It seems there are few areas of our society that have not been permeated by reality television, and this holds true for philanthropy and cause awareness. “American Idol” gave back; even Oprah’s giving big in primetime. And though the debate over whether so-called “philanthro-tainment” helps or hinders the field, the latest example is giving us a headache. While these efforts may be effective in bringing social issues and the notion of philanthropy to mainstream America, in certain instances we can’t help but question their approach and substance. If there is any doubt that reality television has, at the very least, a questionable role in the world of cause awareness and philanthropy, this recent promotion should put that to rest.
Last weekend, Reality Cares, an organization founded and supported by representatives of the reality television industry to raise funds and awareness for an array of issues, partnered with SUNSTYLE tanning studio in West Hollywood to host its “Tan for a Cause” event. Leading reality stars from shows like “American Idol,” “Project Runway” and “The Amazing Race” “[got their] tan on” to raise awareness for a nonprofit that mentors at-risk youth through extreme sports.
In the nearly six minutes of red carpet coverage on Access Hollywood’s site, we caught only a single mention of the nonprofit organization, Stoked Mentoring, by name, and never did the attendees or the host explain how, or whether, any funds were being raised for the cause. We talk a lot about authenticity here at Cone. When a cause-related event centers on an arguably dangerous practice and is more about pseudo-celebs strutting their stuff on the red carpet than raising awareness for the cause, we say it’s time for a reality check.