Celebrities really are just like us.
Toward the beginning of the pandemic, dozens of A-listers had the privilege of a private Zoom call with Dr. Anthony Fauci to ask him anything they wanted about the novel coronavirus.
The stars asked many of the same questions other people would ask, Fauci told CNN. They wanted to know about masks and social distancing and whether it was safe to eat take-out food.
Kim Kardashian West was on the call. So was Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, Orlando Bloom, Katy Perry, 2 Chainz, Gwyneth Paltrow and Brad Falchuk, according to Fauci and two others familiar with the call.
“It was a whole bunch of movie stars and some sports figures and they wanted to know about what they could do to stay safe, about wearing masks and avoiding crowds,” Fauci said. “I was impressed by the questions they asked, by their level of sophistication.”
Fauci said he did the Zoom call, which lasted about an hour, because the celebrities had “megaphones” and “could get the word out about staying safe.”
“Each of them has enormous numbers of followers on their social media accounts. I could say to them, for example, it’s important to wear a mask, and they get on their accounts and say ‘wear a mask’ and it goes out to an additional couple of million people,” said Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House coronavirus task force.
The call took place at the end of April and included about 36 celebrities, musicians and athletes, according to Fauci and the others familiar with the call.
At that time, due to White House pressure, Fauci was making fewer high-profile media appearances, and he hadn’t yet started appearing frequently on smaller venues, such as podcasts and scientific conferences.
Some of the celebrities did use their megaphones to promote masks and social distancing. Perry and Bloom, for example, advocated for mask usage and soon after the Zoom call, they posted a photo on his Instagram account of the couple wearing “Fauci gang” sweatshirts.
The Zoom meeting was the brainchild of Kim Kardashian West, according to the sources and a person close to the Kardashian West family.
That source said Kardashian West took note when Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams made an appeal to her younger sister, Kylie Jenner, in March on “Good Morning America.”
“We need to get Kylie Jenner and social media influencers out there, in helping folks understand that look, this is serious, this is absolutely serious,” Adams said on the show. “People are dying.”
Just hours later, Jenner wrote on her Instagram story that she “listened to the Surgeon General this morning” and pleaded with her followers to “practice social distancing, self-quarantine,” according to an article in Variety.
That motivated Kardashian West to take it a step further, according to the source close to her family. She put together a list of other celebrities and contacted Fauci’s office.
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“She wanted to speak with someone, to ask questions, so she could spread accurate information because there were so many inaccuracies those first few months,” the source said.
Fauci said among the questions was one from “Black Swan” star Kunis about whether he eats take-out food.
“I told her I feel badly about restaurants losing business, and I feel it’s almost a neighborly obligation to keep neighborhood restaurants afloat, so even though I can cook at home, several nights a week I go out for take-out purely to support those places,” Fauci said.
Kunis then asked Fauci if he eats his meal off the take-out container or if he puts it on a plate when he gets home.
He told her sometimes he eats it out of the container, and sometimes he puts it on a plate.
“I told her the one thing she can do instead of worrying is wash her hands,” Fauci remembered.
“Fauci, who’s such a wonderful guy, said ‘Mila, listen, don’t be paranoid!’” said one of the sources familiar with the call. “And then her husband, Ashton Kutcher, said ‘That’s it – I’m ordering a pizza – finally!’ And then he took out his cell phone and pretended to order a pizza.”
Lisa Respers France contributed to this report