Hollywood Star Power in Focus as Democratic Convention Kicks Off
Nary a reality TV personality in sight as Lena Dunham, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Shailene Woodley and tons more celebrities descend on Philadelphia. The stakes are high.
Call it a study in convention contrasts.
One week ago, the Republicans kicked off a decidedly low-wattage presidential pep rally in Cleveland, a vitriolic and frequently surreal affair, where Scott Baio and Antonio Sabato Jr. were the biggest figures from the world of entertainment on hand to endorse Donald Trump, whose notoriety was born on a television show.
Now it's the Democrats' turn in Philadelphia. That Hollywood has traditionally leaned blue is nothing new. But as Trump amps up his divisive rhetoric in the runup to the general election, never before have the ideological differences between the two parties seemed quite so striking and the stakes felt so high.
The result is a convention that could be the starriest in modern political history, with A-listers from the worlds of politics and entertainment — everyone from Michelle and Barack Obama to Lady Gaga, Lena Dunham, Katy Perry, Lenny Kravitz and Shailene Woodley — descending on the City of Brotherly Love to cheer on Hillary Clinton and her vp pick Tim Kaine ahead of a win in November. Or — gulp — else.
Not that the DNC doesn't arrive without controversy. On Sunday, after a day of heated backroom conversations with party leaders, Debra Wasserman Schultz announced she would step down as party chair after WikiLeaks posted a trove of internal emails revealing her to be at odds with the Bernie Sanders campaign.
The correspondences — in which she called Sanders' campaign manager an "ass" and "damn liar" and said Sanders has "never been a member of the Democratic Party and has no understanding of what we do" — are widely seen by pro-Sanders progressives as evidence that the system was, as Sanders had repeatedly alleged in the past, rigged to ensure he did not win the nomination. Sanders issued a statement shortly after Wasserman's announcement calling it "the right decision."
Smelling blood in the water, Trump has pounced on the argument too, unleashing a string of goading tweets on Sunday. "Even though Bernie Sanders has lost his energy and his strength, I don't believe that his supporters will let Crooked Hillary off the hook!," he wrote. (For his part, Trump has been navigating his own internecine conflicts following Ted Cruz's showy refusal to endorse him on the RNC big stage.)
Americans can decide for themselves how much oomph is left in Sanders' step when he takes the stage tonight at the Walls Fargo Arena. Also scheduled to speak Monday is First Lady Michelle Obama, whose own 2008 DNC speech was, in yet another bizarre twist, partially cribbed by aspiring First Lady Melania Trump during her RNC remarks last Monday. Trump later blamed the flub on Meredith McIver, an in-house campaign writer and former professional ballerina, according to the New York Times.
Tuesday brings another heavy-hitter in Bill Clinton. Also scheduled for that day are Mothers of the Movement, consisting of the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown and other African-Americans whose deaths have fueled the Black Lives Matter movement. Several have already appeared in a Hillary Clinton campaign ad saying she was the best candidate to make progress on police reform and preventing gun violence.
Wednesday will feature President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, and the convention will wrap up with the Clinton women — Chelsea and her mother. Kaine will no doubt deliver another rousing, bilingual address like the one he gave in Miami on Saturday, further quieting rumors that he's "too boring" to inspire voters.
Those are just the main courses. But scads of Hollywood stars have also confirmed through social-media channels that they will be speaking on the main stage, though no firm schedule has yet been announced.
In an Instagram post, Chloe Moretz, star of Disney's upcoming live-action The Little Mermaid, wrote, “I am so happy to announce I will be speaking at the democratic national convention! ... Thank you @hillaryclinton!"
Holding up a T-shirt that reads "Love Trumps Hate," Dunham and "soul sister" America Ferrera announced on Instagram that they, too, are headed to Philadelphia to speak. "The honor! The thrill!" Dunham wrote, before taking a jab at Melania Trump: "We promise not to copy off Michelle Obama's homework, dreamy as she is."
Other bold-faced names who have confirmed they will be taking the stage: NBA stars Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and brothers Jason and Jarron Collins — Jason was the first openly gay player in any of the big four pro leagues — as well as Eva Longoria, Chelsea Handler, Alicia Keys and Demi Lovato.
Dunham, Ferrera and Chelsea Clinton will also speak Tuesday afternoon in a more intimate venue — the Facebook Lounge at the Cure Club — at an event hosted by Facebook and Glamour.
Rock the Vote is hosting a "large-scale pop-up art exhibition" featuring works by Shepard Fairey and Keith Haring. The youth-oriented non-profit, founded in 1990 and made famous by its partnership with MTV, is hosting panels throughout the week where Divergent star Woodley, Senator Cory Booker, CNN's Van Jones and NAACP president Ben Jealous are scheduled to speak.
Entertainment advocacy group Creative Coalition arrives with a large celebrity contingent, as well, with Elizabeth Banks, David Schwimmer, Josh Gad, Alison Pill and Orange is the New Black's Lea DeLaria and Diane Guerrero all scheduled to appear on panels on everything from the obesity epidemic to "the issue of statehood for Washington D.C." The week culminates in a benefit gala featuring a live performance by Fergie at the Electric Factory.
Funny or Die hosts a bash on Monday. Gaga and Kravitz co-headline a concert on Tuesday. Idina Menzel and Cyndi Lauper are hosting a tea party together. And the Human Rights Campaign will throw "an evening of solidarity against hate and gun violence" at District N9ne on Wednesday, which is expected to bring out major LGBT stars.