John Legend is building a brand as a modern day Renaissance man.
The 40-year-old singer-songwriter’s music career reached new heights when won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award following his powerhouse role in the TV musical “Jesus Christ Superstar.” And he’s taking time to use his voice to do good.
The music video for his latest song, “Preach,” which sheds light on hot button social issues like immigration, police brutality and school shootings, has raised $21,179 through YouTube’s fundraising feature he enlisted with a goal of $50,000 to go toward his criminal justice initiative Free America. Legend will also continue to invest in the future of formerly incarcerated individuals who struggle to find employment after serving time by raising funding to help them start their own businesses.
Philanthropy and social activism is a family affair in the Legend household. Together, he and his wife, cookbook author and TV host Chrissy Teigen, tapped into their combined network of more than 60 million fans on social media in June of 2018 to raise and donate $1 million in 48 hours to the American Civil Liberties Union to help families separated at the southern border under the Trump administration’s immigration policy. And in January, the celebrity couple donated $200,000 to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund to provide legal support for victims of sexual violence and assault. The following month, they donated $25,000 to the anti-gun movement March for Our Lives to support survivors of the Parkland school shooting.
And on top of all this, he will spend the summer promoting his new wine LVE French sparkling rosé –– the sixth bottle in his namesake collection LVE wines (which stands for Legend Vineyard Exclusive) –– with events everywhere from Beverly Hills to Provence and around the Hamptons.
MarketWatch asked the musician about growing his wine business, philanthropy and entertaining at home with wife Teigen and his two kids.
MarketWatch: What inspired you to get into wine? How do you find the time?
John Legend: I’ve always had a passion for wine. I’ve always felt that music and wine fit perfectly together because they engage all of your senses, so the creation of LVE felt very organic to me. It really gave me a chance to take something I am passionate about and make it a part of my overall creative vision that will continue to inspire people along with my music. I find time for the things that make life more beautiful and enjoyable and making wine is definitely one of those things.
MW: Where is your favorite place to enjoy a glass of wine including your new LVE French sparkling rosé?
JL: I enjoy drinking wine anywhere but really love it at home when we are cooking for and entertaining our friends and loved ones. We love to make spicy foods like Thai and Mexican, and the sparkling rosé pairs really well with those foods.
MW: You’ve landed so many big endorsement deals and partnerships. What is the best financial advice you’ve ever been given?
JL: Endorsement deals have been great and lucrative, but it’s important for me to own as much as I can. I’ve really enjoyed building LVE from scratch and hope it can blossom into a brand we own and enjoy for many years to come.
MW: Is there anything you don’t like spending money on?
JL: Private jets. I still fly commercial when it makes sense.
MW: What’s your favorite possession?
JL: Our home in Beverly Hills. We’ve lived here since [our daughter] Luna was born and we’ve put some great work into making it our own. We love spending time there and entertaining our friends there.
MW: What’s the one job you’d do even if you didn’t get paid?
JL: I don’t get paid to engage in politics and philanthropy, but I love doing so. The subject matter is really interesting to me, and I’ve seen the real-life effects of policy-making in ordinary people’s lives.
MW: How has being a dad changed the work you decide to take on now?
JL: I try to be home much more than I used to. It forces me to prioritize and sometimes use a tighter screen when it comes to projects that are offered to me.
MW: What’s next for your criminal justice reform initiative Free America?
JL: We’re going to do another round of investments with a new group of entrepreneurs. We’re excited to continue to do that. We know there’s a lot of stigma that’s placed on people when they’re formerly incarcerated, but we want to give them opportunities to build, to grow and create jobs and really contribute to their community. A lot of the work we’re doing is around extending rights to people who have been incarcerated already so that they don’t get caught up in the system again. Part of it is through voting rights. We want to continue to change the law so that so many people aren’t getting locked up in the first place.
We want to de-emphasize the use of incarceration overall. Even if people are going to be incarcerated, we want it to be an edifying experience so that they come out with the ability to make a life for themselves. We want to overall reduce dramatically the use of incarceration at all as a tool to fight crime. We believe it hasn’t been effective, it’s very expensive and it takes resources away from things like education, health care and other things our communities actually need much more.