While some celebrities are trying to boost voter turnout by showing off $700 “Vote” boots, or posting thirst traps and ballot selfies, Noah Centineo, the 24-year-old star of “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” is taking a different approach.
In a last-ditch effort to get Gen Z to the polls, Mr. Centineo and his friend Josh Heller, 33, created a voting-focused pop-up gallery in Los Angeles and have been inviting big-name influencers to tour the space. The idea is that social media posts from the pop-up — which features galvanizing neon slogans like “use your voice” — might encourage their followers to cast their ballots. The gallery isn’t just a photo opportunity; it’s also a way to educate and inspire influencers to vote and speak out on big issues.
“Until everyone in America votes, or a critical mass majority votes, we aren’t going to have a good understanding of who we are and of our total values and desires,” Mr. Centineo said.
The gallery, situated across the street from the influencer hot spot BOA Steakhouse on Sunset Boulevard, has become a place to see and be seen. Visitors like Kylie Jenner, the TikTok star Larray and Anastasia Karanikolaou (a.k.a. Stassiebaby) have posted content from the pop-up on social media. Mr. Centineo is leading by-appointment tours (occasionally barefoot but always masked) through Thursday, Oct. 29. People without millions of followers can tour the space virtually.
Mr. Centineo understands firsthand the apathy many young people feel toward the political system, since he sat out the election in 2016. “I told myself that because I wasn’t an educated voter, it would be more dangerous for me to vote,” he said. “I told myself I shouldn’t be voting if I don’t know what I was doing.” He also felt disenfranchised by the Electoral College system.
Now, after educating himself about the political process, he’s trying to make up for his inaction. In March, Mr. Centineo, Mr. Heller, an entrepreneur, and Paul Leighton, a business manager, started Favored Nations, a nonprofit that directs funds to organizations focused on climate change, L.G.B.T.Q. rights, mental health awareness and coronavirus relief. The organization hopes to motivate and empower Gen Z to make change in the world. “A lot of the younger generation is super passionate about making an impact, they just don’t know where to start,” Mr. Heller said.
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Already, young people are showing up in record numbers for this year’s presidential election. The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University has been tracking early voting behavior among people aged 18 to 29; by its count, more than five million young voters have already cast their ballots. In several key states, including Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, the number of young early and absentee voters has already surpassed President Trump’s margin of victory in those states in 2016.
Still, there are many young people who have yet to vote, and Mr. Centineo hopes his efforts, which are deliberately nonpartisan, will energize some of them.
The pop-up includes several photo opportunities, such as a mirrored room filled with tiny lights à la Yayoi Kusama; the words “when all of us shine our light then we light the way” are written outside the door.
One room contains a voting booth with a scannable QR code that points to an explainer of what’s on the California ballot. During the tour, Mr. Centineo discusses the various propositions and how they affect different communities. Two large artworks by Jonni Cheatwood, a local artist, hang by the door.
“The purpose of this space is to inspire influencers and high-profile talent to use their platform to get out the vote and be more socially responsible,” said Sher Chaudhary, 23, the head of special projects at Flighthouse, a leading TikTok media brand that is supporting the pop-up. “We want to inspire confidence in American democracy among teenagers because many teenagers feel like politics has failed them.” The gallery was co-produced by Castle, a members-only creator club opening in 2021.
The gallery’s final stop consists of a black room with large screens on the walls and a box covered in buttons. As ambient music blasts, guests are encouraged to push buttons that bombard them with clips from politicians like Bernie Sanders, Barack Obama and Ted Cruz about political participation. Other buttons fill the screens with images meant to stress the urgent issues the country is facing. Pressing them plays loud videos of fires, floods and footage of trash on a beach.
Mr. Centineo and Mr. Heller worked with Production Club, a creative studio, to make the final room a memorable and moving experience for visitors. “We wanted to make sure it was bipartisan, but the overall feeling you left was that you were feeling inspired to vote and blew you away visually and emotionally,” Mr. Heller said.
If just one person registers to vote because of the gallery, Mr. Centineo believes it will be worth it. “The intuition behind getting younger people with large platforms to engage is to destigmatize voting,” he said. “I’m not sure why there’s a hesitancy. Voting is something you can do if you’re conservative or liberal. It’s something we should be proud of.”