We all know a pandemic superstar. She might be your friend who’s killing it this year or just a LinkedIn connection who is always posting about his successes. In today’s Daily Dose, dive into the people who elevate even further, to the title of superhuman, from those shaking up industries and serving their communities to those redefining the racial justice movement. And for a bit of fun, we throw in some must-see superhero shows to help get you inspired.
Travel nurses have traditionally stepped up to the plate to fill hospital staff shortages, but when COVID-19 hit, suddenly every hospital was understaffed, and travel nurses were in high demand and short supply. Increased competition meant travel nurses saw a pay bump, as they often travel between areas where cases are surging. While the vaccine promises to make their jobs safer, there is no end in sight for the grueling hours and isolation.
2. Couple With the Cure
The quick, efficient development of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine were thanks to husband-and-wife team Dr. Ugur Sahin and Dr. Özlem Türeci. Their company, BioNTech, started working on a vaccine in January 2020, when news of the virus first emerged, and the couple decided at their breakfast table to switch from cancer to coronavirus and deploy their novel mRNA technology. The Turkish scientists are now among the richest people in Germany, after their firm was valued at $25 billion. Despite their success, they still live low-key lives and remain dedicated to science, not fame.
3. Dolly Parton
When the country-singing legend donated $1 million to COVID-19 research, she had no idea that her contribution would help fund the Moderna vaccine. She also encouraged fans to contribute to the same fund, overseen by Vanderbilt University Medical Center. A pioneer for gender equality and an ardent booster of children’s literacy, Parton last week poured ice water on Tennessee legislators’ plans to erect a statue of her at the state Capitol. “Perhaps after I’m gone if you still feel I deserve it,” Parton said, as she felt it was inappropriate to be placed on a pedestal given all that’s happening in the world.
4. Battling Misinformation
One of the biggest challenges in getting the world to herd immunity for COVID-19 is vaccine skepticism. And it’s especially pronounced in the Black community: While 53 percent of white adults say they want the vaccine as soon as possible or have already gotten it, the number drops to 35 percent for Black adults and 42 percent for Hispanics, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll. In Pittsburgh, the Rev. Paul Abernathy has been going door to door in his largely Black neighborhood to encourage more trust in the vaccine and dispel the myths fueling people’s reluctance. Nurse Lalicia Roman, 48, is battling misinformation by drawing on her work with patients in a Moderna clinical trial and her own experience getting vaccinated. Among the wild theories she’s had to fight: “This vaccine would turn you into a mutant, that doctors are trying to give it to you so they can control you, and that it’s the mark of the beast.”
5. Willie Ray Fairley
The owner of Willie Ray's Q Shack was sick of eating lousy barbecue, so he started his own restaurant in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Then he was sick of seeing his community suffer after the most costly thunderstorm disaster in U.S. history struck in August, so Fairley stepped up and fed his entire neighborhood. His story is one of service and survival, as Fairley installed a drive-through window to accommodate customers during the pandemic. Thanks to nominations from his community, Fairley won $25,000 from Discover as part of the Eat It Forward initiative for Black-owned restaurants.
He’s creating a new breed of superheroes for kids who have long been left out. Leonard, 37, is behind the planned animated children’s series, Team Supreme, in which all of the characters have disabilities that double as superpowers. One of just a few Black animators in the business, Leonard works at Netflix, though his show hasn’t been picked up yet. According to life coach Nathan Todd, who was born with cerebral palsy, a project like Leonard’s has the potential to “empower generations of kids.”
Best known for his work on Jane the Virgin, Baldoni, 37, is taking on a role redefining what it means to be a man. The actor-director’s YouTube show, Man Enough, offers a raw, vulnerable look at manhood today. The father of two, who has a book on masculinity coming out in April, recently launched a five-part series, Man Enough to Care, taking on the issue of caregiving. Considering that 40 percent of family caregivers across America are men, the subject isn’t talked about nearly enough.
3. Sara Al Ali
Coffee master Ali is at the forefront of disrupting the gender rules of brewing coffee in the Middle East. She specializes in Turkish coffee and has won awards for her style of bringing in beans from Panama, Ethiopia and Mexico. In addition to training women in her home country of Saudi Arabia, she gets lots of requests from men hoping to learn from her, breaking down the gender barriers she grew up with.
This hoopster’s superpower is his sweet 3-point stroke, and he has the hopes of a nation behind him. Lee, 20, could become the second-ever South Korean in the NBA and help introduce a burgeoning market of sports fanatics to the league. The 6-foot-7 wing has modeled his game after Davidson College alum Steph Curry, and carries himself with a loose humility even as he continues to rain 3s on the Wildcats’ foes.
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It began with a 2013 Facebook post that ended with the phrase “Black lives matter.” Those three words posted by Alicia Garza, shared and spread by Patrisse Cullors, and elevated to a national stage by Opal Tometi, have become one of the most prolific social change movements of the 21st century. It took years to hit the mainstream, but after the death last year of George Floyd, BLM has become a ubiquitous rallying cry from the streets to corporate boardrooms.
2. Heather McGhee
In her upcoming book, The Sum of Us, the 40-year-old author and former think tank president uses reams of economic data to illustrate why racism hurts everyone, not just people of color. The book is the culmination of a lifetime dedicated to understanding racism and three years of traveling the U.S., exploring the best and worst of America. For McGhee, in order to move forward as a country, we have to be better than the sum of our parts. You can catch McGhee later this week on The Carlos Watson Show.
3. Wall Of ...
When protests erupted in Portland, Oregon, over George Floyd’s death, they quickly turned violent in response to police aggression. As the protests evolved, a surprising new strategy emerged. A wall of white mothers walked ahead of Black protesters, protecting them and shielding them from the police. The “Wall of Moms” was quickly picked up, spurring a “Wall of Dads” and even a “Wall of Vets,” all putting their white bodies on the line.
4. John Lewis
The civil rights legend who died last year is being immortalized as a superhero for a new generation. The three-part graphic novel series on his life, March, is turning into a school curriculum staple as younger generations learn about Lewis’ unbelievable heroism and his unwavering dedication to nonviolence.
In 2015, Elizabeth Olsen told an interviewer that her dream for her character Wanda Maximoff was to bring the comic House of M to the screen. Now, one of Marvel’s latest offerings is WandaVision, which features Olsen, Paul Bettany as Vision and the incomparable Kathryn Hahn. Hahn’s performance is finally gaining the Hollywood mainstay the credit she’s due.
2. ‘The Boys’
What if superheroes actually sucked? In Amazon’s The Boys, you root for the misfits trying to take down the superheroes, who only got their powers from a special serum and essentially behave like the most entitled kind of Hollywood stars. It’s a dark and welcome twist on the usual superhero worship.
CW’s Batwoman made headlines when lead actress Ruby Rose stepped down. But the new Batwoman, Javicia Leslie, is making waves of her own as the first Black and LGBTQ actor to play the role. Her Batwoman will be an out, boundary-pushing lesbian. During the pandemic, LGBTQ representation on TV dropped for the first time ever; Batwoman is now the only broadcast show with a LGBTQ lead.