And unlike some celebrities, political activism has long been a part of Dawson’s storm. She’s co-founder and on the board of Voto Latino, and she’s been arrested more than once while protesting. She primarily uses social media to promote causes close to her heart, such as voting rights, childhood development and education (in September she partnered with Tom’s of Maine on the brand’s $3 million initiative to connect 150,000 kids with nature who might not otherwise have ready access to outdoor spaces) and, as always, advocating for a more humane immigration policy.
“As long as we keep using fear as our basis for looking at this issue, we’re going to continue to sow more divisions and sow more hatred, and ultimately create more problems for ourselves,” she told Pop Sugar in 2019 amid Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, the subject as topical now as it was then (and two years before that, and so on). “If we start coming at this from the understanding that these are our families, these are our brothers and sisters, we have an opportunity to create a different kind of policy that helps all of us to be celebrated rather than dehumanized.”
Social justice has influenced her creative choices as well, and she can be seen next playing a DEA agent in the Hulu limited series Dopesick, premiering Oct. 13, based on the nonfiction book of the same name about the opioid crisis plaguing West Virginia and surrounding environs.
“It’s the way that [OxyContin maker Perdue Pharma] had all of these folks going into each of these doctors—personalizing their relationship with them, you know, getting them gifts and doing all this kind of stuff,” Dawson explained in an Oct. 7 sit-down for Washington Post Live. “How do you push back against a company that has that much money to dominate and create and perpetuate a narrative? You know, and all of these individual victims get silenced because they’ve already been encapsulated in this story, and their story is that they’re just addicts, and you know how we are—we think about addicts. They’re just lowly, sad, pathetic people who are the disgrace of our society and should be pushed aside. And it’s like, that’s absolutely not at all the story, but it’s dominated the conversation for so long, and I think is the reason why we’re still seeing this unfold in a way that is not truly centered in justice.”