Hollywood has surely never seemed so far from Texans’ minds as in the last two weeks. Not only did the most brutal winter storm we’ve seen in generations sweep away any idle thoughts of movie stars sunning themselves along the Pacific coastline, it replaced them with curdled resentment as we warmed ourselves with propane grills and burning hatred toward our local utility companies. For the millions who lost power, it also completely shut off our screens, with movies, TV, and celebrity gossip becoming distant concerns as we spent our dwindling batteries on futilely refreshing outage maps.
Painfully aware of this shift in priorities, several Texas celebrities set aside their own privileged lives and stepped up to help. For most of them, simply not being Ted Cruz might have sufficed. But the bare minimum has never been good enough for Beyoncé. Instead, the Houston star set up a financial assistance program through her BeyGOOD foundation, joining with Adidas and the nonprofit Bread of Life to offer up to $1,000 in individual disaster relief payments. Naturally, the response was overwhelming, drawing more than 130,000 applications in the first 24 hours, forcing the program to shut down until all of those initial submissions can be reviewed. In the meantime, BeyGOOD continues to work on the ground in Houston, distributing water and hot meals to thousands in need. (Meanwhile, Cruz made sure to pose for photos while handing out water bottles, before heading to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to complain about “cancel culture.”)
Like Beyoncé—and Cruz—Sandra Bullock no longer spends much time in Texas, having left her adopted Austin home for New Orleans some years ago. Yet she continues to give back to her erstwhile state nevertheless. Bullock, who memorably contributed $1 million to Hurricane Harvey relief in 2017, recently donated $250,000 to the Central Texas Food Bank on behalf of her Ocean’s 8 castmates, in a clever scheme to assist people in need and make Ted Cruz look like a feckless weasel. And although Kacey Musgraves has similarly left Austin for Nashville, the East Texas country star combined good deeds with dunking on Cruz by selling a “Cruzin’ for a Bruzin’” T-shirt, raising thousands for the Texas Red Cross and other local charities in the process. So in a way, maybe Ted Cruz helped after all.
Texas is cold, I can be cold. https://t.co/TglB3AsEkt— K A C E Y (@KaceyMusgraves) February 19, 2021
Still, whether it’s the collapse of our energy grid or our entire social order, there’s no celebrity Texans have come to rely on in a crisis quite like Matthew McConaughey. This week in McConaughey was an unusual one marked by solemn duty and humble servitude, as the Austin actor continued to plant the seeds under his gubernatorial grow-light by “sending prayers of resilience and the humanity of the helping hand out to all Texans that are struggling with the freeze,” while offering his slightly more tangible assistance to Meals On Wheels, the Austin Boys and Girls Clubs, and the Austin Urban League. McConaughey also released one of his ever-soothing video chats—set, statesmanlike, against a somber black curtain and an American flag—to announce an upcoming “virtual benefit” he’s putting together that will aid relief and rebuilding efforts. He also pledged that Matthew McConaughey will continue to be a daily voice of authority and assurance on how our state can “get back to livin’.” Overall, it’s a clip and message that would prove highly effective in any future campaign for governor—or hell, senator.
We’re Texas pic.twitter.com/rwIo81Pn6E— Matthew McConaughey (@McConaughey) February 22, 2021
George W. Bush, Pete Buttigieg, and Chance the Rapper Added to SXSW
While the effects of the storm will likely linger for months, in many ways it already feels like a fading nightmare, receding in sunnier temps behind more pressing, familiar anxieties. Offering some sign that things are slowly returning to our rather skewed sense of normal, this week South by Southwest released the full and final lineup for its 2021 virtual edition, running entirely online from March 16 through March 20. In addition to the previously announced keynote from Wille Nelson, hosted by Texas Monthly’s own Andy Langer, this year will feature newly added speakers like former President George W. Bush, filmmaker Ava DuVernay, and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, along with a conversation between Chance the Rapper and Saturday Night Live’s Kenan Thompson, a discussion on creating socially distanced TV with the cast of The Daily Show, and—in what would be the fest’s most dystopian panel in any non-pandemic year—a talk with Fleetwood Mac co-founder Mick Fleetwood about how to go viral on TikTok.
Registration for SXSW is still open, and although paying $249 to stream panel sessions, films, and music performances from your couch is decidedly “not the same,” it’s arguably more than worth it when you consider that: a) for once, you’re guaranteed entry to everything; b) you don’t have to wait in any lines or spend $30 in pedicab fees desperately crisscrossing downtown Austin just to catch it all; and c) if you ever get bored, you can always just click over to something else, instead of trying to slink out of a conference room while hoping Pete Buttigieg doesn’t notice.
Travis Scott Singlehandedly Saves Magazines
Houston rapper Travis Scott made his own contribution to Texas relief efforts, in typically surreal Travis Scott fashion, by donating a rare custom action figure of himself to a charity auction for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Houston/Galveston. Still, Scott was slightly more focused this week on aiding another foundering institution: print media. In Los Angeles, he hosted a pop-up to promote his recent takeover of i-D magazine. The new Scott-directed “Utopia Issue”—which features cover photos of the rapper taken by Spike Jonze, along with a conversation between Scott and Austin filmmaker Robert Rodriguez—launched this week with a splashy event at a faux newsstand erected in West Hollywood, where hundreds of fans swarmed the streets and tied up traffic, just to catch a glimpse of him while he signed autographs and waved from a sunroof. The unauthorized event drew the ire of the city, as TMZ reports that L.A. officials are now investigating Scott and potentially getting ready to levy fines if the city determines he broke COVID regulations. Something tells us he can afford it.
Taylor Kitsch Takes Another Run at TV Stardom
Friday Night Lights alum Taylor Kitsch has been an Austin resident for years now, a quiet retreat from Hollywood life that’s been made all the more manageable by the fact that, sadly, Kitsch still hasn’t blossomed into the kind of marquee name he probably should have been. But this week brings news of another gig with the potential to change all that (again): Variety reports that Kitsch has signed on to star opposite Chris Pratt in the Amazon series The Terminal List, an adaptation of Jack Carr’s bestselling novel of the same name. Pratt will play a former Navy SEAL who returns from a covert mission gone awry, only to discover a vast conspiracy that may be working against him. Kitsch will play Pratt’s best friend, a fellow SEAL who will help Pratt’s character get revenge using his intelligence savvy and, hopefully, his way with disarmingly soulful insights.
Megan Thee Stallion Rings in “Mean Girl Winter”
In a week in which so many Texas celebrities were seen giving back, the muted response from those who didn’t has, unfortunately, been all the more noticeable. For example, Houston’s own “H-Town Hottie,” Megan Thee Stallion, spent the days surrounding the storm being markedly quiet about the plight of her home state, causing some to lash out in misdirected anger. But although, sure, it might have been nice for Megan to offer some assistance, or even just pay some empathetic lip service in an Instagram video, the fact remains that we didn’t elect her to anything. Megan’s sole responsibility is providing “Hot Girl Summer” vibes, as valuable a resource as any in the wintry blight. Unlike certain politicians, it’s actually fine if Megan just wants to jet off to Cancun right now—or, more pertinently, star in this Mean Girls spoof for Coach.
The New York Fashion Week campaign sees Megan doing her best Regina George, vamping and twerking on the football field while various movie-versions-of-teens gush things about her like, “I heard her favorite movie is an anime based on her own life, and it won Best Picture.” The ad is silly and completely inconsequential, a charitable gift of amusement and distraction in trying times, and it offers the comfort that, no matter how bad things get, Megan Thee Stallion will always persevere. Maybe that doesn’t seem like much, but it’s a sentiment we could all draw inspiration from right now—and if your name’s not Ted Cruz, that’s really all we expect.