Actor, singer and longtime supporter of the United Nations Refugee Agency Kat Graham has been named a Goodwill Ambassador in the world. She is just one of five Americans to have received the title.
Variety caught up the “Vampire Diaries” actor, who recently starred in Netflix’s “Operation Christmas Drop,” to talk about her work with the UN.
More from Variety
How does this position influence the work you’re hoping to continue?
My grandfather was a UN ambassador. And it’s a rare opportunity to be appointed UNHCR ambassador — I’m the fifth in the United States to be appointed. There are a lot of people that work hard within the UNHCR so to be recognized for my efforts, my passion for this agency, is a profound moment for me. I’m still processing it because it’s been probably my greatest dream.
Given the multiple crises facing the world, what priorities do you see UNHCR taking on?
UNHCR takes on so much. All of the work that they’re doing to not just raise awareness, but to rush staff and supplies to the border in Ethiopia in the Tigray region for refugees that are fleeing for safety into Sudan, even in the midst of this pandemic.
They do so much in raising awareness, not just of the plight of refugees but also the voice of refugees because a lot of people think that refugees are victims or have so many misconceptions. For me, it’s important that I stand also within their messaging.
People have criticized those with privilege for not taking more action. What do you hope to see fellow Hollywood figures do to help make the world better?
We all have our soul work. I really can’t speak on to what another celebrity does with their time because a lot of people do things in private. I don’t judge or want to spend the time knocking somebody down for what they might or might not do publicly or at all.
For me, it hits a little bit harder, because it’s literally in my blood. I’m the granddaughter of refugees, and I now have an opportunity to fight for them. I have made it my mission to not take the fact that I exist for granted, to not take the fact that I’m a celebrity for granted.
What advice would you give to people who want to make a difference?
Find the thing that you connect with directly. I think that if people can even donate in somebody’s name, that would be the greatest gift. I do believe the biggest gift we can all give ourselves in 2020 is the gift of awareness: the awareness of systematic racism, of our health workers, the awareness that we are in one of the worst refugee crises that we’ve had in a decade, that this is not a political issue, this is a human rights issue.
When will we be seeing “The Vampire Diaries” reunion or reboot?
I am truly grateful that I was on a show that blanketed across the world. I went to countries where I couldn’t believe anyone knew who I was. That to me is so humbling and lovely. One of the greatest things about the show ending is that I now actually am able to travel and to go to these countries, and to look people in the eye and hold their hands and see what they need. The chapter of my new position as a Goodwill Ambassador has arrived, and I will not sacrifice that time for anything.
This interview was edited and condensed.
Best of Variety