Meet 5 Celebrities from around the world who are using their powers for good.
Despite what we’ve been conditioned to believe, celebrity connotes more than fame. If someone truly deserves to be celebrated, they should use their recognition for good, to open humanitarian doors and change the world for the better. Ideally they should see themselves not as privileged royalty but honored messengers who have been chosen to propel a cause far greater than themselves—who care more about the many than about their money.
In that spirit, we introduce you to five top entertainers from around the globe who have achieved fame in their respective countries. As practicing Scientologists, they have each used the platform created by their fame to significantly make the world a better place. Each one has received the prestigious Freedom Medal, a special recognition presented by the International Association of Scientologists (IAS) for stellar accomplishments and tireless efforts on behalf of the Church’s social betterment initiatives.
One of three winners of last year’s Freedom Medal, Maria Lara has appeared in some 30 telenovelas and is well-known throughout her native Colombia. But it is her dedication to making a humanitarian footprint that has helped Lara to connect with her people in a special way.
A Scientologist since 2006, Lara seemed to understand instinctively that L. Ron Hubbard’s common-sense moral code The Way to Happiness was more than just a program designed to upraise humanity; it was a personal crusade. She began promoting it via a tireless campaign in her drug-ravaged home country and other nations, beginning with a successful appearance on the Colombia TV show “Good Morning”.
“The Way to Happiness spoke to me,” Lara said. “I quickly realized that this was so much more important than only going to parties and having a big social life. I knew this is what mattered most in life, and I needed to be a messenger.”
Lara began conducting seminars centered on the ethics and morality espoused in the 21 precepts of The Way to Happiness. She spoke to company executives and moved on to address corruption-plagued military forces and, finally, to law enforcement. She was a one-woman force of nature, taking her message to Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and Mexico to reach tens of thousands of open ears.
“I took four years off from my work as an actress to do just this,” Lara says. “I saw this as something that needed to happen, and the reactions of the people told me I was right.”
Over the past eight years, Lara has personally given The Way to Happiness seminars to more than 120,000 people across Latin America and reached 25 million more through television, radio and print media. She started acting again this fall but continues her relentless campaigning on behalf of an initiative that she has seen change lives.
“I’m very fortunate because fame has given me this powerful tool,” she says. “It’s a responsibility and it’s a privilege to deliver the message. So many people come up to me after seminars to say, ‘It has changed my life. It has shown me how to be happy.’ That’s really the greatest gift I could ever receive.”
Kate Ceberano is a third-generation Scientologist from Melbourne, Australia, and also a Freedom Medal winner. She has been a musical star in the land Down Under since breaking out as lead singer with the funk band I’m Talking in the mid-1980s. She has been entertaining audiences and selling records for more than three decades with a string of Top 10 hits, platinum discs and awards over a 23-album career, recently becoming the first woman to be inducted into the Australian Songwriters Association Hall of Fame.
But what motivates the effervescent Ceberano isn’t only the chance to promote her latest album or take home another prize. It is also the opportunity to champion Church-backed humanitarian causes, from literacy and moral values to drug rehab and the quest for human rights.
Ceberano has been walking this walk since before she was a teenager, performing at fundraisers for local social betterment programs in Melbourne at 12. She is also her nation’s most prominent Scientologist, proudly wearing the mantle and saying simply, “The secret of my success is Scientology and L. Ron Hubbard’s technology.”
Embracing the religion in childhood helped Ceberano employ what she learned to drive her life from the beginning. “For every tool I get and have applied, I go out and prove to myself that there is something I can do to change lives,” she stresses. That includes her promotion of Study Technology—the educational method developed by Mr. Hubbard—and raising money for a school in Australia implementing it.
Ceberano is also a passionate voice on behalf of the Church’s Youth for Human Rights initiative and in raising awareness to the dangers of drug abuse and the virtues of a drug-free life.
“Drugs kill the mind. They kill the spirit. They kill all the goodness in a person,” she says. To that end, she promotes what she sees as the solution: Championing the Narconon drug rehab technology based on Mr. Hubbard’s discoveries and performing dozens of benefit concerts in support of it. And she crusades against the unrestrained psychopharmaceutical drugging of children, calling it “an abomination.”
In 2004, the United Nations described the violence gripping the nation of Colombia as “the worst humanitarian crisis in the Western Hemisphere.” A decade later, crime rates have dropped markedly, tourism in the South American nation has soared, and there is a sense that the worst of times have been weathered and a brighter day has dawned.
It is impossible to know how much the efforts of Colombian stand-up comedian Andrés López have positively impacted the radically improved situation in his homeland. But it’s likely he can take a share of the credit for his unflagging work in disseminating The Way to Happiness program since he became a Scientologist in 2003.
López—who has performed his comedy for millions of fans—parlayed his renown to deliver The Way to Happiness seminars for thousands of members of Colombia’s scandal-wracked armed forces. That led to presentations to private companies and government agencies, where he used a dash of mirth to impart a message of morality, ethical behavior and contentment. In 2009 he delivered seminars to more than 15,000 members of the Ecuador Police Force.
Annually, López presents seminars to more than 20,000 people on average, with some 250 talks specifically for the armed forces and national police. In Ecuador, he was appointed an honorary police officer. In Colombia, the Defense Ministry awarded him the title Soldier of Happiness.
So successful were The Way to Happiness talks that he next created a seminar centered on the embrace of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. López was awarded an IAS Freedom Medal in 2009.
“What we found in creating our group is that people really want to help, and once the audience members hear what we have to say, they respond,” López says.
In 2005, a time of significant civil unrest in her native Venezuela, Ruddy Rodriguez did her part to diffuse the situation with her work promoting The Way to Happiness precepts. She joined forces with The Way to Happiness Foundation in that nation to spark a moral resurgence through mass booklet distribution and public service announcements broadly televised.
The effort earned Rodriguez an IAS Freedom Medal honor that same year. Yet it was hardly an isolated case. The former beauty queen—winner of the Miss Venezuela World title in 1985—has been a dedicated Scientologist since 1997 and has supported The Way to Happiness Foundation since 2001.
It is Rodriguez’s success as an actress and model in Venezuela that has made her a stalwart member of the Artists for a Better Venezuela group.
Her career has included acting parts in some three dozen television serial dramas and 10 movies, while also working as a successful model.
But her passion has been The Way to Happiness, making countless appearances to place the book in the hands of hundreds of thousands of fellow Venezuelans as well as in Spain and elsewhere.
“The message of the book applies to life,” Rodriguez says. “Happiness lies in doing worthwhile activities. And there is nothing more worthwhile than The Way to Happiness.”
That was particularly true back in 2005 when Venezuela was suffering a series of crises that spurred a massive public backlash among the citizenry. The Way to Happiness, she believes, was instrumental in helping to restore a sense of calm and understanding.
Since 2005, in fact, millions of copies of The Way to Happiness have been distributed throughout Venezuela in Caracas, Maracaibo, Barquisimeto and Valencia as well as along the Venezuela-Colombia border where drug trafficking is rampant.
Rodriguez has been actively involved in that distribution.
She has also spearheaded a media campaign of public service announcements in 2013 called Artists for a Secure and Prosperous Venezuela.
“What I tell people,” Rodriguez says, “is that The Way to Happiness gives you a route in life. It guides you. It’s there to tell you where the bend is, where the detour comes. And when you know the curve is coming, you can turn and avoid running into the same rock again.”
American singer, composer, lyricist and multi-platinum recording artist David Pomeranz has written songs for scores of artists such as Barry Manilow, Missy Elliott, Freddie Mercury, Isaac Hayes and Bette Midler. His songwriting and recording projects have generated 22 platinum and 18 gold albums—selling over 40 million copies. He is also a composer for Musical Theater whose shows have premiered in London, off Broadway and Broadway.
A Scientologist for more than 30 years, Pomeranz has performed worldwide on behalf of drug education, human rights and moral enrichment initiatives of the Church of Scientology, for which he received an IAS Freedom Medal in 2009.
Fans in the Philippines in particular have long revered Pomeranz as an icon.
His 1999 Greatest Hits compilation Born for You, became the top International Pop album of all time in that country.
But for Filipinos, Pomeranz’s actual greatest hits are his and wife Kelly Yaegermann’s help creating the first Scientology Enhancement Center in Manila and working with the Philippine DEA, the Red Cross, and Narconon drug rehab. He also spearheaded a major media campaign for the book Dianetics and in 2013 introduced Volunteer Minister techniques to thousands of his fans.
In accepting his IAS Medal, Pomeranz told the audience, “We have the actual wherewithal in our hands right this minute to dispel all the pain and suffering that Man has endured for eons. To ignore the opportunity to share it would be unthinkable. I am proud to be part of a group dedicated to a future where regard for one’s fellow man counts for something, where art doesn’t degrade but inspires.”