Jennifer Lopez looks radiant on Variety magazine’s 2014 Power of Women Issue.
Also joining JLo for their own separate covers are Jane Fonda, Viola Davis and Reese Witherspoon “who are using their clout to bring attention to worthy causes.”
JLo: Sisters Jennifer and Lynda Lopez had planned to launch a charitable organization since Jennifer was first vaulted into the public eye. Their talks grew more tangible when both were pregnant, and as Jennifer recalls: “We were sitting around doing a lot nothing, thinking about what to do with the world.”
But it was after a health scare in 2008 that the mission of the Lopez Family Foundation was finally born.
Launched in 2009, the sisters’ foundation aims to help improve healthcare for women and children, and first paired with Los Angeles Children’s Hospital to support the telemedicine program.
Reese: It was Reese Witherspoon’s 15-year-old daughter, Ava, who introduced the actress to the story of Malala Yousafzai, the girl from Pakistan who was shot by the Taliban for advocating the right to an education. “My daughter brought her book to me and said, ‘Mom, you’ve got to hear this woman’s story,’” recalls Witherspoon. “It’s so incredible, all she’s overcome.”
An actress known for strong female characters, Witherspoon also runs a production company with Bruna Papandrea, Pacific Standard, that specializes in dynamic roles for women with films like “Wild” and “Gone Girl.” Which makes the Malala Fund a natural fit. “Bruna and I really connect through our love of books and reading. And I think to encourage that in places where women don’t have the same opportunities is extraordinary.”
Jane: When Jane Fonda founded the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power & Potential in 1994, she met with resistance. “I’m a controversial person, right? Coming from Hollywood I was looked on with suspicion as an elitist. I move to Georgia (after marrying media mogul Ted Turner) and I work in adolescent sexuality — again controversial,” she says.
GCAPP has expanded its mission to include health and fitness. She set up the Grady Teen Clinic and her foundation teaches how to buy healthy food on a budget, among other things. “In a lot of communities there’s no place to buy healthy food. The gas station or 7-Eleven is where they shop, there are no decent grocery stores.”
Viola: When Viola Davis partnered with Safeway Foundation and the Entertainment Industry Foundation to introduce the Hunger Is initiative to eradicate childhood hunger earlier this year, her experience became just as emotionally purifying as it was uplifting.
“You just never know when a blessing is going to come,” Davis says. “And speaking for those 15 minutes (when she launched the initiative) kind of opened my eyes and made me just remember a part of my childhood. There was something really cathartic about being there.” Working on Hunger Is has allowed the “How to Get Away With Murder” star to come to terms with her own struggles with memories of poverty during her youth in Central Falls, R.I., as well as educate her on the varying types of American families who cannot always afford to eat.
Images: Williams+Hirakawa for Variety