Chelsea Handler speaks to us about using her privilege and platform to fight for what's right
Chelsea Handler’s political beliefs aren’t exactly a secret — but she doesn’t simply make jokes and call it a day. Instead, the Chelsea host has become increasingly politically engaged both on screen and off. From raising money for Planned Parenthood to sponsoring Syrian refugees, Handler is definitely someone who practices what she preaches.
In her on-set office after a recent taping of Chelsea in Los Angeles, Handler tells me that she has an obligation to use her platform to make a difference in any way she can.
One year ago, she spoke at the Democratic National Convention, and this weekend, Handler will headline Politicon, which HuffPost has dubbed “The Coachella of Politics.”
She’ll be featured in two programs over the weekend — a conversation with conservative political commentator Tomi Lahren, and an interview with CNN’s Jack Tapper over cocktails.
Although people have been quick to describe Handler’s conversation with Lahren as a “debate,” that’s actually not the case — it’ll be an interview, similar to the ones she conducts on Chelsea each week.
This isn’t the first time Handler has made an effort to gain a better understanding of why 63 million Americans voted for Trump — something that continues to be a source of pain and confusion for many of us. For example, she went bowling with Trump supporters on a recent episode of Chelsea to gain some insight into what led people to cast their ballots for him. When I ask her about these conversations, her answer is candid.
Handler has been criticized for being “too political,” and her immediate response is that there’s no such thing — especially because she has the platform and resources to make a difference. As a person of privilege, Handler won’t be harmed by any of Trump’s policies, and she says that’s the exact reason she has an obligation to use her voice.
The day after Trump’s inauguration, Handler led the Women’s March in Park City, Utah, and she describes it as one of the most powerful experiences of her life — not just because it was an amazing day, but because it set a precedent for what needed to happen next.
The sentiment of not growing fatigued is emphasized by many of Handler’s political guests, including the men who were interviewed during the taping I attended. Former Obama staffers and the current hosts of the podcast “Pod Save America” — Jon Favreau, Tommy Vietor, and Jon Lovett — reiterate that activism is working.
In the months since Trump’s victory, Handler has traveled to college campuses to speak with students and emphasize the importance of being politically engaged. The appearances are town hall-style, which allows people to ask questions, express their opinions, and have open conversations.
Handler is also working with the The Karam Foundation, a non-profit whose mission is to help refugees. She learned about the organization during a photoshoot for The New York Times Magazine and immediately wanted to become involved.
She explains to me that the organization offers myriad ways to support refugees. You can buy them cars, pay for English lessons, and fund necessities like food and clothing. Handler currently sponsors multiple refugee children and, although she finds it incredibly rewarding, she isn’t clamoring for face-to-face meetings with those she helps.
Handler has interviewed multiple “up-and-coming” Democrats during Season 2, so I can’t help but ask if there’s any particular person she hopes will run for president in 2020.
Handler strongly believes there’s no such thing as being too political right now. I couldn’t agree more, but I ask if she ever feels the need to disconnect from the news for a few hours and relax. Although Handler credits her two rescue dogs, Chunk and Tammy, with “keeping her chin up,” she says watching the news is actually therapeutic for her.
And if there’s anyone who knows a thing or two about fighting for what’s right, it’s Chelsea Handler.