Back in early 2009 when she was 11 years old, Malala Yousafzai began her life as an activist, writing a secret blog about life under the Taliban, who would not permit girls in Pakistan's Swat Valley to go to school. Eight years later, Celebrity Cruises announced that Malala will become godmother to Celebrity Edge.
To say much happened in between would be an understatement. She was targeted for her advocacy and, at 15, was shot in the side of her head by the Taliban while on a school bus. She survived to tell the story and in doing so lived to become the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Malala is an unprecedented and unexpected choice for ship godmother, but according to Celebrity CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, Celebrity will have a relationship with this young woman that extends well beyond the naming of a ship.
"The functional aspects will unfold over time, but I think it's important to note that Celebrity has made a significant contribution to the Malala Fund, because gender equality is really important to our brand," says Lutoff-Perlo. "Education, as Richard Fain has said, is the ultimate equalizer."
She continues that there are 130 million girls around the world who do not have safe access to education: "Malala has set up a fund because she was willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice for an education. And now she has dedicated her life to helping young girls around the world to find a different path and a different option other than the ones they would otherwise be confronted in where they live -- which are not too pleasant.
"So for me in thinking about how important Edge is and how transformational and inspirational that ship is, the question is, how do we choose someone who fights for something every day that is as transformational and inspirational? We believe that by partnering with the Malala fund and having her name with Edge, we have partnered with, as Richard calls her, an honest-to-God hero."
The money that Celebrity, as a brand, has given to the Malala Fund has no strings attached. "It is given to them so they will provide the most impact and the most benefit for the 130 million girls they are trying to help," says Lutoff-Perlo.
On The Edge of Humanity
The partnership culminates publicly with Malala naming Celebrity Edge, but Lutoff-Perlo says the real story is the partnership: "The honour for us is that she has agreed to be the godmother of Celebrity Edge. This is a Nobel peace prize winner. This is a UN messenger of peace. This is a young woman who has dedicated her life to others, not herself. And this is a young woman who will sacrifice everything for her education."
The initial partnership is for two years. "This is a deep relationship that is going to be ongoing," notes Lutoff-Perlo. "I do everything because it has deep meaning and it aligns with our values and what we believe is the right thing to do. When Richard [Fain] was talking to Malala and her dad and the head of her fund, he said that when we announce the Celebrity Edge godmother, I know we are going hear collective applause from 65,000 crewmembers around the world.
"I am excited about how the crew is going to feel about this choice because the godmother is one of the last pure things that I think we have an opportunity to do here with Celebrity Edge. She is the guiding light, she is the force. She is the karma and the spirit that is going to carry the ship and the crew and the guests."
She points out it really is the crew that spends the most time with the ship. "I believe that the person that names the ship should be the right spirit that represents the right things because she is the guiding force.”
Celebrity will be showing the documentary I Am Malala onboard ships across the fleet effective with this announcement. "It will be available in every stateorom, on every television," says Lutoff-Perlo.
"It will also be in the crew cabin television system all of the time. We have also created a unique URL with the Malala Fund that will be on our website, and we will also tell our guests about it onboard, where you go to a unique URL for the Malala fund, so if any of our crew or guests or employees on shore want to donate to the fund they can do so. In addition to that, in the very near future, we will sell Malala's book, He Named Me Malala, on our ships."
Malala merchandise will also be sold on Celebrity ships. "And over some course of time, hopefully over the next six months or so, we will create Celebrity Cruises and Malala Fund merchandise that we will also sell on our ships, and every dollar that is collected from the sale of any of those things will go to the Malala fund," sums up Lutoff-Perlo.