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October 4, 2015

'One Tree Hill' Star Sophia Bush Talks Twitter and the Continuing Crisis in the Gulf

by Laura Prudom, posted Sep 8th 2010 3:20PM
Sophia BushLast week, we threw the spotlight on a number of CW actors who are dedicated to making a difference to our world through charitable contributions and random acts of kindness. One such star was Sophia Bush, the vivacious actress who has portrayed Brooke Davis through seven seasons of 'One Tree Hill'.

Previously wary of social media and its lack of privacy, Bush has recently joined the Twitter revolution and started her own blog in order to communicate with fans and share her inspiring passion for environmentalism and humanitarian aid.

TV Squad recently caught up with Bush to learn more about the charitable foundation she holds close to her heart, and to discover the ways in which we can all contribute to making the world a greener, cleaner place.

In today's celebrity-obsessed culture, many actors wisely shy away from inviting more scrutiny into their lives through social networking, and up until recently, Bush was one of them. "I had no real interest in participating in any of that social media stuff, because I didn't see the point in telling people what I was having for lunch or what bar I was going to," she explained. "For me, it seemed that most of the people on Twitter were discussing things that I thought were irrelevant."

But the 28-year-old had an abrupt change of heart during her initial visit to the devastated Gulf Coast in the wake of the BP oil spill -- especially considering that what Bush has to say is extremely relevant.

"I realized that it would be a really amazing outlet, particularly because I'd been dealing with constantly having to remove people speaking as me from sites like Twitter," Bush admitted. "And I realized, if there's that many people who want to follow, why not let them in and show them who I really am? It's been a really gratifying thing to open this up and show people what I'm passionate about, and it's been more gratifying because they really care and they're getting active with me."

Since then, Bush has amassed over 92,000 followers on Twitter and uses her website's blog to communicate with her impassioned fans, whom Bush has affectionately dubbed her "little voices," inspired by Lady Gaga's habit of calling her fans "little monsters."

Not only has this newfound openness allowed Bush to inform her fans about the startling situation in the Gulf, it has also enabled her to harness her fans' creativity and loyalty to help protect the environment and raise funds for a number of important causes.

Galvanized by the mountains of fan mail awaiting her at work after a short trip home, Bush calculated that, on average, her fans spent around $2,250 a month sending cards, letters and gifts to show the actress their appreciation. "It's astonishing, it hit me looking at fan mail because of all the paper, because I was like 'god, this is so wasteful,'" she laughed. "And then I started thinking 'this is also really expensive.'"

Sophia Bush and Austin NicholsThat expense is even more wasteful when you consider that the actress had actually given up on reading her fan mail because she often received "creepy, vulgar, or hideously graphic" letters, in addition to all of the touching correspondence from true fans.

But thanks to Twitter, and Bush's Crowdrise fundraising page, the actress noted that fans "don't need to hedge their bets with sending me a letter that I'm never gonna read. If they take that $2.50 or that 10 dollars, whatever it might have been, and they donate it to a great cause, then we're making a difference just by being entertained and by entertaining, and that's huge."

And while you might doubt that fans would pay attention to such a simple message, Bush confirmed that since she tasked her admirers to start 'Paying it Forward' with donations instead of letters and gifts, she's started to receive far less mail.

"So many people have messaged me and said 'I was gonna send you this book for your birthday but instead, I took that $9.95 and I donated it to this charity that you raise money for," she said, voice full of admiration. "It's really amazing and gratifying and it just reminds you; make a difference, even when you don't think that you can -- even in a small way, every effort that each of us makes is accumulative, and the sums of our actions add up to something powerful."

But while Bush has had great success in encouraging her fans to make a difference, she recognizes that there's still a long road ahead for those eager to see progress in the Gulf clean-up.

"Nothing has really changed [in the Gulf]," she insisted bitterly, the frustration evident in her tone. "BP is out there saying 'everything is great and the oil is gone and it's biodegraded!' and it's absolutely not true." Over the course of our conversation, the actress -- who has made it her business to become fully versed in the legal, statistical and scientific facts regarding the crisis -- highlighted numerous ways in which BP is still falling grossly short of fulfilling its responsibilities in the wake of the spill.

"The public don't realize, because they're watching ads where BP is saying 'we'll do everything that we can to make this right, we'll stay here as long as we have to,' but they announced last week that they're not going to be paying people's claims anymore," Bush pointed out angrily. "They are smell-testing the fish that come out of the Gulf -- I'm sorry, I don't feel comfortable trusting something that causes brain damage [if eaten] because you smelled it and you told me that it was OK."

As well as horrifying examples where rescue workers saw sea turtles being burned alive by BP boats doing oil burn-off, Bush observed that the damage to the coast's ecosystem is far more severe than BP's PR team would like the public to know. "The fishermen that I've kept in touch with have said that they don't feel comfortable, at all, about fishing down there," she said, revealing that when some of the first shrimp boats came back after the waters opened back up, the shrimpers told her that they caught 12 shrimp.

"Twelve; one-two -- when on a good day they can catch a thousand pounds," she laughed incredulously. "I understand that with "the image of the spill" and the way the crisis has been handled that everyone just wants it to be swept under the rug and cleaned up, but nothing has been cleaned up and nothing is better."

In this unstable economy, with such a high rate of unemployment and what feels like one natural disaster after another filling our news broadcasts, it seems easy to disregard the problems of those in Haiti or Pakistan or even as close to home as the Gulf, but Bush urged those who have yet to donate to reconsider.

"There's still so much repair work still to be done from Katrina and to have this happen is like, they just can't catch a break," she sighed. "For me to know that everybody I've been close to who's lived in this area and whose livelihoods depend on the ability to go out and catch their own dinner, I was horrified. And this was worse to me than so many of the other disasters that I've witnessed in the last few years because this was man-made, this was preventable."

Whether it's donating time to raise awareness of the situation in the Gulf, or donating money to help environmental organization Global Green's efforts to rebuild and repair the damage that BP has done, Bush spoke passionately of every individual's ability to make a difference.

"If you haven't donated yet, open your heart, and think of something that you can give up for a day, for a week, whether it's coffee or a movie -- yes, I'm an actor saying don't go to the movies, it's terrible but it's true!" she said.

Bush's contribution to the Gulf fundraising isn't through something that she plans to give up, but a fear that the self-professed "asthmatic with a years-old knee injury, who hasn't run a mile since Junior High" feels that she has to face; a half-marathon held in November in North Carolina, where 'One Tree Hill' films.

Bush and Nichols tour Grand Isle"I don't love running, so to really sacrifice and to really challenge myself and to do something that's hard is kind of the point," Bush reasoned. "It's a really excellent reminder that there are so many people who are suffering because of this, who are sacrificing every day ... I realized that it was the least I could do."

If you haven't yet heard all the facts on the oil spill, or Sophia's words have motivated you to find out more, she encourages you to check out Global Green and the NRDC to keep track of what's going on globally with the environment and issues of climate change. After she finishes directing an upcoming episode of 'One Tree Hill,' she also plans to write a blog post on the ways in which you can make a difference in your everyday life, since she noted that many people have been asking her for tips since she finally embraced social media.

"That's the most exciting thing, that all of these people coming out of the woodwork and contacting me and joining the teams on Crowdrise are all people who genuinely want to make a difference," she enthused, clearly inspired by the fervent response she's been getting. "We have voices and we have the ability to act, and the ability to create change."

Bush will be running with her co-star and boyfriend Austin Nichols and a team of her workmates to raise money for Global Green's efforts in the Gulf. You can keep track of her current donations and contribute at Sophia's Crowdrise page, and follow her training progress on Twitter @SophiaBush.

[Follow Laura on Twitter @LauinLA.]

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