It was a masterstroke to deliver a message about climate change.
It came courtesy of model and influencer Sarah Talabi after she was asked about rumors that she kissed and danced with actor Timothée Chalamet at the celebrity-filled Coachella music festival in California last weekend.
“Everyone asks me if I was kissing Timothée Chalamet at Coachella, and that’s a good question,” she replied. The New York Post’s page six, the grande dame of gossip columns. “But a good question would be to ask our world leaders why the Earth is now losing 1.2 trillion tons of ice annually due to global warming and why climate crisis reform has been completely ineffective. I encourage you to contact your local representatives and ask them.”
Rather than a predictable “no commentary,” Talabi’s 50s-ish words turned a frothy showbiz piece into an issue that matters — and in a place where the readership is rarely exposed to news of the Arctic ice sheet collapsing.
Talabi, who co-authored a book on intersectional feminism with her twin sister Leah, is already proving she’s a pro at using social media as a megaphone for good. On her Instagram account with 1.5 million followers, in addition to photos of designer outfits and red carpets, she links to a UNICEF children’s fundraiser in Ukraine and her own nonprofit, community and resource center for black women and marginalized voices.
She’s not alone in deploying a handy bait-and-switch in the name of climate awareness.
Heidi Montag, who appeared on the MTV reality show The hills and a staple of tabloid fodder in the early 2000s, last week did a dig for its own reputation for a greater cause.
The 35-year-old posted an ad on her Instagram account for S1NGLES Jeans, “the world’s first single-use jeans.”
“No more shrinking. No more fading color. Just good vibes. You always look your best because you only wear @S1NGLESJEANS once,” her caption read. Responses under the post were predictably outraged, even insulting.
A day later, she posted a video of herself floating in the water, wearing jeans and a white T-shirt with the word “STUPID” — along with details of the partnership with the environmental nonprofit Oceana. “Single-use jeans are just as stupid as the single-use plastic bottles that pollute our oceans,” she wrote as her caption, demanding that soda companies stop using them and switch to refillable bottles.
Talabi’s succinct comment on: page six will likely have an even wider reach, notably taking advantage of its connection to Chalamet (which would certainly agree, given its starring role in the climate change allegory don’t look up† The gossip column remains a tabloid force to be reckoned with, with about 24 million readers a month flocking to the website and another 170,000 in print, according to figures quoted to Esquire in the year 2020.
It would be foolish to write off Talabi’s or Montag’s tactics (and these are far from the only examples). Making sure climate change is discussed in places where it’s rarely mentioned is far more beneficial to the cause than shouting slogans in an echo chamber.
Cardi B was cheated by Republicans and laughed at by many Democrats when she spoke about political issues such as health care and gun restrictions. ‘Why isn’t she a genius political mind? Because she’s a rapper? Because she’s a former stripper? Because of how she talks? Because she didn’t go to university?’ Natalie Gontcharova then wrote in Refinery29† (Many Democrats quickly changed their tune on Cardi B when they realized its reach and potential among voters.)
There is no right way to talk about climate change and there should be no gatekeepers – no scientists, no politicians, no tech moguls and no journalists. It’s a tent we should all be in if there’s any real chance of turning the tide of what currently looks like a runaway catastrophe. Every moment like Talabi’s only invites more people.