plates.
"Flu season is upon us and COVID's not going anywhere ... so for us it's really important to make sure that the nurses aren't overwhelmed to take care of the people that may have COVID and that need more care,” Wilson told ET in September.
At the end of March, several weeks into the coronavirus outbreak, The Office alum popped up on YouTube without any warning to bring us Some Good News. The father of two started his own at-home YouTube series, highlighting positive news and acts of kindness. From reunions of The Office cast and the original Broadway Hamilton cast, to throwing high schoolers a virtual prom, Krasinski brought the smiles with him. He had some help along the way with his wife, Emily Blunt, making cameos as well as Brad Pitt, Oprah Winfrey, Martha Stewart and many more. In May, it was announced that Krasinski had sold the idea to ViacomCBS and will continue to serve as an executive producer on the future CBS series.
Michelle Obama thinks you should look for LeBron James qualities in a spouse, and there’s a reason why! The record-setting L.A. Lakers star doesn’t just dominate on the court, where he both surpassed Kobe Bryant’s all-time scoring record and helped his team to an NBA Championship win in the same year, he also gives back and uses his platform to enact real change. In May, he honored high school seniors amid the coronavirus pandemic by hosting the program Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020. In July, amid the calls for social justice across the country and around the world, James and his fellow NBA stars redirected questions during their first press conference about their return to the game to shed light on the murder of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT who was shot and killed in her home by police officers in Louisville, Kentucky.
Later that month, James and his teammates took a knee and linked arms during the national anthem while wearing Black Lives Matter shirts. In August, James helped organize an NBA strike following the shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Wisconsin man who was shot in the back multiple times by police. The boycott led to the league establishing a social justice coalition and agreeing to convert several arenas into polling stations. The athlete also spearheaded initiatives to help pay for poll workers in predominantly Black communities amid the 2020 presidential election.
Andrew and Chris Cuomo
At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, all eyes were on the Cuomo brothers. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proved to be a calm voice of reason that helped transform NYC from the American epicenter of the virus to one of the country's lowest percentages of cases. New Yorkers and people around the world tuned in for his daily press conferences, where he was applauded for providing clear and comprehensive information in a calming manner.
The single politician also inspired the term "Cuomosexuals" for the many who were crushing on him at the time. And though he was every bit the stoic leader we needed, his younger brother and CNN correspondent, Chris, wasn't about to let him get a big ego. Chris often featured his brother on his show, Cuomo Prime Time, poking fun at him on national television, much to viewers' delight. Chris himself and several of his immediate family members suffered from COVID-19, which he documented on the show, keeping viewers up to date on his condition as he battled the disease.
The GRAMMY-winning songstress started off the year using her vocal gifts to bring comfort to family, friends, and fans of Kobe Bryant following his tragic death in a helicopter accident that also killed his daughter, Gianna, and seven others in January. Beyoncé performed one of the late athlete’s favorite songs, “XO,” and her hit,“Halo,” at the televised memorial service for Bryant. She also sat with his grieving wife, Vanessa Bryant, placing her hand on the mother of four’s shoulder throughout the ceremony. Then, this summer as the nation and the world were fighting for social justice and racial equality, Beyoncé released a celebration of Black culture and beauty with her visual album, Black Is King. The stunning film, set to the music from the singer’s soundtrack album, The Lion King: The Gift, was mostly filmed in Africa with an all-Black cast, providing much-needed inspiration and light to a community at a time of immense suffering.
The Los Angeles-based fitness instructor gained a loyal following as fans watched her Broadway actor husband Nick Cordero's COVID-19 battle unfold. Kloots kept her fans informed every step of the way, encouraging them to sing and dance to his song, "Live Your Life," every night. For weeks, she was unable to visit Cordero in the hospital, but she stood outside his window every day, all while raising their infant son. Tragically, Cordero died in July following a 95-day battle with the coronavirus. Since that time, Kloots has been open and honest with her grieving and healing process. She has also been a public face of those who have lost their loved ones to the deadly disease, speaking out against President Donald Trump for his response to contracting COVID himself. In early December, it was announced that Kloots would officially become a new co-host on The Talk after inspiring viewers with her story.
Fans were heartbroken in August when it was announced that the 43-year-old Black Panther star had died following an extremely private battle with stage 4 colon cancer. Even Boseman's co-stars and directors weren't aware that he'd been suffering from the disease, which he was diagnosed with in 2016. What began as shock, transformed into an inspirational story as Boseman's friends and family came forward to honor what a real-life hero he was. The final tweet on his account, championing his life and legacy, became the most liked tweet of all time. Fans learned that he supported young cancer patients, hoping to inspire them as they fought similar health battles. It was also revealed that Boseman used his own 21 Bridges salary to boost his female co-star Sienna Miller's pay on the film.
"He was such a beautiful individual, a soul through and through, and the bravery...," Boseman's Get on Up co-star, Dan Aykroyd, told ET shortly after his death, noting how Boseman especially inspired the Black community throughout his career. "This time in America, it's just like, kicking Black people when they're down. Thanks a lot. What's the universe saying? A lot of us, we have to smarten up."
Few celebrities are as open and honest with their fans as Chrissy Teigen. The 35-year-old social media guru, model, and cookbook author blissfully announced she was pregnant with her and husband John Legend's third child in Legend's "Wild" music video back in August. But as her pregnancy progressed, Teigen was placed on bed rest to try to offset some complications with her placenta. True to form, Teigen kept her fans updated, sharing they were expecting a little boy. When Teigen was hospitalized and forced to undergo several blood transfusions, she continued to keep her followers in the loop. Tragically, at the end of September, Teigen announced, along with a series of devastating images, that their baby boy, whom they'd taken to calling Jack, had not survived. After a month away from social media, Teigen returned, penning a moving essay about her family's loss and why she chose to grieve so publicly.
"I knew I needed to know of this moment forever, the same way I needed to remember us kissing at the end of the aisle, the same way I needed to remember our tears of joy after Luna and Miles," she wrote. "And I absolutely knew I needed to share this story." Following her admission, Teigen was praised by women and celebrities alike for her honesty and openness. Since the loss, she has continued to balance on the line between her grieving process and her lighthearted pre-pregnancy posts, showing that even those who suffer an unbearable tragedy can continue to enjoy life's better moments.
"I'm speaking to you from my heart. Look, I don't know if I'm going to have a career after this, but f**k that," he exclaimed into a megaphone, fighting back tears. "Today is about innocent people who were halfway through their process. We don't know what George Floyd could have achieved, we don't know what Sandra Bland could have achieved, but today we're going to make sure that won't be an alien thought to our young ones."
Boyega received support from LucasFilm and many others in the industry. He spoke with ET in October about the impact of that moment and why it was important for him to speak out.
“I feel it was just me expressing how I feel about certain issues,” he humbly told ET. “I just feel like it probably hit at a time where people can relate and a lot of people in that position would have probably said the same thing, so it's always good to have someone that has a stage and a position to be able to speak from a very true perspective and it was an honor to be able to do that for you all.”
The 23-year-old Japanese tennis star, who is currently the highest-paid female athlete in the world, used her platform to call for social justice in 2020. In August, she boycotted a tennis tournament semifinal to protest racial injustice and "the continued genocide of Black people at the hand of the police."
"Before I am an athlete, I am a Black woman. As a Black woman I feel as though there are much more important matters at hand that need immediate attention, rather than watching me play tennis," Osaka wrote in a statement at the time.
She also wore face masks at each of her US Open showings, highlighting Black victims of police brutality. She was thanked for her gesture by the loved ones of some of these victims, including Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin.
"I just want to say thank you to Naomi Osaka for representing Trayvon Martin on your customized mask, and also for Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor," Fulton told Osaka in a moving clip. "We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Continue to do well, continue to kick butt at the US Open."
Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey
With the coronavirus pandemic only getting worse this fall, Grey’s Anatomy decided to recenter the focus on frontline workers while also giving their fans the ultimate gift.
Star and producer Ellen Pompeo and her former co-star, Patrick Dempsey, came up with the plan to bring back his beloved character, Derek Shepherd, aka McDreamy. The scene came after Meredith Grey (Pompeo) had collapsed following an intense shift trying to save COVID-19 patients. In a dream-like sequence, she is then transported to a beach, where she sees her deceased love waving to her.
"There's so many souls that we have lost right now," Dempsey said on The Ellen DeGeneres Show following the big reveal. "The thought of having angels around us is very comforting, certainly to me."