It was a scorching 90-degree summer afternoon yesterday in Harlem’s Jacob H. Schiff Playground, where volunteers were sweating through their white, heart-adorned CITYarts t-shirts. Dedicated teenagers donned plastic gloves to submerge their hands into gooey buckets of plaster, painstakingly replacing the thousands of one-inch tiles that comprise the park’s Pieces for Peace mural. And standing in the middle of these sweaty teenagers, wearing equally tacky plastic gloves and black aprons, were none other than a mega-diva (Nicole Richie), a werewolf (Chaske Spencer) and a witch (Kat Graham).
Ms. Richie (who needs no introduction), Mr. Spencer (who plays the leader of the Twilight saga’s werewolf pack) and Ms. Graham (who plays the witch Bonnie in the CW’s Vampire Diaries), joined Corbin Bleu, Nigel Barker, Maria Menounos and Karlie Kloss on Tuesday to help restore the Harlem park’s mural, originally designed by CITYarts in 2005 as a way to celebrate cultural diversity after the September 11th attacks.
The mural restoration is part of Bing’s Summer of Doing and kicks off “The Hunt: 11 Days of Doing,” hosted by Microsoft’s search engine, as well as DoSomething.org and Lenovo. DoSomething, Bing and CITYarts partnered up to help restore the park due to its importance in the community.
To help revitalize the neighborhood establishment, seven celebrities offered to dunk their perfectly manicured nails into tile goo.
Ms. Menounos arrived a few minutes late, eager to escape the throng of photographers and help with the mural. “The first thing I said when I got here, ‘I want to go to work.’ So I know there are a lot of interviews to do but I really want to do something. How funny, do something!” she said, giggling at her own ingenuity.
Ms. Menounos has collaborated with Bing before (the search engine actually sponsors her online TV network afterbuzztv.com) and said she feels like part of the Bing family. But she’s not the only celebrity in that boat. In fact, the Bing family probably includes more stars than the Kardashian-Jenner lot.
Since launching their “Bing is for Doing” campaign in January, Bing commercials have featured everyone from Lucy Hale, the star of Pretty Little Liars, to rapper Wiz Khalifa. Despite the aggressive, star-studded promotional campaign, Microsoft’s search engine still lags far behind Google, only capturing 15.6 percent of the market in June, according to the comScore data released today.
But Ms. Menonous is remaining loyal to Bing and said she might talk with them about doing something with her own charity, “Take Action Hollywood.”
Next to take the field was Mr. Spencer, who was put to work on a small expanse of wall above the image of a dove flying around the globe. Looking at his work on the mural, one volunteer commented, “It looks good!”
Abashed, he responded, “You’re being nice.” Ever humble and a bit quieter than his fellow celebrities attending the event, Mr. Spencer only showed his wild side when he briefly broke out into a dance for “Call Me Maybe.”
Later in the afternoon, Ms. Kloss, Ms. Richie, Ms. Graham and Mr. Barker arrived. Finishing up part of the wall Mr. Chaske was working on earlier, Ms. Kloss noted how the mural really captured the essence of New York.
“I think this mural actually exemplifies the beauty and diversity of this city. I think that that’s one of my favorite things about New York–how diverse this little island is,” she said.
Ms. Graham showed up to the event a bit overdressed, in heels and a white silk outfit adorned with angels. Looking at her, Mr. Bleu jokingly commented, “What is this?”
But no worries, Ms. Graham underwent two costume changes before volunteering, finally landing on leather pants and a grey Bing shirt, which she graciously took the time to modify with scissors.
So why did Ms. Graham skip the first day of filming for season 4 of The Vampire Diaries to come to this event? “We’re in Brooklyn, which I love,” she told one reporter, who had to explain that we are, in fact, in Harlem.
“Well, close,” she laughed.