He might be more recognizable as the NBA’s tallest player or for being turned into a comic meme, but Yao Ming is clearly out to prove he’s more than a familiar face. The now-retired athlete has been helping a number of causes back home in China, including teaming up with WildAid to curb the popularity of shark fin soup. But he’s adding one more cause to his roster this month as he works with the conservation organization again on an Animal Planet documentary to raise awareness about the ivory trade and the effect it’s having on endangered elephant populations throughout Africa.
He’s not the only star who’s been quietly doing his part for the world. Have a look at some other famous faces that are not-so-secretly trying to make a difference.
While you were gossiping, these celebs have been busy secretly changing the world
Ian SomerhalderSomerhalder's commitment to helping the world is so intense that he's set up a foundation in his name, which focuses on habitat preservation, finding homes for abandoned pets and reducing energy consumption. Mind you, nothing lights him up quite like talking about his latest lightbulb project with Cree LED.Cree LED
Emma WatsonAfter starring in all eight Harry Potter films, Watson could have easily coasted through the rest of her life. Instead she committed five years to getting a degree from Brown University (and got certified as a yoga instructor), and she most recently grabbed headlines as UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, helping to launch the HeForShe campaign.UN
Rick MercerMercer isn't just providing lip service with his rants. The famous Canuck has worked with UNICEF to provide malaria-preventing mosquito nets for children in countries that need them, donated proceeds from campaigns to a Toronto AIDS hospice, been the spokesperson for the Canadian AIDS Society's Walk For Life and joined Dan Savages's It Gets Better campaign.Rick Mercer's Blog
Demi LovatoThe former Disney star turned X Factor judge and all-around pop artist has a long and vocal history of speaking out against bullying, either as a spokesperson for PACER or from her position as a contributing editor to Seventeen magazine. Most recently, she was the L.A. Pride Parade's Grand Marshal thanks to her commitment to the LGBT community.Seventeen
Patrick StewartStewart isn't just about the fun and games with longtime friend and X-Men co-star Ian McKellan. The Star Trek alum has been a powerful voice against domestic violence due to his own experiences as a child, as well as a patron for a prominent UK charity that deals with the issue. Again mining his family history, Stewart has also begun raising awareness about post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans.Getty
Matt DamonThe founder of two charitable organizations — one aimed at raising awareness about clean water initiatives and another that tries to stop and prevent genocides — has also lent his name to a number of organizations within the U.S. and in developing nations.Water.org
Betty WhiteIt's not enough that White is still shunning retirement in favour of entertaining us, but she's still working actively for a number of animal organizations as a trustee, president and, at one point, a zoo commissioner, paying up not just with a famous face but her time too.Getty
Angelina JolieOne of the biggest names to become a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, Jolie's work for the organization and her willingness to go into dangerous situations to bring attention to the causes eventually led to her promotion to Special Envoy, which might be why we haven't seen too much of her on the big screen lately.The UN Refugee Agency
Saving Africa’s Giants airs Tuesday, Nov. 18 on Animal Planet.