Published: Friday December 6, 2013 MYT 7:15:00 PM
Updated: Friday December 6, 2013 MYT 7:50:41 PM

Mandela, a celebrity among celebrities

Nelson Mandela, popular among celebrities.

Nelson Mandela, popular among celebrities.

During his lifetime, there was no shortage of celebrity endorsements for Mandela’s calls to freedom. In turn, he welcomed their star power to illuminate South Africa’s struggle to end apartheid.

The world of entertainment was one of the most voracious supporters of Mandela during his long incarceration on Robben Island. During the 1980s, much attention was brought to apartheid in South Africa through clarion calls made by pop stars and actors, including Oprah Winfrey, Whitney Houston, Morgan Freeman and a host of others. Mere hours after his death, countless celebrities paid tribute to Madiba, lauding him as a hero and inspiration; U2’s frontman Bono penned a 1,000-word essay for TIME magazine in honour of the freedom fighter. It’s safe to say that Mandela occupies hallowed ground in Hollywood and that his legacy would continue to gleam amongst the stars.

Oprah Winfrey

Winfrey and Mandela at the groundbreaking ceremony of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in Johannesburg in 2002. Winfrey posted on Facebook: “One of the great honours of my life was to be invited to Nelson Mandela’s home, spend private time and get to know him. He was everything you’ve ever heard and more – humble and unscathed by bitterness. And he always loved to tell a good joke. Being in his presence was like sitting with grace and majesty at the same time. He will always be my hero. His life was a gift to us all.” AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER JOE


Whitney Houston

An ardent supporter of Mandela and the anti-apartheid movement, right from her modeling days, Houston refused to work with agencies who did business with the then-apartheid South Africa. In 1988, she performed at a concert at Wembley Stadium in London to celebrate then-imprisoned Nelson Mandela’s 70th birthday and raised over US$1 million for charities. Houston and Mandela posed for the press in Pretoria in 1994. REUTERS/Juda Ngwenya/Files


Morgan Freeman

Mandela once said that only Freeman could portray him, which the latter did in the 2009 movie Invictus, earning an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. Freeman posted on Facebook: “Today the world lost one of the true giants of the past century. Nelson Mandela was a man of incomparable honour, unconquerable strength, and unyielding resolve – a saint to many, a hero to all who treasure liberty, freedom and the dignity of humankind. As we remember his triumphs, let us, in his memory, not just reflect on how far we’ve come, but on how far we have to go. Madiba may no longer be with us, but his journey continues on with me and with all of us.” FACEBOOK PHOTO


Charlize Theron

South African-born Theron shared a warm moment with Mandela in Johannesburg in 2004. Mandela was said to have lauded Theron’s achievements in Hollywood. Theron posted on Facebook: “My thoughts and love go out to the Mandela family. Rest in Peace Madiba. You will be missed, but your impact on this world will live forever.” EPA/STR SOUTH AFRICA OUT


Laila Ali

Ali embraced Mandela during meeting at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg in 2007. At the meeting, Ali said that Mandela reminded her of her father, the legendary boxer Muhammad Ali: ““There is a lot of energy in the room and I could feel his spirit. When I am holding his hand, as he is walking on his cane, he reminds me so much of my own father. That same energy that I get from him. So he is like family.” EPA/KIM LUDBROOK


Will and Jada Pinkett Smith

Smith accompanied Mandela and wife Graca Machel on stage at a 46664 concert near Cape Town in 2005. Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, wrote on Facebook: “Mandela is gone. I shed a lot of tears today. I am glad I was with the water today to ease me. The world has lost a great man, a powerful spirit and that simply made me sad. But how lucky are we to have experienced a man like him in our lifetime? What I will remember most about Madiba, besides his enormous impact on the world, is how much he loved children including his favorite Smith… Willow.” EPA/KIM LUDBROOK


David Beckham

Beckham met and presented a football jersey to Mandela during a visit to South Africa to play a friendly match in 2003. Beckham wrote on Facebook: “My heart goes out to the people in South Africa and Mr Mandela’s family. We have lost a true gentleman and a courageous human being. It was truly an honor to have known a man who had genuine love for so many people. Rest in peace.” REUTERS/Juda Ngwenya/Files



Football legend Pele met Mandela in Pretoria, in 1995, and presented his hero with a football jersey as a token of admiration. Pele tweeted: “Today, I am very saddened. Nelson Mandela was one of the most influential people in my life. He was my hero, my friend, and also a companion to me in our fight for the people and for world peace. Let us all continue his legacy with purpose and passion.” REUTERS/ Juda Ngwenya/Files


Tags / Keywords: Entertainment, Mandela, Celebrity


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