Too often, people fall into the trap of thinking that movie stars and celebrities of all sorts are dim-witted and shallow.
Images of Paris Hilton, Jessica Simpson, Spencer Pratt and other seemingly unintelligent superstars come to mind. A realm of reality stars, heirs, heiresses and socialites whose pretty faces make them famous, Hollywood and the whole entertainment industry can seem a bit shallow.
Emerging on to the scene, however, is a new wave of celebrities with not only impressive film resumes, but also surprising lists of academic and charitable credentials.
One of the most popular of these brilliant stars is actress Natalie Portman. Fluent in Hebrew and a scholar of French, German, Japanese and Spanish, this Harvard graduate packs a smart-girl punch. The "Star Wars" star made it to the semifinals of the Intel Science Talent Search, had work published in scientific journals, and held up an impressive acting career all while attending high school.
Portman channels her smarts into not only her acting, but into activism toward causes varying from veganism to world poverty. This dedication to advocacy and her timeless looks prompted David Letterman to call her "the new Audrey Hepburn." With her new Oscar for best actress in "Black Swan," Natalie looks like she is on track to becoming a true Hollywood icon.
Like Portman, actor James Franco sports an Ivy-league education. He has a master of fine arts from Columbia University and is working toward his doctorate in literature from Yale. He also attended NYU Tisch School of the Arts for filmmaking and UCLA for his undergraduate degree.
The best actor nominee for "127 Hours" even opted to skip out on this year's Oscar after-parties to catch a flight back to New Haven so he wouldn't miss class the next morning. Acting is not Franco's only artistic outlet: He also has an established painting career. His charitable works are directed toward supporting education in the arts as well as research and prevention of AIDS.
Emma Watson, who plays the brilliant Hermione Granger in the "Harry Potter" series, proves that the smarts aren't only an act. The British actress with an education from Brown University adds to the list of celebrity smarties. Her vehicle for charity is fashion; she is partnered with and designs for People Tree, a fair trade fashion brand.
In an interview for Time magazine, Watson said, "I want to be a Renaissance woman. I want to paint, and I want to write, and I want to act, and I want to just do everything."
It looks like more and more celebrities are taking on Emma's idea of being the full package. These three stars are only some of the actors, singers and performers that have some serious smarts; reality star Whitney Port, singer Mike Posner and new Duchess Kate Middleton all sport impressive education achievements.
So, even among the ditzy celebrities who are currently crowding the media scene, this new wave of well-rounded, intelligent and socially aware superstars is gaining power. They are truly worthy of being role models for their fans because they combine smarts, charitable works and successful, meaningful careers.
In an age when the media is clogged with superficial ideals of beauty and wealth, these stars' timeless elegance, intelligence, activism and artistic talent are an uplifting breath of fresh air.
Emmie Oliver will be a senior this fall at St. Joseph Catholic High School. She loves volleyball and snapping photos in her free time. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org