This past Saturday, more than 60,000 people gathered on the Great Lawn of NYC’s Central Park for the Global Citizen Festival, a free-ticketed concert designed to inspire activism around last week’s United Nations General Assembly talks on ending extreme poverty worldwide. The five-hour extravaganza featured performances from The Black Keys, Band of Horses, Foo Fighters, K’Naan, and Neil Young, as well as a surprise act from John Legend. It was produced by a number of foundations and non-profit organizations that were well represented by the festival’s star-studded host committee: Katie Couric, Selena Gomez, Sophia Bush, Katharine McPhee, and Olivia Wilde.
ELLE.com caught up with Wilde during the show to talk rock ‘n’ roll and raising
awareness for Half the Sky, a documentary premiering tonight in which Wilde, along with Hillary Clinton, Gloria Steinem, and Eva Mendes, advocate for action against the oppression of women worldwide.
ELLE: This has been an amazing lineup. Which bands were you most excited to see?
Olivia Wilde: Oh man, I don’t know! Everyone was so incredible to see live, and both the Foo Fighters and The Black Keys are favorites of mine. If I could play drums like Patrick Carney or Taylor Hawkins, I’d be a really happy person. I practice—I practice hard. My boyfriend and I have a really badass electric drum kit in our apartment, so I put on those headphones and wail away. But I’m not really close to rock ‘n’ roll yet!
ELLE: Well, it sounds like you’re on the right track! Aside from the music, you’re here to support Half the Sky—can you talk about what drew you to the project?
OW: I was a really big fan of the original book and a big fan of [director] Nicholas Kristof. So I think word got around that I was already a supporter, and when they were putting the documentary together, they reached out to me to see if I wanted to participate. I said yes immediately, and then we filmed for about two weeks on site in Kenya and in Nairobi. It was a dream come true. I’m so proud of the result. All the actresses and women who did the various segments have really interesting things to say, and they all show different types of responses to what they find in Vietnam, in Somaliland, in Sierra Leone, and so on.
ELLE: In addition to your work for Half the Sky, we know you’ve recently collaborated with Alternative Apparel, a sponsor for this event.
OW: Yes; it’s an incredible company that values making conscious decisions on the business end. It’s been tremendously helpful with this festival—they donated all the official merchandise. It’s amazing. When my partner, Barbara Burchfield, and I decided that we wanted to create a produce for a purpose, something that really defined our passion for conscious commerce, Alternative Apparel jumped on board and was so enthusiastic. We ended up making this bag, and a big portion of the proceeds go to Haiti.
ELLE: What in particular motivated you to get involved with the relief efforts there?
OW: I actually happened to be in Haiti right before the earthquake in 2010. I was there already with the organization I work with now, Artists for Peace and Justice, visiting the primary school that I had adopted, the Academy for Peace and Justice in Port-au-Prince. I came back, and within days, the earthquake happened. I knew at that moment that Haiti would be a part of my life forever. It was already a really dangerous place; it was already fully impoverished, with people living on less than $1 a day. And the earthquake made it worse. The global community has been incredible, but we can’t let people forget.
ELLE: Do you plan to continue to designing and creating more products?
OW: Yeah, I would like to. I’m still a student of fashion, but I like hooking up with the people that really know how to make cool clothes. And hopefully, we can make more cool clothes with a purpose.