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We're only a week into Pride Month and the LGBTQ+ community has already seen a number of companies and brands unveil their Pride campaign's for this year. In the planning for their own observance of the queerest time of year, Unilever did something almost unprecedented. They enlisted the guidance and leadership of filmmaker, historian, and cultural organizer Tourmaline in the formation of its campaign.
In the "United We Stand" campaign, Tourmaline curated a powerful line-up of LGBTQ+ superstars and matched their personal stories of empowerment with grassroots organizations that focus on the needs of some of the most underserved people in the community. Upon release, Unilever shared more details on their selections for this year's campaign:
Dove is working with fashion model Aaron Philip (who fights for more expanded representation in the fashion industry) and the Audre Lorde Project -- a New York-based organization which supports healing justice, trans justice, community building efforts, and volunteering.
Schmidt's Naturals is teaming up with actor Lachlan Watson and the Trans Justice Funding Project-- a community-led funding initiative supporting grassroots trans justice groups run by and for trans people -- to elevate the critical role that self-care, community, and wellness play in the trans and non-binary community.
Shea Moisture is partnering with Big Freedia to support the work of Destination Tomorrow -- a grassroots South Bronx agency servicing the LGBTQIA+ community that offers young people a space to learn and flourish by providing them with comprehensive programs and services -- in building economic empowerment for LGBTQIA+ communities in the Bronx.
Axeis working with Tommy Dorfman and the Anti-Violence Project -- a leading New York-based charity founded to offer on the ground support and counseling services to LGBTQIA+ people who experience hate crimes and/or violence -- to create a world where LGBTQIA+ people are safe, respected, and live free from violence.
Vaselineis working with actor Titus Burgessand New Alternatives -- an organization dedicated to the care and well-being of young people in the LGBTQIA+ community -- to underscore the need for a place that helps LGBTQIA+ youth feel accepted and empowered on their road to self-sufficiency.
Suave is teaming up with Amiyah Scottand PFLAG -- an organization with a mission of support, education and advocacy for the LGBTQIA+ community that is committed to advancing equality -- to create awareness around the importance of family support and acceptance within the LGBTQIA+ community.
Not only did Tourmaline curate the relationships featured within the campaign, she also directed each video captured in the campaign. Out got a chance to catch up with Tourmaline on this revolutionary campaign and how she created an unparalleled connection between some of the biggest names in the entertainment and fashion industries and the most community-oriented groups that deserve elevation.
How did your partnership with Unilever begin?
They approached me through Rana Reeves, who founded the agency RanaVerse. They were particularly looking for someone who actually had a connection to the community of grassroots organizations that are working locally and powerfully, and had real community-led principles throughout the organization. Unilever wanted to give over their platform to grassroots organizations. We realized the stakes were so high for so many of us right now. We wanted to do more than just putting a rainbow on the campaign, but giving a whole platform to organizations in addition to pretty significant donations.
What makes this pride campaign unique during a month where so many companies are highlighting the LGBTQ+ community?
Coming from community organizing and having worked with a lot of these grassroots organizations over the years. It's important in Pride Month to maintain all of deep criticisms and skepticisms of corporations coming through and sweeping up people and leaving them behind. I thought what was different is the emphasis on the organizations. Everyone's talking about how the work of the organizations, which are all community-led, ties into the personal stories of the stars. Tommy Dorfman talks about growing up as a young queer person in Georgia, dealing with a lot of violence and trauma, and not having a resource like the Anti-Violence Project. Lachlan talks about the Trans Justice Funding Project, which does some of the most important work happening now by financially supporting grassroots groups that may not have organizational status. The groups they support can be comprised of just a few people meeting up in the most rural location far from the city, talking about the issues going on in their community, and figuring out how to make change and fight isolation. It was a profound to see an organization like TJFP be selected because every dollar counts in the work they're doing.
In the main video, it looks like being on set was exhilarating. How would you describe those moments?
Actually, being on set was amazing. It was primarily folks of color and trans and gender nonconforming folks. That's usually what my sets are like. It was really important to start the day talking about respect and creating a space where people have been long pushed out of the film industry and not centered. We asked everyone what their pronouns are in the intro calls and on the call sheet. We set a tone for the environment where people felt like they could bring all of themselves or the most powerful version of themselves. The note I had for the talent was come prepared to be dressed in the version of yourself that your kid self would be excited or proud to see. Some of the people took it and ran. Lachlan, for instance, spoke of a David Bowie suit that offered them a possibility for themselves as a kid. Aaron is in an amazing flower jacket that is taking over the internet right now. And Tommy offered insight into clothing by mentioning how Limited Too would make their kid self feel the most powerful. It was really also important to think about how things like glamour, fashion, and aesthetics can be inserted back into conversation about those of us facing the most violence. We have to recognize the inherent power in our beauty. A major part of that is the glamour magic and people like Marsha [P. Johnson] showed us how powerful that was.
One of the things I noticed with Aaron and Lachlan wearing the flower accents is how much florals are a part of your work and Marsha's aesthetic.
It's so real. We always have to lay flowers at Marsha's feet because she made it possible for me to be here to do what I do.
In your opinion, what do you believe our community should most be focusing on this Pride Month?
Our community should be focusing on the issues that are happening 12 months out of the year. It's great that these grassroots and community-led organizations are being spotlighted. Access to safe and affordable housing, freedom from violence in all of its forms (police, prisons, ICE, borders, street-based), access to community and freedom from isolation (one of the pillars of oppression) are all so important. And finding solutions for them is the work. For instance, Destination Tomorrow works with trans and gender noncoforming people in the Bronx. It's so powerful to have Big Freedia to use her presence to talk about their work.
What do you hope the community and the world will take away from the campaign?
I really hope people look at the work these organizations are doing and the leaders in our community lending their platforms to them and lift all of that up. It's easy in Pride Month to get pulled away from people who are doing the work everyday. We're bombarded with messages and products that speak to a certain kind of appeal that ignores this. It's so important to come back to the grassroots work that is having such an impact on our community.