In her own words, Sophia Bush was an activist before she was an actor.
The actress, best known for her roles in “Chicago P.D.” and “One Tree Hill,” says her upbringing in Southern California is what encouraged her activism, first becoming passionate about the environment then using her growing platform to shine a light on important causes, including education reform, women’s rights and voters’ rights.
She’s now bringing her activism ethos to her latest role, partnering with Intermix and Rock the Vote — a nonprofit that encourages young people to vote — for an International Women’s Day campaign that celebrates the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote.
The campaign offers multiple ways for customers to register to vote, including via text and the brand’s web site, as well as in-store at Intermix’s 32 stores nationwide. The brand is also setting up a “voting booth” at 98 Prince Street in Manhattan on March 7 and 8 where shoppers can “send a vote of confidence to women who inspire them,” per the brand.
WWD caught up with Bush to talk about the campaign, her activism and the upcoming presidential election.
WWD: Why are you teaming up with Intermix and Rock the Vote for this campaign?
Sophia Bush: It’s clear to all of us that exercising our right to vote has never been more important. I am also very aware that not everyone loves data as much as I do, so perhaps there are people who either don’t know how to or don’t have the time to do the kinds of research that I do. One thing I read over and over again is that the more people are exposed to what’s going on in their communities — and also to the realities of what their lives are — the more likely they are to actually exercise those rights.
WWD: What inspired you to be an activist?
S.B.: Once I was working in television and I realized I had this great big platform where I could have conversations with substance, that really was where I began. The interesting thing about learning about any kind of policy is how integrated they are. Policies that affect the environment affect human beings everywhere. When you see economic disparity, you see how certain groups are affected more than others. You see the way that the education system is working for some and not for all. It’s impossible to not want to help, so for me one thing kind of led to another in this great domino effect of how do we take care of each other and take care of this planet to the best of our ability.
WWD: What are some causes that are important to you?
S.B.: Voting, education reform, fiscal reform and environmental legislation are huge for me. The idea that the environment has been politicized I think is one of the great travesties of our modern political landscape. The environment doesn’t care if you vote red or blue. It is changing and this is a five-alarm fire at this point.
WWD: The 2020 presidential election isn’t the first one you’ve used your platform to speak about. How did your work around the 2016 election inform your approach today?
S.B.: I have learned a lot from every election I’ve ever participated in. I think the really disheartening thing about 2016 was the amount of disinformation and actual targeted lies that were put up on the Internet and the way that the division was sowed, not only from our country but from the influence of foreign governments as well. None of that should be taken lightly. I think if anything, 2016 taught us that we can’t assume that everything we see is true. We also can’t assume that an adult in the room is handling this. We are the adults in the room. The adage of “if not us then who?” is very true and we’ve got to do everything we can to combat disinformation and encourage people to remember how important their vote is because that was something that was really attacked in the last election.
WWD: Why do you think it’s important that those with platforms — actors, musicians and celebrities — use them?
S.B.: The more that we can use our platforms to have these conversations and make sure people know what’s going on, the better. The news cycle is overwhelming and it’s hard to stay up on everything, take care of yourself and get all of your work done. I think that the most important thing any of us can be asked to do is pay attention to what’s happening in our community and around the world, and make sure that we have a voice in those systems.
WWD: Have you had an experience where you’ve shared something that caused backlash on social media?
S.B.: That’s not an experience. It’s tens of thousands of experiences a week, but at the end of the day I don’t believe in ceasing to do what’s right because it’s hard. I think very often the right thing is hard, but I view that as a really sacred responsibility. We are each other’s keepers and if we don’t do everything to the best of our ability to fight for our communities, I don’t know what we’re doing here.
WWD: What is something you want voters to remember during the lead-up to the presidential election?
S.B.: We really need to remember that we have an opportunity to vote for policies that are rooted in human betterment. We need to remember to vote for candidates who believe that people deserve a fair shot, to vote for sensible policy that actually betters people’s lives, betters the environment and is good for the economy. Those policies are possible across the board in every single state. I think it’s up to us to choose to vote for kindness, goodness, responsibility and for each other.
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