I was brought up with incredible, avant-garde, liberal parents who were just so accepting. They were very strict when it came to manners, upbringing and politeness, but they were passionate about equality. I learned the importance of compassion early on. My social activism is driven by that compassion: When I see people struggling, when I see people who are misunderstood, I want to do something.
If you feel the same drive to help others, here are my best suggestions for where to start.
Forget what you think you know about social activism
It doesn’t have to mean attending protests or traveling to impoverished areas to build houses. Sometimes I go visit with children suffering from alopecia. My dog, Giggy, also suffers from this disease. So I’ll bring him with me and say to the children, “This is one of the most famous dogs in the world, and he’s got alopecia. He’s been on Dancing with the Stars. Do you think he’s cuter with fur or without fur?” And all of them say, “Oh no, we love him the way he is.” And I’ll say, “Well, that’s the way your mommy loves you, and that’s how the world sees you.” That may not be your typical idea of what “counts” as social activism, but it’s making a difference to those children.
Set aside 10 minutes a day to help
You don’t have to suddenly turn yourself into Mother Theresa overnight and dedicate your life to social activism. I’m not advocating that people should be writing checks for thousands of dollars or even devoting one day a week to it. But you can do something, however small it is.
Say, “O.K., today I’m going to give 10 minutes of my day.” You can sign petitions or attend a rally or even retweet something. If there is something that you’re passionate about, just get involved. Give whoever is organizing it a little bit of your time. I do believe that if we turn away, ultimately we are condoning whatever is going on because we are doing nothing to stop it. We all have an obligation to do something and be constructive.
Ask your friends for their time—not their money
I never ask people for money because sometimes it’s a very uncomfortable situation and it can put a lot of pressure on relationships. Instead, I like to ask my friends for their time. For example, I produced a PSA denouncing the torture of dogs in Yulin. So I called up Sharon Osborne and I said, “I really need your help.” I won’t call her up and ask her for her money, but I will ask her for her time.
Lisa Vanderpump is a restaurateur and philanthropist known for her work on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Vanderpump Rules and Dancing with the Stars.