Leading with Kindness: 14 Most Charitable Celebrities

UPDATED: November 15, 2023
PUBLISHED: November 24, 2023
Shaquille O'Neal pointing and smiling because he's one of the most charitable celebrities SUCCESS magazine has featured on their cover

“Celebrities are people too,” we often hear, though the most charitable celebrities are the ones we truly relate to. These are the entertainers, media moguls, TV hosts and entrepreneurs who humbly use their status to enrich the lives of those around them. We’re sharing 14 previous cover stars who embody this spirit of generosity and choose to lead with kindness.

Shaquille O’Neal learns from listening

Shaq doesn’t see himself as a celeb: ‘Celebrities are all crazy.’

“I’m just a regular person,” Shaq O’Neal told SUCCESS in 2022. If that doesn’t sound quite possible—very little about the 7’1”, four-time NBA championship-winning actor, athlete, rapper and businessperson seems “regular”—he makes a pretty compelling case. Shaq doesn’t have an entourage or security detail, and he told SUCCESS he still shops at Walmart—and it’s his favorite store. “I’m just a regular person who listened,” he continued. “Just because I made it doesn’t mean I’m bigger than you. Just because I have more money doesn’t mean I’m better than you.”

Shaquille O’Neal was featured in the May/June 2022 issue of SUCCESS.

Guy Fieri looks for opportunities to make an impact

The Food Network star is always ready to lend a hand.

“If we all took a little more time to get to know people, I think it would change the whole temperament of the world,” Flavortown Mayor Guy Fieri told Delish in 2018. Not only does the “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” host help give mom-and-pop restaurants a huge boost through his show, but Fieri also gives back in other ways, whether that’s feeding thousands of Californians who lost their homes during wildfires or raising nearly $25 million for restaurant workers during the pandemic. “I’ve been given all these opportunities,” he told Delish. “Why not share it with someone? If I didn’t, I’d feel like I squandered it.”

Guy Fieri was featured in the June 2016 issue of SUCCESS.

Kendra Scott follows the ‘sister rule’

Jewelry mogul Kendra Scott wants every last employee to feel like family.

In 2002, Kendra Scott designed her first jewelry collection with just $500 in the spare bedroom of her home. Today, her company is valued at over $1 billion, but the culture is still based on what they call “the sister rule.” In other words: If your sister did this, what would you do? “Every single employee, whether you’re an intern, part-time, holiday help or C-level, should have the same level of love and respect and care,” Scott told SUCCESS in 2016. “How you treat people is what you get back.”

Kendra Scott was featured in the April 2016 issue of SUCCESS.

Chance the Rapper pays it forward

The Chicago-based rapper is giving away his fortune almost as fast as he makes it.

Chance the Rapper’s 2023 started with a free music festival he organized in Ghana for around 52,000 people, and he’s working on something similar to take place in Jamaica next year. Chance also gives back through his youth-focused nonprofit, SocialWorks, and has famously donated millions of dollars to Chicago Public Schools. “When I believe in something strongly, I do my research on it and try to be as vocal about it as possible,” he told SUCCESS earlier this year. “There are times when you have to insert yourself in the situation to create the change that you want to see.”

Chance the Rapper was featured in the July/August 2023 issue of SUCCESS.

Jimmy Kimmel: ‘Loyal to a fault’

If this late-night jokester takes one thing seriously, it’s loyalty.

“The only thing that I think I did right is that I always try to work harder than anyone else,” a self-deprecating Jimmy Kimmel told SUCCESS in 2014. Those closest to him will tell you that’s far from the “only” thing. For example, he’s also one of the most loyal guys in show biz. Kimmel’s close friend and bandleader, Cleto Escobedo III, told SUCCESS that getting to know everyone when his show began was so important to Kimmel that he made a board with everyone’s names and faces so he would remember them. “Of course, Jimmy has his new fancy friends, but he still keeps all the old clunkers around, too,” he said. “Jimmy’s loyal to a fault, but he also hires people who can do the job.”

Jimmy Kimmel was featured in the August 2014 issue of SUCCESS.

Katie Couric wants to be kind with the time we’re given

Don’t let it be a lesson you learn too late.

Journalist Katie Couric was just 41 when doctors diagnosed her husband, Jay Monahan, with the colon cancer that would eventually take his life. Looking back, she says the diagnosis made her realize how little time we have and how important it is to be generous with it. “If I had known that I’d only have Jay until he was 42 years old, I think it would have woken me up to the importance of being kind and giving,” she told Oncology Nursing News in 2019. “I wasn’t a terrible wife, but I think it just brings into sharp focus: A lot of time is just wasted over nonsense.”

Katie Couric was featured in the December 2012 issue of SUCCESS.

Mike Krzyzewski embraces the ‘horizontal totem pole’

In a sport full of superstars, Coach K always took an egalitarian approach.

As head coach of Duke University’s men’s basketball team from 1980 to 2022, Mike Krzyzewski led the Blue Devils to five national titles, 13 Final Fours, 15 ACC tournament championships, and 14 ACC regular season titles. And he did it by creating a culture in which everyone matters. “We have in our program what I call the horizontal totem pole, where everyone is important and everyone’s status is significant, whether you’re the best player or the guy at the end of the bench,” he told SUCCESS in 2015. “When you approach your team that way, everyone has to do the right thing all the time. Because if your bench guy is not practicing at full potential, that sets a poor environment for your best players. Everyone has to give, has to do the right thing, and everyone has to know what’s expected and what they can expect.”

Mike Krzyzewski was featured in the September 2015 issue of SUCCESS.

Chip and Joanna Gaines put family ahead of fame

The beloved HGTV couple and Magnolia moguls won’t risk their relationships.

After five seasons of their hugely popular series “Fixer Upper,” Chip and Joanna Gaines did the unthinkable and stepped away from the show at the height of its popularity. “Our oldest, who’s 12, is becoming a teenager,” Chip told SUCCESS in 2017, “and Jo and I just realized in our hearts that as much as we love ‘Fixer Upper’… we want to make sure that we’re here for our family during really crucial, pivotal points in its journey.” Chip added that he and Joanna, as a couple, never wanted to redline: “You know, we don’t want to run so hard after some dream or some goal only to find out that we’ve neglected the thing that means the very most to us, which is our marriage and our relationship.”

Chip and Joanna Gaines were featured in the January 2018 issue of SUCCESS.

Jay Shetty finds kindness all around us

To this monk-turned-motivator, kindness is a gift we give.

“Kindness, to me, is any thought, action or word that you can do or take to make someone’s day,” Jay Shetty told Motivational Guide in 2019. That can be as simple as using Instagram or Facebook to post a kind thought or story, or as involved as fundraising for a cause you care about. “Kindness is time, energy and money,” Shetty continued. “That’s how we show it the most—when we give our time to someone, when we give our energy to someone, when we give money toward something. It can be shown in any way.”

Jay Shetty was featured in the September/October 2022 issue of SUCCESS.

Mark Cuban centers his community

The Dallas Mavericks owner may be a shark, but he doesn’t bite.

In his Dallas community and beyond, investor, entrepreneur and “Shark Tank” star Mark Cuban is widely thought of as a do-right leader. For example, in 2020, Cuban made headlines when he picked Delonte West, a former Mavericks player who’d fallen on hard times, up from a gas station and helped enroll him in rehab. These days, Cuban even says that one of his great regrets is that he wasn’t always the kindhearted person people know him to be. Asked on a podcast recently what he wished he knew in his 30s, Cuban replied, “I wish somebody would have told me to be nicer.”

Mark Cuban was featured in the January/February 2021 issue of SUCCESS

Sophia Bush sees value in small acts of kindness

No cause is too big or too small for this actress and philanthropist.

Sophia Bush’s philanthropic work is wide-ranging and well-documented. She’s supported causes from women’s rights to environmental justice to natural disaster relief. But in 2020, as the pandemic raged, Bush made headlines for a much smaller act of kindness: She’d spent days making bone broth and chicken stew for her neighborhood, including for their UPS driver, JP. “It’s a small act of kindness, within my control in an out-of-control world,” Bush wrote in an April 2020 Instagram caption. “Cooking and serving reminded me that we can steer our own ships at any time. So. Whatever way you might be able to extend yourself to a neighbor, a friend or an essential worker today, I encourage you!”

SUCCESS magazine cover featuring Sophia Bush and Nia Batts, two of the most charitable celebrities

Sophia Bush, along with her friend and business partner Nia Batts, were featured in the November/December 2022 issue of SUCCESS.

Misty Copeland prioritizes patience

The iconic Black ballerina gives people the benefit of the doubt.

As the first African American principal dancer with the prestigious American Ballet Theatre, Misty Copeland has faced about as much adversity as a person could in an overwhelmingly white sphere. And yet, she still finds it within herself to be patient with people who are ignorant. “Most of the time, I’m gonna give people that I know and that I spend my days with the benefit of the doubt that they’re not coming from a place of just wanting to hurt me, and that it’s coming from a place of ignorance,” she told SUCCESS in 2020. “I’ve learned, throughout my 20-year career, now, that if you’re patient and open with people, then they’ll be receptive to learning.”

SUCCESS magazine cover featuring Misty Copeland, one of the most charitable celebrities

Misty Copeland was featured in the September/October 2020 issue of SUCCESS.

Lewis Howes finds strength in vulnerability

With ‘The School of Greatness’ podcast, Howes emphasizes that we are enough.

Being kind to the people around you is one thing—but it can be even harder to learn to be kind to yourself. It’s why, in addition to encouraging men to remove the mask of masculinity and appreciate vulnerability, Lewis Howes is also a vocal advocate for therapy and authentic conversations. “People really have three main fears in adulthood: the fear of failure, the fear of success and the fear of judgment. And other people’s opinions are at the center of each one of these fears,” he told SUCCESS in 2022. “When we learn to say, ‘I am enough, and I want to improve from here and accept where I’m at…,’ then we can start to eliminate these fears or work with the fears in taking action.”

Lewis Howes was featured in the March/April 2023 issue of SUCCESS.

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2023 issue of SUCCESS Magazine. 

Cassel is a Minneapolis-based writer and editor, a co-owner of Racket MN, and a VHS collector.