On the first day of filming "Star Wars," George Lucas walked up to Carrie Fisher to explain why Princess Leia couldn’t wear a bra.

From her memoir, "Wishful Drinking":


"'You can't wear a bra under that dress.'

So, I say, 'Okay, I'll bite. Why?'

And he says, 'Because ... there's no underwear in space. What happens is you go to space and you become weightless. So far so good, right? But then your body expands??? But your bra doesn't — so you get strangled by your own bra.'

Now I think that this would make for a fantastic obit — so I tell my younger friends that no matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra."





Let’s just say it. 2016 has been the kind of year that people compare to giant, flaming containers of garbage.  

Carrie Fisher was strangled by her own bra. The election was ugly. World events were uglier. And when it comes to beloved icons, it was like 2016 had a grudge against humanity and was actively plotting against our most beloved pop culture icons.

And while everyone knows what they are best known for, here are 10 important things you may not have known about many of our most beloved icons this year.

1.  Carrie Fisher was a screenwriter who secretly fixed other people’s broken movies.

As a kid, I only knew her as Princess Leia, the leader of the Resistance with flawless aim and passion for rebellion and freedom. It wasn't until later that I learned about the layers of depth she had within her. First and foremost, Carrie Fisher was a writer.

Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney.

She spent much of her career doing nearly anonymous work, quietly fixing movies, as one of the most sought after script doctors in Hollywood. She fixed movies like "Hook," "The Wedding Singer," and "Lethal Weapon III." She added jokes. She'd flesh out two-dimensional women characters. She wrote books. She spoke openly about mental illness. She also happened to be one of the funniest people in Hollywood. And the only one to drown in moonlight, strangled by her own bra.

2. Prince was legendary ... at quietly giving to local charities.

Prince is considered one of the greatest rock stars of all time.

Photo via Chelsea Lauren/Getty Images for NPG Records.

But according to EOnline, he was also a remarkable philanthropist. He funded YesWeCode, an organization that helps kids become coders. The State reported that he donated $250,000 to the Eau Claire Promise Zone in Columbia, South Carolina, which helps fund childhood education. Another news organization reported that he donated $1,000,000 to the Harlem Children’s Zone. He was passionate about Black Lives Matter, too, fundraising and performing for their cause before he died.

3. Gene Wilder was not just Willy Wonka. He also testified before Congress to help fund cancer research.

Gene Wilder was an alcoholic gunslinger in "Blazing Saddles," a mad scientist in "Young Frankenstein," and a sketchy producer in the show (cleverly named) "The Producers."

Photo via M.J. Kim/Getty Images.

And of course, he also played a disturbed candy company wizard named Willy Wonka. His professional life was going amazingly well, and then his personal life got even better. When Gene Wilder met "Saturday Night Live" cast member Gilda Radner in 1981 on the set of the movie "Hanky Panky," he knew he had found his true love. She was funny, charismatic, and lit up any room she was in. When she died from misdiagnosed ovarian cancer, he was struggling to find meaning, to make sure her suffering never harmed anyone else ever again. From an essay he published in People magazine:

"For weeks after Gilda died, I was shouting at the walls. I kept thinking to myself, 'This doesn't make sense.' The fact is, Gilda didn’t have to die. But I was ignorant, Gilda was ignorant—the doctors were ignorant. She could be alive today if I knew then what I know now.

Gilda might have been caught at a less-advanced stage if two things had been done: if she had been given a ... blood test as soon as she described her symptoms to the doctors instead of 10 months later, and if the doctors had known the significance of asking her about her family’s history of ovarian cancer. But they didn’t. So Gilda went through the tortures of the damned and at the end, I felt robbed."

He wanted to channel his pain into something productive. He helped Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre create the Gilda Radner Ovarian Cancer Detection Program. He also helped start Gilda’s Clubs and according to The Los Angeles Times, his congressional testimony helped fund $30 million in cancer research.

4. David Bowie started an internet service provider before it was cool.

David Bowie was a rock legend, even among rock legends. He was always on the bleeding edge of rock music. He created characters. He pushed the boundaries of music and influenced musicians in every genre.

Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images.

But you know what else he did?

While other rock stars were scared of the internet, before most people even had access to internet, in 1998, David Bowie started BowieNet, a place for Bowie fans to access to the internet AND have a rockstar email address. He moved on. And became a goblin king or something. Because he’s David Bowie.

5. George Michael was a proud gay icon and a musical legend but stayed quiet about his charitable work.

George Michael was known for his LGBTQ rights advocacy, HIV/AIDS fundraising work, his strong political beliefs, and his pop hits ranging from "Father Figure" to "Faith" to "Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me."

Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images.

But what wasn’t known about him, prior to his death, was his anonymous kindness and charity to everyday folks. The New York Daily News compiled a list of people who came forward after his death to share the kindness he didn’t want publicity for in life. He had given millions to Childline, a children’s charity. He once gave a free concert to the nurses who took care of his ailing mother. He volunteered, anonymously, at a homeless shelter. He once tipped a waitress $5,000 because she was in debt and a nursing student. I have faith there are others out there who were on the receiving end of his generosity that we’ll never know about.

6. Vera Rubin was not just a science legend, but also a witty crusader for women’s equality.

Vera Rubin may not be in the celebrity magazines, but she’s a astronomer and visionary who confirmed significant scientific findings and who dealt with sexism with bluntness and wit.

Photo by Carnegie Institution of Washington.

She was the first female astronomer to observe the skies at Caltech’s Observatory, but there was no women’s bathroom at the observatory, so she cut out a little paper doll of a dress and slapped it on the men’s room door. She said, "There you go; now you have a ladies’ room."

And more importantly, she confirmed the existence of dark matter and has been hailed by many in the scientific community of someone who deserves the Nobel Prize for physics, which no woman has won in 50 years.

7. Muhammad Ali was an incredible fighter but, more importantly, also a civil rights activist.

Muhammad Ali was the greatest. He told you that. And it also was true. And while many people remember him for his achievements in the ring and his lighting of the Olympic torch at the 1996 summer Olympics in Atlanta, most people tend to gloss over the other side of his story.

Photo via Kent Gavin/Keystone/Getty Images.

He was an unapologetic civil rights activist who refused to fight in the Vietnam War. In his words:

"My conscience won't let me go shoot my brother or some darker people or some poor, hungry people in the mud for big, powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn't put no dogs on me, they didn't rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father. Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them poor people? Poor little black people and babies and children and women. How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail."

He was stripped of his title and banned from boxing for that. He also was banned from traveling overseas. So he spent four years speaking out at colleges to earn money and bring attention to the issues that almost no one was willing to address. In 1971, the Supreme Court overruled his draft dodging conviction and he returned to regain his title.

8. Ron Glass was a fictional cop, a fictional space priest, and a real-life college education fan.

If you aren’t totally sure why Ron Glass’s name sounds familiar, let me refresh your memory. If you grew up in the 1970s, you might know him as Detective Ron Harris from "Barney Miller." If you grew up in the 2000s, if you are like me, then you love him for his role as space preacher Shepard Book on "Firefly." But if you are a kid living in poverty who up in Los Angeles from 1992 until now, you probably know Ron Glass as the guy who spent over 20 years mentoring children and making sure hundreds of them got the resources to go to college.

After witnessing the Rodney King riots, he wanted to make an impact on the community. So he joined the board of the Wooten Center, which helps kids get on the path to a college education. He started mentoring and reading to kids, emceeing events, raising money, and getting kids the resources they needed. You can donate in his name here.

9. Harper Lee wrote one of the most important books ever. (And one of the best snarky letters ever.)

In 1966, the Hanover County School Board in Richmond, Virginia, took offense to Harper Lee’s pivotal work "To Kill a Mockingbird."

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

To them, the coarse language and discussion of racial  was, according to one board member, "immoral literature." They unanimously voted to ban it. When Harper Lee found out, she decided to voice her expert opinion in an open letter to the editors of the local paper, the Richmond News Leader.  It read:

"Recently I have received echoes down this way of the Hanover County School Board's activities, and what I've heard makes me wonder if any of its members can read.

Surely it is plain to the simplest intelligence that 'To Kill a Mockingbird' spells out in words of seldom more than two syllables a code of honor and conduct, Christian in its ethic, that is the heritage of all Southerners. To hear that the novel is "immoral" has made me count the years between now and 1984, for I have yet to come across a better example of doublethink.

I feel, however, that the problem is one of illiteracy, not Marxism. Therefore I enclose a small contribution to the Beadle Bumble Fund that I hope will be used to enroll the Hanover County School Board in any first grade of its choice."



According to the story, Lee included $10 for The News Leader’s Bumble Fund, which distributed 50 free copies of the book to Hanover students. The fund, named after a character in Charles Dickens’ "Oliver Twist" who proclaimed "the law is a ass," was started in 1959 by News Leader Editor James J. Kilpatrick "to redress ludicrous cases of patent injustice."

A month later, the board un-banned the book and claimed they never intended to in the first place. We’ll miss you, Harper Lee.

10. Gwen Ifill was a crack journalist but a private mentor to dozens and dozens more.

Gwen Ifill worked at The Baltimore Evening Sun. She did a stint at The Washington Post. She reported for The New York Times. She hosted "Washington Week" for 17 years. She hosted "NewsHour" for the last three years as half of the first all-woman national network news anchor team. She was, simply put, a legend.

I recently had the opportunity to meet Gwen Ifill. The 2016 presidential debates were around the corner. I asked her, "Knowing that candidates tend to ignore questions if they don't want to answer them, with the bizarre election we are currently in, how do you deal with a candidate who refuses to answer questions, or makes up facts out of whole cloth?"

Her response impressed me. This isn't verbatim, but essentially, she said trying to get candidates to answer questions they are trained to dodge is a waste of time. You can try a follow up, and if they still dodge, then you gently acknowledge to the audience that you're on the same page as them. Let the audience know you know the candidate didn't answer. Then move on to the next thoughtful question.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images for "Meet the Press."

During the taping, on a break, she specifically sought out and took time to meet a young woman of color studying to be a reporter. Then I discovered what many already knew, that it’s something she actively did her entire career. She took her job as a role model and mentor very seriously. So much so that a vast community of journalists wrote about how she helped them get to where they are after she died.

Gwen Ifill had a pretty damn impressive career, but what’s more impressive are the dozens of journalists of color she mentored and inspired whose work will live on as a testament to her selflessness and passion.

Just to say it, I’m super ready for 2016 to be over.

It’s hard to say goodbye to so many powerful icons of our culture, but it’s encouraging to know their good works will love on well past their own lives.Obviously, this isn’t a comprehensive list. Many other great people were lost. Who meant the most to you and why? When you share it, let us know.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

Freya from Maya Higa's YouTube video.

Ever wonder what an ideal date for a lemur would be? Or a lizard’s favorite Disney princess?

Thanks to one YouTube poster with a passion for animals and an endearing sense of humor, all questions shall be answered. Well, maybe not all questions. But at the very least, you’ll have eight minutes of insanely cute footage.

In a series titled “Tiny Mic Interviews,” Maya Higa approaches little beasties with a microphone so small she has to hold it with just her thumb and forefinger. And yes, 99% of the animals try to eat it.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
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The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

Cellist Cremaine Booker's performance of Faure's "Pavane" is as impressive as it is beautiful.

Music might be the closest thing the world has to real magic. Music has the ability to transform any atmosphere in seconds, simply with the sounds of a few notes. It can be simple—one instrument playing single notes like raindrops—or a complex symphony of melodies and harmonies, swirling and crashing like waves from dozens of instruments. Certain rhythms can make us spontaneously dance and certain chord progressions can make us cry.

Music is an art, a science, a language and a decidedly human endeavor. People have made music throughout history, in every culture on every continent. Over time, people have perfected the crafting of instruments and passed along the knowledge of how to play them, so every time we see someone playing music, we're seeing the history of humanity culminated in their craft. It's truly an amazing thing.

The pandemic threw a wrench into seeing live musicians for a good chunk of time, and even now, live performances are limited. Thankfully, we have technology that makes it easier for musicians to collaborate and perform with one another virtually—and also makes it easier for people to create "group" performances all by themselves.

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Upworthy is sharing this letter from Myra Sack on the anniversary of the passing of her daughter Havi Lev Goldstein. Loss affects everyone differently and nothing can prepare us for the loss of a young child. But as this letter beautifully demonstrates, grief is not something to be ignored or denied. We hope the honest words and feelings shared below can help you or someone you know who is processing grief of their own. The original letter begins below:


Dear Beauty,

Time is crawling to January 20th, the one-year anniversary of the day you took your final breath on my chest in our bed. We had a dance party the night before. Your posse came over. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, closest friends, and your loving nanny Tia. We sat in the warm kitchen with music on and passed you from one set of arms to another. Everyone wanted one last dance with you. We didn’t mess around with only slow songs. You danced to Havana and Danza Kuduro, too. Somehow, you mustered the energy to sway and rock with each of us, despite not having had anything to eat or drink for six days. That night, January 19th, we laughed and cried and sang and danced. And we held each other. We let our snot and our tears rest on each other’s shoulders; we didn’t wipe any of them away. We ate ice cream after dinner, as we do every night. And on this night, we rubbed a little bit of fresh mint chocolate chip against your lips. Maybe you’d taste the sweetness.

Reggaeton and country music. Blueberry pancakes and ice cream. Deep, long sobs and outbursts of real, raw laughter. Conversations about what our relationships mean to each other and why we are on this earth.


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