With each passing year, our birthdays can take on even more significance in our lives. And Kristen Bell may have indeed have been reflective as she turned 38 on July 18, 2018. Perhaps as a result, then, the actress did something special for a mother in need to mark the occasion.
Born in July 1980, Bell grew up on the outskirts of Detroit, Michigan. And during her younger years, she harbored ambitions of becoming an actress. This dream ultimately led to Bell hiring an agent – a decision for which she soon reaped benefits.
Yes, Bell began her time on screen while still just a child, as she started to appear in television commercials. In high school, meanwhile, she also performed in a number of musical productions, including a take on The Wizard of Oz. And from there, the aspiring actress subsequently took the next step in her pursuit of a career in show business.
Bell left Michigan, you see, for the Big Apple and enrolled at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts as a musical theater student. This decision to relocate paid dividends for the future star, too, as it eventually led to an incredibly exciting opportunity on Broadway.
Indeed, Bell was still a student when she made her debut on the stage in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. And away from Broadway, the Michigan native appeared in her first movie in 1998 after having taken on an uncredited role in the romantic comedy Polish Wedding.
After that, Bell advanced her film career further with a part in the Louis C.K.-directed Pootie Tang. But her life would change forever in 2002. That year, Bell earned a role in the Broadway adaptation of The Crucible – following which she made a bold decision.
After The Crucible’s run ended, Bell relocated to Los Angeles, California. And that move appeared to work out for her, too. Later that year, Bell earned her first voice-acting gig as Hiromi in the Japanese animation The Cat Returns; she also bagged another movie role in the drama People Are Dead.
However, while Bell may have enjoyed a busy year in 2002, her career would really pick up 12 months later. In 2003 the actress began to make her mark in TV through turns in shows such as The Shield, American Dreams, Everwood and The O’Keefes.
The following year, Bell also appeared in two episodes of HBO’s western drama Deadwood as character Flora Anderson. But the best was yet to come for the talented performer, as she then embarked on a role that would make her name.
Bell’s big break came through the eponymous role in cult crime drama Veronica Mars, in which she starred from 2004 to 2007. During her time in the show, moreover, she was lauded by both critics and audiences alike.
Bell even received three Saturn Awards nominations during Veronica Mars’ run, taking home the Best Actress on Television gong in 2006. She kept her hand in when it came to movies, too, through roles in films such as Pulse, 50 Pills and Roman.
And, naturally, more opportunities arose for Bell after Veronica Mars came to an end in 2007. She scored a recurring part in the superhero drama Heroes, for instance, in which she appeared in over ten episodes before leaving the show in 2008. The actress also tried her hand at voice-acting again by giving life to Lucy Stillman in the Assassin’s Creed video game series.
And from there, Bell went on to establish herself on the big screen through a number of leading roles in movies such as Forgetting Sarah Marshall, When in Rome and Couples Retreat. Yet while the star may have been forgiven for wanting to concentrate on movies, she still maintained a presence on TV.
Since 2007, Bell had been the narrator in Gossip Girl, featuring in over 120 episodes of that show before it ended in 2012. Not only that, but she also portrayed lead character Jeannie Van Der Hooven in HBO comedy series House of Lies. Even so, her next life-changing career move would come by way of yet another movie.
And the film in question was the hugely successful Disney animation Frozen, in which Bell voiced much-loved character Anna. Since Frozen hit theaters, moreover, Bell has reprised the role in a number of different shorts and video games.
Bell certainly hasn’t rested on her laurels since Frozen, either, with her films since including the likes of The Boss, Zootropolis, CHIPS, Bad Moms and The Disaster Artist. And she’s also used her public profile to make a difference – as an Instagram post from July 2018 demonstrates.
That month, Bell turned 38, and she chose to speak to fans about the occasion on the social media site. “I don’t need anything for my birthday,” she wrote. “But there are a lot of things I want.” In addition to that message, the Hollywood star posted a video in which she speaks in a similarly cryptic manner.
“What I really wanted for my birthday this year was a peaceful feeling,” Bell says in the Instagram video. “You can swipe left to see what I bought myself. And if you would also like a peaceful feeling, feel free to click the link in my bio. Hope you have a wonderful day.” As it turned out, she’d made a quite remarkable gesture.
Bell’s generous act had come after the Trump administration had embarked upon a controversial “zero-tolerance” policy regarding immigration. In particular, this new approach meant that any immigrant caught illegally entering the United States would likely be prosecuted.
However, as a result of that policy, families were split up and children separated from their parents. And while in some cases foster homes or relatives were able to take in some of the affected youngsters, other kids ultimately found themselves in shelters away from their loved ones.
In fact, over 2,300 children were removed from their families in a less than two-month period during 2018. But in June that year, President Trump eventually stepped in to alleviate the matter by signing an executive order to bring an end to the separation practice.
“I consider it to be a very important executive order,” Trump told reporters at the Oval Office as he signed the document. “It’s about keeping families together while at the same time being sure that we have a very powerful, very strong border. And border security will be equal if not greater than previously.”
“I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated,” Trump added. However, the president’s words didn’t wash with some people. Kate Voigt from the American Immigration Lawyers Association, for instance, appeared far from impressed with the entire situation.
“They are substituting jailing children with their families for separating children from their parents,” Voigt told The Guardian in June 2018. “That is not any sort of solution to family separation. The zero-tolerance policy remains in effect. And that is the root of the family separation crisis created by the Trump administration.”
In the meantime, a group emerged to help those who had been separated. Julie Schwietert Collazo had created Immigrant Families Together (IFT) in the wake of a successful GoFundMe campaign, and details of how the organization had come to be were on IFT’s official website.
“It began with Yeni Gonzalez, an immigrant mother from Guatemala whose three children were taken by ICE agents and transported to New York,” read the statement on the IFT site. “Yeni remained alone in a detention center in Arizona, unable to pay a $7,500 bond.”
“A group of American mothers heard Yeni’s story and quickly mobilized to raise bond money and then transport her safely, state by state, to New York,” the statement continued. “We also found shelter, food and pro-bono legal aid for Yeni. Her three children were soon back in their mother’s arms and – eventually – her full custody. [With that,] Immigrant Families Together was born.”
And since that first case, IFT has set up several other GoFundMe pages for people like Gonzalez. Donations have rolled in, too, with the organization having raised nearly $300,000 as of July 2018. However, of all the other campaigns IFT had launched, one stood out in particular. It concerned a detained woman named Delmi, who had a bond standing at $30,000.
Yet while the GoFundMe page for Delmi raised over $25,000, it was nevertheless still short of the required goal. Then Bell decided to put the needed money in herself, which in turn saw the total reach over $30,000. And the kind gesture didn’t go unnoticed on social media.
Bell’s Instagram post earned over 150,000 likes, in fact. It also ultimately generated close to 3,000 comments, as online users hailed her actions. “This is so amazing and heartwarming!” wrote one person in response to Bell’s donation. “You are such a beautiful soul, [and] I hope this inspires many [people].”
Another Instagram user would also praise Bell’s decision to help someone in need. “You’re truly inspirational,” they wrote. “I’m really glad that we have celebrities like you that stand up for important causes nowadays. It’s about time celebrity platforms are used to shed light on important causes that impact the lives of others.”
“It warms my heart to know that kids can look up to celebrities for the right reasons,” the user added. “Thank you for your kindness.” However, Bell wasn’t the only well-known face to aid IFT’s fight, as the co-showrunner of the TV show GLOW also got involved.
“I think, like many other people, I’ve been trying to find a way to do more,” Liz Flahive told The Hollywood Reporter in July 2018. “The issue of family separation at the border feels extremely personal.” It turned out, too that the showrunner had directed another famous face to the IFT, and this in turn had resulted in even more help.
Specifically, Flahive brought the organization to the attention of theater producer Brian Swibel. And, heartwarmingly, Swibel’s subsequent donation allowed a mom and her children to finally reunite. “The complete betrayal of the humanity of these people and our own democratic ideals broke my heart and enraged me,” Swibel told the magazine of why he had chosen to give money.
“This effort will not be complete until each family has been reunited and healed,” Swibel continued. “And our country can come to terms with how we allowed ourselves to get to this point and make the necessary changes to correct course.” Then the producer made one last scathing point.
“If there’s one thing history teaches us, it’s that this is not the first time our government has led us astray. And it won’t be the last,” Swibel added. “We can create a better world, but it takes the will and action of everyday people willing to acknowledge the severity of the crisis we find our nation in and take a stand.”
Meanwhile, after IFT established itself in California in July 2018, Evelyne Belasco became one of its figureheads. And since then, Belasco has hailed the denizens of Hollywood for helping reunite the separated families. “It’s funny, because when you live and work in LA long enough, there becomes a cliché that it’s a small town,” she told The Hollywood Reporter.
“[But that cliché] is so profoundly true,” Belasco added. “Everyone is hearing through the grapevine that people are making donations to our tiny group, opening their wallets and coming forward in more ways than money.”
Regardless of the donations from people in prominent places, though, Belasco recognized that IFT still had work to do in reuniting the broken families. And while talking to The Hollywood Reporter, she also looked ahead to the future, noting that more people were willing to aid the cause.
“The thing that has mobilized me to do this is that there are so many people in this country — on both sides of [the] aisle or who don’t care about politics — who are giving up time, money and resources,” Belasco said. “[They] are opening up their home because they recognize humanity in everybody. That has been the most sustaining part of this work.”