As Inspiring As Angelina: 10 Honest Celeb Moments That Changed Everything

Some will say it's all one big publicity stunt, but we're firm believers that strong statements from celebrities on important issues can go a long way towards changing society. For better or worse, Americans look up to people like Angelina Jolie and Jason Collins — and their recent statements about breast-cancer prevention and being gay in the world of sports, while deeply personal, have riveted millions of people and opened up dialogue on two pressing and challenging topics.
To that end, we took a look back at celebrities who, through personal admission, have changed the national conversation for the better, and become inspirational figures for regular Joes and Janes struggling with the same problems. While some of these revelations — all of which were shocking at the time — might make you cry, others will make you smile, and most of all, we think they're proof that our favorite stars do have the ability to harness their ubiquity for the better.
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Oprah Winfrey

Oprah's decision to talk frankly about her sexual abuse at the hands of her uncle wasn't just a huge news story in 1986; it was also a turning point in the way sexual assault was perceived. The idea that assault can happen to anyone, successful or not, made the subject less taboo, and candidly brought the discussion into America's living rooms, opening the door for other celebrities to tell their stories.

"There really is no darker secret than sexual abuse. I am telling you about myself so that maybe the closet where so many sexual abuse victims and their molesters hide might swing open just a crack today and let some light in." - On The Oprah Winfrey Show, November 10, 1986.

Photo: Courtesy of Everett Collection/Rex USA.
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Ellen Degeneres

The comedian had been dancing around the subject of her sexuality for a while before her official coming out on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 1997. She then used her character on her sitcom to come out to an even larger audience. Her public outing paved the way for many celebrities to come out of the closet in the future.

Oprah: "Why did you think it was necessary for you to come out. You've read some of the mail, people say, 'why not just let that be your business?' Why was it necessary for you to come out and tell the public? Why was it necessary for your character to come out?"
Ellen: "Because it's okay. Because it is okay."

Photo: Courtesy of Alex J. Berliner/BEImages.
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Tori Amos

In 1994, Tori Amos spoke about a horrifying event that occurred when she was 21 years old. On the way home from a gig, one of her audience members caught a ride and proceeded to rape her at knifepoint. This inspired the singer to famously begin work with RAINN. Amos' bravery and decision to tell her story helped start an important discussion about the violence women face.

"That's what that night was all about, mutilation, more than violation through sex. I really do feel as though I was psychologically mutilated that night and that now I'm trying to put the pieces back together again. Through love, not hatred. And through my music. My strength has been to open again, to life, and my victory is the fact that, despite it all, I kept alive my vulnerability". - In a quote to Hot Press, 1994.

Photo: Courtesy of Roger Sargent/Rex USA.
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Michael J. Fox

The country knew Michael J. Fox as a teenage heartthrob and comedic actor, but in 1998, he revealed he had a disease that typically afflicted the elderly. Not only did Michael J. Fox's revelation shed light on what Parkinson's sufferers go through, but it showed that no one was immune. Since then, Fox has become a true advocate for research.

"What celebrity has given me is the opportunity to raise the visibility of Parkinson's disease and focus more attention on the desperate need for more research dollars...I was shocked and frustrated to learn that the amount of federal funding is so meager. Compared with the amount of federal funding going to other diseases, research funding for Parkinson's lags far behind." - As quoted by CNN, at a United States Senate subcommittee hearing in 1999.

Photo: Courtesy of Ron Sachs/Rex USA.
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Tracey Gold

In 1989, the Growing Pains actress began a doctor-supervised weight-loss program that ultimately led to Gold checking into a hospital for anorexia three years later at the age of 22. She had been dodging both cast and family interventions and compulsively dieting her way to 83 lbs. Gold had previously battled anorexia at the age of 12, and admitted to falling victim again to People Magazine in 1992. Gold was one of the first celebrities to admit to being anorexic. Her confession inspired others to come forward, and made her a role model for those living with an eating disorder, and even had a show, Starving Secrets With Tracey Gold, that kept the conversation going.

"I know the eating disorder community goes back and forth between whether you can be recovered or are you recovering. I consider myself recovered, because I think that if you live your life saying you are continually recovering, then it kind of gives you that outlet that when stuff comes your way that is tough, then that’s where you are going to go. I don’t want to give myself that option, so I’m recovered.

I look at food and I face food everyday with no fear or anxiety, and it's fine. I enjoy it and it's good; I’m a woman in today’s society, so obviously I want to eat healthy and all that body image stuff. But it’s not a part of my life." - Interview with XO Jane.

Photo: Courtesy of Erik Pendzich/Rex USA.
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Demi Lovato

Demi Lovato was known as a bright and bubbly Disney star (which, as we all know, suffer from fame exposure at an early age), until a high-profile meltdown in 2010 took her out of the spotlight. Like many young women, Lovato turned to cutting, bulimia, and self-harm for treatment, until she decided to speak up. Since then, Lovato has actively advocated for anti-bullying programs.

"I was matching the inside to the outside. And there were some times where my emotions were just so built up, I didn't know what to do. The only way that I could get instant gratification was through an immediate release on myself." - During a 2011 interview with 20/20.

Photo: Courtesy of Ken McKay/Rex/Rex USA.
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Magic Johnson

In the late '80s and early '90s, AIDS was treated by health industries as a 'gay' problem...until basketball player Magic Johnson admitted he had it. Helping to prove that HIV infection could happen to anyone, Johnson's revelation helped change the national conversation on the matter.

"Safe sex is the way to go. We sometimes think only gay people can get it, that it's not going to happen to me. And here I am saying that it can happen to anybody, even me, Magic Johnson." - As quoted by ESPN at a press conference in 1991.

Photo: Courtesy of Berliner Studio/BEImages.
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Catherine Zeta-Jones

Catherine Zeta-Jones has it all: talent, beauty, and a great career. But she decided to share with the world her bipolar disorder. Difficult to treat and hard to live with, Zeta-Jones regularly and openly seeks treatment.

"This is a disorder that affects millions of people, and I am one of them. If my revelation of having bipolar II has encouraged one person to seek help, then it is worth it." - As reported by ABC in 2011.

Photo: Courtesy of Henry Lamb/Photowire/BEImages.
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Sally Field

Though many famous individuals have admitted to having gay children, Sally Field didn't just make an announcement: She lauded the bravery of her son, Sam. Her outspoken support of her child proved that merely accepting your child for who they are wasn't enough — they needed love and support.

"Nature made Sam. It wasn’t a choice. He was always, always Sam — glorious, smart, funny, sweet Sam." - Her Ally for Equality award acceptance speech at 2012's HRC gala.

Photo: Courtesy of Matt Baron/BEImages.
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Anderson Cooper

Most anyone working in media had heard the rumors about Anderson Cooper, who staunchly (and rightfully so) had always kept his private life private, for professional reasons. But the beloved CNN anchor admitted the unintended consequences of being closeted, and made his announcement, and proved one crucial point: Coming out doesn't necessarily make someone an activist, but a human being with a sexual identity.

"The fact is, I'm gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud.

I have always been very open and honest about this part of my life with my friends, my family, and my colleagues. In a perfect world, I don't think it's anyone else's business, but I do think there is value in standing up and being counted. I’m not an activist, but I am a human being and I don't give that up by being a journalist." - As told to Andrew Sullivan in 2012.

Photo: Courtesy of Henry Lamb/Photowire/BEImages.