When you hear Sophia Bush you may think of the actress from long running television show One Tree Hill, where she has portrayed character Brooke Davis for the past eight years. Yet Bush has done much more than act; along with being an icon for women’s rights and fighting for healthy body images in young girls, Bush has dedicated her life to helping the environment. Growing up in California, Bush says, the love of nature was always inside her. Bush has used her stardom to bring attention to, among other things, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the lack of clean drinking water around the world. Recently Sophia Bush took time out of her busy schedule to talk with Spare Change about some of the issues she is passionate about.
DANIELLE OLSEN: Recently you put together a CD, Gasoline Rainbows, in which the proceeds will go to the clean-up efforts in the Gulf of Mexico. What was it like putting together that compilation?
SOPHIA BUSH: We sort of had a revelation, like “Why do just one song? Why not do an album?” You see celebrity playlists on iTunes and you see how well soundtracks do when they’re great. People love albums when they are filled with great artists. So we thought, why not make an album that benefits? It’s so simple to distribute music digitally, there’s no carbon footprint, we’re not using any plastic, any paper. We’re not creating any waste, we’re just getting people great music and raising great money all the while. It was a really incredible experience and then to see all the bands who got so passionate about it. To have bands that don’t need to give music away, like Black Eyed Peas and Vampire Weekend say, ‘Oh, yeah, you can totally have songs,’ and then to have Damien Rice give us an unreleased track, and to have City and Colour write us a song that is so haunting and so beautiful about what happened when the rig exploded — I mean, it’s kind of an out of body experience to have it all happen. Before I forget, we’re very, very lucky to have been able to partner with Dine Alone Records. None of us know anything about putting an album together and Dine Alone was such an amazing champion for our cause and really just helped us make it happen. Without them I think we wouldn’t have made it.
DANIELLE OLSEN: You are not just involved in issues in the Gulf; what are some other foundations or causes you are passionate about?
SOPHIA BUSH: Oh, god, you know, it’s interesting because I think it all relates. I’m very passionate about what’s going on with women’s rights around the world, and once you start looking at statistics you start getting educated. You find that when women are educated it impacts their communities, it impacts their children, it impacts their family, it impacts their environment. I think anyone who is concerned with the development of the world and protecting females should read Kristof’s book, Half the Sky. It will absolutely blow your mind. I spend a lot of time looking at what’s going on with women and also looking at what’s going on with young people. I think I’ve had a really incredible year connecting with youth in America, and around the world, and really tried to start a movement getting kids encouraged to take care of their environment no matter where they are and to pay attention to what’s going on in their national politics, to the news, to take care of themselves and to be aware of what they’re putting in their bodies. When you watch new things and you start researching factory farming it’s just all interconnected. It seems so incredibly important when you’re discussing what it is that we are putting in our bodies and putting into our environment. With our food industries, water is so crucial and important and it’s been really wonderful to do some work with Charity Water and you take it for granted living in the US, being able to get clean water out of your tap at any moment, any day, and there are people around the world who have to walk miles and miles at risk of physical harm and death just to get water that isn’t even clean to begin with. So I think it’s a really eye-opening process when you start to look at the world around you and take your blinders off.
DANIELLE OLSEN: Do you have any plans to get involved in aiding Japan?
SOPHIA BUSH: I’ve been doing a lot of tweeting and sending out every donation link that I can find. We’ve all been donating to the Red Cross and I think it’s just going to be incredibly important. It’s very simple, very easy rather, when the sort of initial shock of something like this wanes for people to not stay involved but it’s going to take some time as that country starts to get itself back together to even see what they need. I think it’s incredibly important to stay active and to stay on top of it because, maybe, I don’t know if it’s going to be a food drive. I don’t know if it’s going to be donations. I don’t know if it’s going to be clothing drives. What is it going to be that we can do? I really think that we need to keep on top of the situation, and as we get information, continue donating and continue staying active and showing our support. They are really going to need it for a long time.
DANIELLE OLSEN: You recently spoke out against a pro-anorexia Urban Outfitters t-shirt. As a woman and fashion icon many young girls look up to, why do you think it was so important for you to say something to your fans?
SOHPIA BUSH: I think it’s an absolutely ludicrous idea that beauty only fits in one box. You look at history; look at who are our most beautiful, iconic women in the world and they’re all different shapes and sizes and colors and heights. There is no one definition and yet I get that everyone, most everyone in the world, looks at Giselle and goes, ‘Oh my god, she’s so amazing.’ There are also people who look at her and don’t get it. So why her? There are people who love that body type but there are people who look at that body type and go, ‘Eh,’ and who look at a super curvy, short girl and go, ‘That’s what I like.’ There is no one definition of beauty. You know the people that are the most beautiful, they have that quality — people say she has “it.” The French say that it’s ‘je ne sais quoi,’ — it’s something special and it’s confidence. It’s a sort of ownership of self. It doesn’t matter what measurement is around our thigh, it matters what you put out into the world. It matters how many times a day you smile; and are you good to the people in your life. Are you good to the people you work with; are you good to your family and your friends? Are you good to your community? Those are the things that make a person beautiful. So, yeah, I find it outrageous that a company that caters particularly to young women would say, ‘Hey, eat less. You’ll feel better about yourself.’ Absolutely not.
DANIELLE OLSEN: March was International Woman’s Month; how far do you think women’s rights have come?
SOHPIA BUSH: I think in some areas we’re doing a great job but I also think that we haven’t come quite as far as we think we have when you still look at the difference between paychecks for men and women in the same field. People kind of roll their eyes and say, ‘Oh, that’s so feminist of you.’ But I find it really irritating when guys are teasing their guy friends and they’re saying, ‘C’mon, man up, don’t be a pussy.’ It’s like, really? It’s a vulgar, pornographic term out there for a women’s anatomy, and that’s what you call a guy who isn’t man enough? Why? Where did that come from? It seems like not a big deal at the end of the day; I hear it all the time and I understand that it’s not. But when you really start to think about what the subtext of it means, it’s interesting. I see it every day. I’m a woman who works at a job that is mostly populated by men. Most of the film set is made up of men and I watch the way that the people relate to each other, I watch the way that they make comments about women on the set and I work with lovely people and I pick up on things that I don’t think are 100 percent awesome all the time. I think it’s important to really make sure that we’re reinforcing, especially from a young age, respect for women. When you think that one of the most powerful things that men can do is put us down, that’s obviously because we’re incredibly powerful if we’re built up. It’s something we need to know and women need to own. If you’re going to get called a bitch for standing up for yourself, for being educated, for having opinions and for using your voice, then fine, let them call you a bitch. If a man was doing any of those things he would be complimented and they’d say, ‘Oh you know, he’s really got balls, he’s really strong, he’s really assertive.’ But a woman who’s assertive immediately gets sort of categorized as difficult. I don’t agree, I say go ahead, be loud, make them listen to you.
DANIELLE OLSEN: Your character on One Tree Hill, fashion designer Brooke Davis started a campaign called ‘Zero Is Not A Size.’ Do you believe fashion such as this can have a positive impact on the world?
SOPHIA BUSH: I do, and part of what I really appreciated about that, and part of the reason I still appreciate the message behind ‘zero is not a size,’ is that it doesn’t make any sense. There’s no universal size chart. I own clothes that are a range of sizes. It’s like “Well, okay, this company has these sizes, that company has those sizes. Oh for this designer I can wear a sample but for that one I could never fit into a sample.” It’s like, “Well my body is not changing every time I put on a different dress, for sure. It’s the way that they are cut.” So what does it even mean? What does it mean to be a size zero? What does it mean to be a size four, a size ten? It doesn’t mean anything. Again, I don’t believe that beauty fits into one box and I don’t think that it matters. I think that if you’re healthy, if you take care of yourself and enjoy your life, that the number on the tag in your sweater should not be what defines you.
DANIELLE OLSEN: On your blog you often talk about products that help to make a difference. What is your favorite that you’ve talked about that you think everyone should be using?
SOPHIA BUSH: I think it’s incredibly important to look at the little things in your home. People don’t consider that the same water that goes down the sink when you do the dishes is the water that you filter, that then comes out of your faucet, that you’re drinking. So think about it, what kind of detergent you use and what kind of dish soap are you using? What kind of chemicals are you pouring down the drain that then have to be filtered in order for you to drink that water? How well are they really filtered? It’s an important thing to look at. So for me, it’s really about using eco-friendly, clean products in my house that don’t make me nervous going down the drain. Again, really eliminating bottled water waste. I mean god, the amount of plastic they use that’s totally unnecessary. Bottled water is not as regulated as tap water. So in thinking about all the things that could be in your tap, those are all the things that can be in your bottled water and they say it’s from an exotic locale when it isn’t. Why are you paying all this money? Why are you wasting all this plastic? It is part of the reason I blogged about the Water Bobble. I love the idea of that so very much. So often people say, ‘Oh well you know I’m using my Brita at home and yes of course I’ll drink tap water but if I have to go somewhere and use a water fountain, I don’t know if that’s filtered. I’ll just go buy a bottle of water.’ Well, take your filter with you. Take your filter, take your bottle and never use a plastic bottle again.
Danielle Olsen: Do you feel a duty to use your celebrity to spread word about important issues?
Sophia Bush: A duty? No. No, I mean, I think there are plenty of people who don’t care to use their platforms. For me, it’s just a no brainer. It’s something I’ve always cared about, something that mattered to me and for a long time I didn’t want to open up that box. You really don’t know what’s going to come out at you; it is a bit of a Pandora ’s box, this whole world of social media and personal exposure. Particularly when you do what I do, which is go to work and you play someone else every day. I wonder if I’m finally starting to put too much of myself out there — will people be able to believe the character that I play? I really believe that we can change things. I really believe that all our little voices can build up into something enormous and powerful and I just figure, “You know, screw it.” I have to do this. It’s in my heart and it’s what matters to me more than my career. It is what matters to me more than anything.