11 Freedom Fighters Who Have Inspired Me

Art For Freedom!

1. John Lennon

Central Press / Hulton Archive

He went from being one of the worldʼs greatest pop stars to speaking out against the Vietnam War and using every opportunity he could in interviews to spread his message of peace. And he wrote one of the greatest songs ever about peace, “Imagine,” one of my favorite songs.

2. Malala Yousafzai

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Malala risked her life to defend the right for women to be educated in the Swat Valley (where she is from) as well as Islamic countries. She continues to speak out for educating girls everywhere.

3. James Baldwin

Jenkins / Hulton Archive

One of my greatest inspirations as an artist. A great writer, poet, and activist who insisted that all artists have the responsibility to shape and change the world.

4. Marlon Brando

Hulton Archive

An actor who I really admire — the finest of his generation. He was willing to fight for the rights of American Indians and he didnʼt care if it made him unpopular in the entertainment community (which it did). He was a badass in every way, what can I say?

5. Martin Luther King Jr.

National Archives / Hulton Archive

He was fearless in his fight. His peaceful approach to ending segregation in the United States is beyond admirable. What he did for the civil rights movement is historical. He sacrificed his life for what he believed in. He changed the face of America.

6. Nelson Mandela

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He was willing to serve time in prison for 27 years, fighting to abolish apartheid in South Africa. He came out with no bitterness, forgiving his enemies. To me, he’s a saint.

7. Pussy Riot

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Fearless young women who are the perfect illustration that you can use your art to change the world. After spending two years in jail, they continue to stand up and fight for human rights.

8. Keith Haring

Ron Galella, Ltd. / WireImage

Keith was a great friend who was very supportive of me in the early days of my career. He used street art to bring awareness to the gay community — fighting for equal rights for all, but specifically for people who were HIV positive.

9. Frida Khalo

Wallace Marly / Getty Images Archive

An artist I have always admired. She played an important role in the revolution of Mexico. She fought for the right of artists as well as the working class. She came up in a time where there were very few female artists — the odds were stacked against her, and yet her voice was heard. And now she is considered one of the greatest artists of the 21st century.

10. Ai Weiwei

Miguel Villagran / Getty Images

Ai Weiwei is a gifted Chinese artist who is willing to speak out against the censorship of artists and the oppression by the Chinese government, which doesnʼt allow freedom of artistic expression. He was abducted and held in captivity for 81 days for continuing to create art even though the government forbade him to. He cleverly used social media to speak out about his predicament and bring awareness other fellow Chinese artists.

11. Nancy Cunard

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She was the heiress to the Cunard fortune — but because she fought for the rights of African-Americans in the ’20s and ’30s, she was disowned by her family. She raised money to buy a printing press so she could print newspapers and books to keep African-American culture alive through poetry, music, literature, and art. She ended up destitute because she fought for what she believed in. She went from socialite and fashion icon to freedom fighter, an interesting journey that most people do not know about; she was extremely courageous.

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