In ELLE magazine's October 2018 cover story, columnist Mickey Rapkin spends time with Selena Gomez at a coffee shop to discuss her upcoming album, acting, fashion projects, and general life changes since he last interviewed her six years ago. The 26-year-old singer revealed that since March, she's been interning on a volunteer basis at A21, a nonprofit whose aim is abolishing injustice in the 21st century.
Founded in 2008 by Australian activist Christine Caine, A21 operates out of 14 locations throughout the globe in an effort to educate, rescue with law enforcement, and treat victims of human trafficking. As noted on their website, volunteers are the "lifeblood" of the organization.
“I wasn’t going to immediately start discussing it," the former Disney star told ELLE about A21, which she was introduced to by a member of her Los Angeles church, Hillsong. "It’s out of my comfort zone. I needed to be fully immersed in it.”
The Department of Homeland Security defines human trafficking as "modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act." They also note, "Millions of men, women, and children are trafficked in countries around the world, including the United States. It is estimated that human trafficking generates many billions of dollars of profit per year, second only to drug trafficking as the most profitable form of transnational crime."
According to A21's data, only one percent of human trafficking victims are rescued.
In a statement to Broadly, A21 shared that in their 10-year history they've sent 81 traffickers to prison, put 134 survivors in personalized aftercare programs in 2017 alone, and trained over 17,000 volunteers to identify victims. "We are the abolitionists of the 21st century (hence the name "A21"), and we work with local governments, partner NGOs and others to free slaves and disrupt the demand for trafficked men, women, and children," they said.
Gomez joins the list of celebrities like Jada Pinkett-Smith, Ashton Kutcher, and Demi Moore who have advocated or supported anti-trafficking initiatives. While the exact numbers of A21's reach could not be found, Gomez's interested in combatting human trafficking does bring to light a prevalent issue in this country and global community.
"The idea of human trafficking to me is… I’m flabbergasted," Gomez told ELLE about her passion project. In recognition of what critics may think of her work, she added, "What a great thing another celebrity is doing... That’s not why I want to talk about it. I can’t be silent about this.”
This version has been revised to reflect a statement given to Broadly from A21's press office.