Australia's brush fires have devastated the continent, leaving 26 people dead and 2,000 homes destroyed since it first ignited in September. While the fires, currently about the size of West Virginia, rage on, many across the world have dedicated themselves to raising money to help fight the blaze and to aid in the recovery of the countless victims whose lives have been affected. Celeste Barber is one such person who is gathering donations. Her efforts to raise money for The Trustee for NSW Rural Fire Service & Brigades Donations Fund became Facebook's largest ever fundraiser, grossing $45 million, according to a Business Insider report.
Barber is a well-known figure in her native Australia, playing roles in television series that include All Saints and The Let Down. She also built a cult following around the world through her Instagram page, where she gave a realistic look at influencer culture by recreating the poses of celebrities such as Jennifer Lopez, Cardi B, the Kardashians, Justin Bieber, and Mariah Carey. What she called the #celestechallengeaccepted took off in 2015 and played a major role in Barber growing her account to 6.6 million followers. She went on to achieve popularity in the United States, touring the country and making appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen.
Barber put her massive following to good use on January 3, when -- instead of posting a humorous skewering of celebrity culture on Instagram like she usually does -- the Sydney resident shared a series of horrifying images of her mother-in-law's home in Eden, located in New South Wales' South Coast region of Australia. The photos were covered in a red tint due to the fires and showcased a suburban neighborhood that seemed to be in the path of destruction. The final image in the slides was a screenshot of her fundraiser's homepage, with the to-the-point title of "Please help anyway you can. This is terrifying." Barber would include a link to the fundraiser in her bio.Her post had a major impact and millions of donations began to pour in. The page was shared by the likes of Natalie Portman and Lizzo, according to inews. Many celebs also chipped in with donations, with Pink contributing $500, Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban matching that amount, and Liam and Chris Hemsworth donating $1 million Australian dollars. Bette Midler, Margot Robbie, and Kylie Minogue have also made donations to Barber's cause.
Despite the celebrity support, the majority of the donations were small amounts by average people. Barber paid tribute to them when she made a statement after the fundraiser passed the $40 million point.
"Every day people are donating $10 here, $10 there, that's what's getting us to now $40m."
Barber would also reference the response to the fire at Paris' Notre Dame cathedral in April, which raised an estimated £650m by what she called "a handful of people."
"If the billionaires could flick us their version of $10, which is like a million euro, that would be amazing."