Usher Gives Back

Celebrating Usher
ESSENCE.COM Apr, 29, 2009

1 of 15 Boys and Girls Club of America

Five-time Grammy Award winner and philanthropist Usher has hooked up with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s new advocacy campaign called BE GREAT. He joins some 25 other prominent alumni in the new advocacy campaign to help increase public awareness about the positive impact of Clubs.

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2 of 15 Boys and Girls Clubs of America

When he was just 7 years old, this cutie pie spent time at his local Boys & Girls Club near his home in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

“I was destined for success,” says Usher. “Can’t you see that smile?”

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3 of 15 Boys and Girls Clubs of America

Usher unveiled a new billboard featuring his childhood photo (and standing next to his mom) as part of Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s "BE GREAT” campaign. He joins the likes of Denzel Washington, Shaquille O’Neal, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Muhammad Ali as part of BGCA’s new advocacy campaign to encourage every American to help young people BE GREAT.

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4 of 15 Boys and Girls Clubs of America

Usher and kids from the Brookhaven Boys & Girls Clubs in Atlanta and Usher’s New Look Foundation gather around him to celebrate the big unveiling.

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President Obama personally asked Usher to help spearhead programs that would motivate American youth to commit to service. Usher also organized groups of young people to help others register to vote (even though they weren’t of age) during the Presidential election last year.

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While he has publicly admitted that he doesn’t see politics in his future, Usher sure looks like a man ready to lead the people.

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Usher will collaborate with Boys & Girls Clubs of America and other alumni to urge the country’s political and business leaders to make the young people of America a priority by ensuring that every child has a safe, supervised and structured environment during the critical after-school hours.

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At 30, Usher has achieved global superstardom as a singer, composer, producer, film and television actor, businessman and philanthropist. After selling 35 million albums worldwide and winning countless awards and accolades including five Grammy Awards, Usher has truly defined the term “ultimate entertainer.”

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How would Usher grade President Obama so far?

“I would give him an A,” the singer tells ESSENCE.com. “More than anything, to be such a worldly and conscious President is very important. He is really allowing us to take greater ownership of our country and not allowing us to go deeper into debt. It’s courageous but that’s the type of President you want.”

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Usher moved onto yet another challenging role of philanthropist. He is the visionary leader behind Usher’s New Look, Inc., a nonprofit organization that was established to empower youth from underserved communities by giving them the skills necessary to enter careers in the sports and entertainment industry. "I feel blessed to be a blessing to someone else,” says Usher.

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Usher also launched a successful men’s and women’s fragrance line, Usher HE and Usher SHE, through a partnership with Elizabeth Arden. The fragrance was No. 1 selling fragrance in Macy’s stores. His third installment will be a new line of fragrances called VIP, to be released in September 2009.

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Usher admits that he started his nonprofit group New Look after he realized writing a check just wasn’t good enough.

“I wanted to know that I’ve made a difference in a child’s life; that I’ve significantly used my own talents, passion and resources to impact the lives of young people,” says the superstar.

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“Growing up in the Club, I had the chance to experience a lot of positive things; it helped reinforce the values I learned at home including good character, leadership and giving back to my community, my country and my world,” says Usher. “It’s where I developed my love of singing and performing, received help with my homework, and it’s where I found a safe place to go after school.”

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“My goal is to change the face of service because it’s always looked at as a sentence passed down from a judge or something that helps kids get a grade up in college,” says Usher.

“People can make a real change in their communities through service. If we don’t encourage this type of action, we’ll just continue to take from the system.”

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Usher’s theme—BE ICONIC—ties to the singer’s profile as an award-winning, multiplatinum musical icon and a positive role model, and will serve as a source of inspiration for all young people to BE GREAT.

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