Marketers, TV Execs Show LGBTQ Pride With Purpose
Janet Mock, (photo by Derek Wood)
A look at brand guide "Rainbow for a Cause," Unilever’s unique campaign, Netflix’s deal with trans activist Janet Mock, GLAAD report on studio features
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Perhaps the overriding message of Pride Month is that pride shouldn’t be confined to just one month. With the 30 days of June about to come to a close, several of the initiatives and developments that have unfolded in recent weeks cast a watchful eye to the months and years ahead. For example, as Pride-themed commercials and sponsorships have bowed in recent weeks, Seattle-based ad agency Copacino+Fujikado (C+F) addressed the long haul, introducing its Pride Brand Guide, “Rainbow for a Cause.”  Conceptualized by C+F’s LGBTQ+ employees, the guide takes the form of a microsite and walks brands through what to do--and what not to do--when marketing to the LGBTQ+ community during Pride Month and beyond. Click here to access the guide.

“As a queer person in advertising, I continually see my community asking brands to do better, but I rarely see an industry perspective on how to help brands make that progress,” said Caroline Henry, sr. copywriter at C+F, “We all know slapping a rainbow on your logo doesn’t cut it; you have to communicate exactly how you’re helping the LGBTQ+ community.”

“Rainbow with a Cause” aims to do just that, helping brands to navigate Pride in an authentic way. It covers the history of Pride, correct Pride flag usage, and how to ensure that a brand’s Pride efforts steer clear of “Rainbow-Washing,” or using the Pride flag purely for publicity or profit. As the guide states, “LGBTQ+ consumers are savvy and painfully aware when a brand doesn’t dive any deeper than a pretty glitter exterior.”

The idea originated from C+F’s LGBTQ+ employees and came into fruition with the help of the agency’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiative group, EDGE, which stands for Empowering Diversity and Growing Equity. Founded in 2018, the initiative aims to empower everyone at C+F and create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive culture at the agency, in its work, and beyond.

“We wanted to do something for Pride that reflected our personal queer identities and our identity as an agency, while educating our peers on how to reach the LGBTQ+ community in an authentic way,” said John Line, C+F sr. account director.

In terms of infusing such work with that desired sense of purpose and true connection, Unilever partnered with agency RanaVerse to roll out what was billed as a first-of-its-kind Pride campaign. Unilever turned over the status of being “an official WorldPride sponsor” to six grassroots organizations, which otherwise would not have had access to a corporate Pride sponsorship. As part of its “United We Stand” mantra, Unilever funded films which it and RanaVerse created for each organization, each featuring a different ambassador. The films were directed by Tourmaline, an advocate for the trans community whose credits include Happy Birthday, Marsa, a film about iconic transgender artist and activist Marsha “Pay It No Mind” Johnson and her life in the hours before she ignited the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City. 

Here’s a rundown of the films in the “United We Stand” campaign:

  • Aaron Philip x Dove x Audre Lorde Project.  Dove is working with trans model Aaron Philip to bring awareness to experiences of those who are underrepresented in media and advertising and show the world that beauty isn’t binary. Philip and Dove have partnered with the Audre Lorde Project- a New York based organization which focuses on supporting organizing campaigns that work on healing justice, trans justice, community building and volunteering - to make the fashion and beauty industries more diverse, inclusive, and accessible. Said Philip, “It’s been great to partner with Dove to celebrate the amazing work Audre Lorde Project in serving LGBTQIA+ communities of color. My journey proves that Beauty isn’t Binary, and I hope that by sharing my story it gives others in our community strength to follow their dreams.”
  • Lachlan Watson x Schmidt’s x Trans Justice Funding Project.  Schmidt’s Naturals is teaming up with actor and LGBTQ community voice 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. Together, they are raising awareness of the important role that small actions of self-care can have on your mental health and wellness. “Change starts at the frontline and that’s why, on this Pride 2019, I’m proud to partner with Schmidt’s to bring awareness to the work of the Trans Justice Funding Project,” said Watson. “It’s easy to get caught up in the feeling of being unable to change the big picture, which is why it’s so important that we fund and support real, trans-lead organizations like the Trans Justice Funding Project who are truly embodying that change.”
  • Big Freedia x Shea Moisture x Destination Tomorrow.  Shea Moisture, a brand that believes that economic empowerment is essential for people to thrive, is partnering with musician Big Freedia to support the work of Destination Tomorrow--a grassroots South Bronx agency servicing the LGBTQIA+ community offering 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.  Said Big Freedia, “My whole message is about economic empowerment as that is essential for communities to thrive especially within LGBTQIA+ peoples of color who face so many barriers. It’s a pleasure to partner with Shea Moisture for Pride 2019 to hero the work of Destination Tomorrow in supporting our communities in The Bronx.”
  • Tommy Dorfman x AXE x Anti Violence Project.  Axe, a brand that aims to tackle toxic behaviors associated with traditional masculinity, is working with 13 Reasons Why star 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+ peoples who experience hate crimes and/or violence--to create a world where LGBTQIA+ people are safe, respected, and live free from violence. Said Dorfman, “The work of the Anti-Violence Project is vital, as I share in my film there were moments in my life when a helpline to talk to queer people who understand some of the hate I received as I explored gender would have been really beneficial. I hope partnering with Axe to support the work of AVP will make you also get involved and support their work.”
  • Tituss Burgess x Vaseline x New Alternatives.  Vaseline, a brand that believes in the power of healing both physically and emotionally, is teaming up with Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt star Titus Burgess and 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. “I have a personal connection to New Alternatives and am happy to be working with Vaseline to support their vital work in NYC with homeless LGBTQIA+ youth,” said Burgess. “It’s important to support grassroots organizations alongside the bigger known ones and bring healing to our community.” 
  • Amiyah Scott x Suave x PFLAG.  Suave, a brand that has valued the importance of family for over 80 years, is teaming up with transgender advocate and Star TV series actress Amiyah Scott and 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. Said Scott, “I have a personal connection to PFLAG and they are a part of my journey that I share with my father, it was great to have the opportunity to partner with Suave to talk share this, I hope the film will help touch not just LGBTQIA+ people but also the families of all types that surround them. It’s been great to partner with Suave to tell me story and support the work of PFLAGNY as part of Pride 2019.”

Mita Malick, Unilever’s head of diversity and cross cultural marketing, said of the campaign, “It is our duty to provide a platform to the organizations that are on the front line of assisting with these issues. The six allies we chose to partner with for the United We Stand campaign work tirelessly to bring about equality and well-being to the LGBTQIA+ community in various capacities.  At the heart of our business is acceptance of the uniqueness in every individual. Through our partnership this Pride, we hope to galvanize a new wave of support for each of these organizations to continue in their important work of advocacy, support and education within the LGBTQIA+ community and beyond.”

Netflix deal
Appropriately enough, Pride Month was also marked by the announcement that Netflix had entered into a multi-year overall deal with director and producer Janet Mock. Per the arrangement, trans activist Mock will produce new series exclusively for Netflix. Additionally, Netflix will have a first-look at Mock’s features projects.

As part of the deal, Mock will serve as an executive producer and director on Ryan Murphy’s upcoming Netflix Hollywood series as well as select other future projects from Murphy.

The Netflix commitment makes allowances for Mock to continue as a writer-director on Murphy’s FX network series Pose which delves into the 1980s’ “Ball Culture,” part of the LGBTQ scene in New York where people belonged to houses, competing for prizes at various balls of fashion and dance.

Mock becomes the first out transgender woman to be the decision-maker at a major content creation company per her deal with Netflix.

SHOOT connected with Mock last month for its Road To Emmy series of feature stories. She talked about the impact of Pose which recently won a TV Academy honor for storytelling that enlightens, educates and motivate audiences. Making television history, Pose features the largest cast of transgender actors in series regular roles, the biggest recurring cast of LGBTQ+ actors ever in a scripted series, as well as a host of LGBTQ+ individuals behind the camera.”

The TV Academy Honor for Pose came on the heels of the series earning a Peabody Award for excellence in entertainment. The Peabody judges noted that Pose “follows the ongoing rivalry between the established House of Abundance and the upstart House of Evangelista in an honest telling of trans and gay people of color at a critical time in history. Presided over by Billy Porter’s Pray Tell, the competition and its delicious melodrama serve as backdrop for the burgeoning LGBTQ community and family, doing important representational work and storytelling both on and off the ballroom floor.”

The show has been transformative both in the big picture and personally for Mock. Television auteur Murphy sought out Mock, having read her first book, “Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More.” 

“We met for 30 minutes (on the set of American Crime Story) and I left with a job in Hollywood,” recalled Mock. “In Ryan Murphy’s world, that’s just the norm. He acts on instinct as he looks for the right collaborators.”

Mock moved from New York to L.A. to begin working on the show in August of 2017. “We just started writing,” said Mock, initially scripting three transgender women for the show (Blanca, Elektra and Angel) but as more talent emerged, new roles were created, yielding what eventually became, as described by Mock, “a huge ensemble that represented the depth of the trans community.”

Pose shows TV’s power to show people the humanity of marginalized communities, observed Mock, who has earned a Writers Guild Award nomination, among other honors, for the show. Starting as a writer on the series, Mock earned producer responsibilities and her first directorial gig, on the lauded Pose episode, “Love Is The Message,” which shares the journey of Pray Tell (played by Porter, who earned a Golden Globe nomination this year for Best Performance by an Actor in a TV Drama Series) through the last few weeks of his boyfriend’s life. To create a legacy of some short, Pray Tell, who is HIV positive, organizes a cabaret for the AIDS ward at a local hospital. The episode, which Mock wrote with Murphy, serves as a memorial for those who died of AIDs and the loved ones they left behind.

Mock has grown into the director’s role, going on to helm a couple more episodes of Pose, as well as an installment of The Politician, Murphy’s first show for Netflix.

While she described writing as “always being my first love,” Mock has embraced directing which she described as the opportunity “to be very clear and exacting about your vision and communicate it clearly to artists and technicians who are the best at what they do.”

Pose, she related, has taught her that “impossible is possible.  Despite never seeing a cast like this on mainstream television, we’ve taken a bunch of unknowns who’ve never done it before, a bunch of collaborators who didn’t have experience in film and TV, and showed that if you give them a seat at the table, they can help you make something good and worthwhile. We weren’t thinking about awards. We just wanted to tell the truth, to make something that hadn’t been done before. With the right creative genius in Ryan Murphy at the center, working with people who have the experience, you can make magic.”

Mock is hopeful that the new ground broken by Pose will lead to more opportunities for the community at large. “I am a first-time writer for television, a first-time director. It’s so interesting to me that in all these years, there had never been a trans woman of color in a writer’s room. We’re just at the beginning of what is possible. People, viewers from all walks of life have embraced the show. That means the world to me.”

GLAAD findings
Progress is being made but there’s still much room for growth--as well as areas that have regressed, according to GLAAD. 

Last month GLAAD released its seventh annual Studio Responsibility Index (SRI), a report that maps the quantity, quality, and diversity of LGBTQ people in films released by the seven largest motion picture studios and their subsidiaries--this latest report covering the 2018 calendar year.

GLAAD’s Studio Responsibility Index found that of the 110 releases from major studios in 2018, 20 (18.2%) included characters that were lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer (LGBTQ). This represents a significant increase from the previous year’s report (an all-time low at 12.8%, 14 out of 109 films). This is also the second highest percentage of inclusive films found in the seven-year history of the report, just behind 18.4 percent of films (23 of 125) in 2016.

For the first time in the report’s history, there were an equal number of films which included gay and lesbian characters, with 55 percent (11) of LGBTQ-inclusive films counting gay men, and 55 percent of LGBTQ-inclusive films featuring lesbian characters. Bisexual representation remained steady at a mere 15 percent (three films). For the second year in a row, transgender characters were entirely absent from the 110 major studio releases.

While the number of LGBTQ characters increased over the past year, there was a significant drop in racial diversity of LGBTQ characters. In 2018, 42 percent of LGBTQ characters were people of color (19 of 45) and 58 percent (26) were white. This is a decrease of fifteen percentage points from the 57 percent of LGBTQ characters of color in 2017.Despite a decrease in racial diversity as a whole, GLAAD counted six Asian/Pacific Islander (API LGBTQ characters (13 percent) in major studio releases in 2018. This is a notable improvement from the previous year when API LGBTQ characters were entirely absent from mainstream releases.

In last year’s Studio Responsibility Index, GLAAD called on the seven major film studios to ensure that 20 percent of annual releases include LGBTQ characters by 2021, and that 50 percent of films include LGBTQ characters by 2024. Four of the seven studios hit this 20 percent goal individually--20th Century Fox at 40 percent, Universal Pictures with 30 percent, then Warner Brothers at 22 percent, and Paramount rounding out at exactly 20 percent.

“The successful releases of films including Love, Simon, Deadpool 2 and Blockers, brought fresh LGBTQ stories to audiences around the world and have raised the bar for LGBTQ inclusion in film,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD president and CEO. “While the film industry should include more stories of LGBTQ people of color and transgender people, studios are finally addressing the calls from LGBTQ people and allies around the world who want to see more diversity in films.”

In this year’s SRI, 20th Century Fox and Universal Pictures both received a “Good” rating; Paramount Pictures, Sony Entertainment, and Warner Brothers received “Insufficient” ratings; and Lionsgate Entertainment and Walt Disney received “Failing” ratings.

GLAAD’s 2019 Studio Responsibility Index offers the following recommendations on how studios can both improve depictions of LGBTQ characters and stop repeating mistakes:

- LGBTQ characters saw more screen time than in previous years – but there is still progress to be made. Of the 20 LGBTQ-inclusive films released in 2018, GLAAD found that ten films featured more than ten minutes of screen-time for an LGBTQ character. Of the 45 LGBTQ characters counted this year, 26 of them had less than three minutes of screen time and 16 of those had under one minute.

- Animated and family films must be more inclusive of LGBTQ characters. None of the 18 films that fell under the category of animated/family film released by major studios in 2018 included LGBTQ characters. This is the first time in five years that GLAAD has not counted a single film in that genre as LGBTQ-inclusive.

- The full diversity of the LGBTQ community must be better reflected in wide-release film. In 2018, 42 percent of the LGBTQ characters GLAAD counted were people of color. This is a fifteen-percentage point decrease from 2017. A notable improvement from 2017’s report is the inclusion of Asian-Pacific Islander (API) LGBTQ people. In 2018, API LGBTQ characters made up 13 percent (six) of all LGBTQ characters compared to zero characters in 2017. However, there was a significant drop in Latinx queer characters from 28.5 percent to 7 percent. GLAAD urges Hollywood to quickly move forward in telling stories of LGBTQ characters at the intersection of multiple identities. This also includes more queer characters with a disability, those of different religions, body types, more trans characters, more queer women, and others.

- Of the 110 major studio films released in 2018, GLAAD did not count a single transgender character. Major studio film is behind the rest of Hollywood when it comes to trans representation. In the year that saw the groundbreaking FX television series Pose put a multitude of trans stories front and center and trans creators behind the scenes, Supergirl introduced America to TV’s first trans superhero, and A Fantastic Woman took home an Oscar; there were still no transgender characters in any major studio film.

“We know that inclusion is both the right thing to do and good for the bottom line. Audiences supported stand out LGBTQ-inclusive wide releases last year with both their dollars and social buzz. Nielsen found that LGBTQ audiences are 22 percent more likely to see a theatrical release more than once,” said Megan Townsend, GLAAD’s director of entertainment research and analysis. “The studios should recognize the power of LGBTQ moviegoers and the desire for stories that reflect ourselves, and create and market more films for this audience who is ready to buy tickets.”

GLAAD’s Studio Responsibility Index reviews films based on GLAAD’s “Vito Russo Test,” a set of criteria analyzing how LGBTQ characters are situated in a narrative. Named after GLAAD co-founder and celebrated film historian Russo, and partly inspired by the “Bechdel Test,” these criteria represent a minimum standard GLAAD would like to see a greater number of mainstream Hollywood films reach in the future.

The Vito Russo Test criteria:

  • 1. The film contains a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ).
  • 2. That character must not be solely or predominantly defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity (i.e. the character is comprised of the same sort of unique character traits commonly used to differentiate straight or non-transgender characters from one another).
  • 3. The LGBTQ character must be tied into the plot in such a way that their removal would have a significant effect. Meaning they are not there to simply provide colorful commentary, paint urban authenticity, or (perhaps most commonly) set up a punchline. The character should matter.

GLAAD’s 2019 Studio Responsibility Index found that 65 percent (13 of 20) of LGBTQ-inclusive films released in 2018 passed the Vito Russo Test, which is the highest percentage recorded in the report’s history. The major studio releases that passed the Vito Russo Test in 2018 include Love, Simon, Blockers, Deadpool 2, Crazy Rich Asians, and The Girl in the Spider’s Web.


Client Anti Violence Project/Unilever/Axe Agency RanaVerse Production 19th & Park Tourmaline, director; Chris Campbell, styling; Jill Demling, Jack Mizrahi, casting; Andrita Renee, hair; Dorothy Peterson, makeup.


Client Mercedes-Benz Agency The Mixx Angelo Alcasabas, creative director; Elizabeth Wallace, writer/interviewer. Production Curfew Jason Evans, director; Anthony Carella, DP; Kathryn Berk, exec producer; Myriam Schroeter, producer; Brian Cresto, AD; Lucca Zeray, art director; Raisa Flowers, makeup; Latisha Chong, hair; Raul Guerrero, stylist. Casting Damian Bao, Kate Antognini Editorial Rock Paper Scissors Zoe Mougin, editor. Color Color Collective Alex Bickel, colorist; Claudia Guevara, color producer. Original Score James William Blades Audio Post Sonic Union Rob Ballingall Postproduction Jake Kolton, post producer.


Client Mastercard Cheryl Guerin, EVP, North America marketing & communications; Jim Issokson, SVP, Noth America communications; Seema Chibber, SVP, North America consumer marketing & sponsorships Agency McCann XBC Pierre Lipton, EVP, global executive creative director; Adrian Botan, global creative director; Pete Jones, Joel Rodriguez, EVPs/executive creative directors; Carlos Wigle, Evan Benedetto, VPs, creative directors; Antonia Orol-Berlinger, art director; Noah Benezra, sr. copywriter; Morgan Mack, copywriter; Lucas Crigle, associate creative director; Mikayla Lapierre, jr. art director; Hope Nardini, copywriter; Nathy Aviram, chief production officer; Judi Nierman, SVP, executive producer; Christine Lane, SVP, executive producer-innovation; Dagmar Wong, sr. integrated producer; Liz O’Connor, producer; Amber Briscoe, sr. integrated producer; Oriol Bombi, EVP, global strategy director; Dan Cohn, SVP, group strategy director; Rosalind Mowitt, sr. strategist; Nina Kossoff, strategist; Danielle Karr, VP, social strategy director; Kristen Levy, social strategist; Eric Perini, Brett Berman, Aude Cuenod, content creators; Jeremy Miller, chief communications officer. Sign Production Company Traction Creative. Production/Post Shannon Botts, Craft post producer; Benny Karas, Craft colorist; John Smith, Craft audio mixer; Ilya Katsap, Craft, Deb McMurtrey, Ted Maniatakos, Craft editors; Christine Doughty, Craft assistant editor; Adam Hirsch, Craft SVP, head of content, North America; Ray Klonsky, Craft executive producer; Amalia Bradstreet, Craft line producer; Dave Waldron, DP; Carrie Cheek, camera operator; Tyler Postiglione, Tim Race, sound mixers; Jacqueline Helene, hair/makeup artist.


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