john legend elitelivingafricaJohn Legend performed when he gave a TED talk. (TED Conference/Flickr)With five Grammy awards and an Oscar under his belt, John Legend could easily rest on his laurels, basking in the glow of these achievements

 A proud African-American, he explains the name by which he is best known: “I was born John Roger Stephens in Springfield, Ohio. It was a nickname that some friends started calling me in the studio and kind of took on a life of its own. I kind of reluctantly took it on as a stage name, but I don't think of it as a character that I feel distant from because when I'm writing songs, when I'm performing, I don't feel like I'm another person. I feel like I'm myself. I'm telling the truth as I see it.”

His passion for activism and making a difference has informed his work, with inspiration coming from many other African-American celebrities, all of whom achieved recognition for their civil rights work as well as their performances on stage and screen.

“I have always had aspirations of activism,” he said. “I always thought that part of the role as an artist was to tell the truth about what is happening, what they see and what kind of change they want to see. I have always listened to artists who did that, like Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Paul Robeson, etc."

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