International stars with a conscience have long tried to use their celebrity to do good, but some, as was painfully demonstrated this week, do it better than others. While Angelina Jolie charmed and cajoled G8 foreign ministers in London, calling for action to combat sexual violence in war zones, Madonna was embroiled in an unedifying long-distance shouting match with the authorities in Malawi.
Jolie’s contribution, like her appearance, was perfectly pitched, and what she had to say was the product of her work in the field as UN special envoy for refugees, a job she has taken ever more seriously. Madonna, meanwhile, had returned to Malawi, taking her two adopted children to see their home country and looking at school projects her charity has helped to fund. Her whole trip, though, was overshadowed by reports that she had complained about her treatment and a row about whether her largesse had funded schools or only classrooms.
It would be invidious to condemn Madonna. She has, at very least, transformed the lives of two African children and facilitated the education of many, many others. In the matter of winning friends and influencing people, though, she might take a leaf from Angelina’s book.