Last year, there was much discussion about what constituted “real action” when it came to businesses taking a stand against systemic bias. Supportive corporate social media messages are nice and all, but genuine change requires opportunities for marginalized voices to be heard and shared. Some consumer brands are now working to bring more of these stories and talents to light, with the help of some of Hollywood’s biggest storytellers.
This spring, Issa Rae and Lena Waithe are partnering with Lifewtr and Häagen-Dazs, respectively, to support underrepresented artists both in front of and behind the camera.
Last month, the bottled water brand Lifewtr launched its “Life Unseen” initiative, described in parent company PepsiCo’s recent press release as a “new platform in the fight for fair representation in the arts.”
Lifewtr founded Life Unseen in partnership with Issa Rae, a writer, producer and actor probably best known for her Emmy-nominated HBO series Insecure.
Study: Lifewtr, in partnership with the Institute for Quantitative Study of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity (QSIDE), conducted a study to uncover the biggest “representational blind spots” across fashion, film, music and the visual arts. The resulting report showed that those groups most marginalized in these fields are women, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color), the disabled and LGBTQ+ citizens.
Artist collective: Lifewtr selected 20 artists from across the aforementioned underrepresented groups to have their artwork featured on the brand's bottles available in stores nationwide starting next week.
Contest: Creators who fall into any of the aforementioned demographics can share their own concept art for future Lifewtr packaging using the hashtag #LifeUnseenContest from now through July 30. Five winners will have their work featured on Lifewtr bottles, and one winner will receive a mentorship from Issa Rae and $10,000 to fund their future creations.
Launch video: The Lifewtr launch video highlights five artists in the Life Unseen collective. It was made in collaboration Color Creative, a company Rae founded with Deniese Davis that “focuses on driving opportunities for underrepresented talent in film, TV and digital platforms."
Editor's note: Be sure to subscribe to our Brands Taking Stands newsletter, which comes out every Wednesday.
Rae described what drew her to “Life Unseen” during a recent interview on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.
“I know what it’s like to be in those early stages, and be like, ‘If someone just sees my work, if just that one person believing you has a platform, then that could change the game for me,’” she said. “We’re trying to create the pipelines. Basically Lifewtr and I have partnered to find people and artists and creatives who need that opportunity to have their work be seen.”
In late March, Häagen-Dazs unveiled its #ThatsDazs campaign in partnership with Emmy Award-winning writer, producer and actor Lena Waithe.
The highlight of the campaign is a $1.5 million commitment over the next three years “to uplift a new generation of diverse tastemakers and creators.”
The first donation is $100,000 to Waithe’s Hillman Grad Productions Mentorship Lab (named after the fictional HBCU from the 1990s sitcom Different World). The Mentorship Lab is a tuition-free, 10-month fellowship bringing together storytellers from underrepresented communities. The money from Häagen-Dazs will go toward classroom needs, curriculum development, lessons and teacher support for the Lab.
Waithe, who is starring in this month’s new season of the Netflix series Master of None, will also help Häagen-Dazs discover new artists and organizations to promote across social media or through financial commitment.
“When big brands speak about wanting to support marginalized creators, investing in those communities is a great place to start. Creating resources for those that want to hone their craft and follow their dreams is a cause close to my heart,” Waithe said in the press release announcing the #ThatsDazs campaign.
Life Unseen and #ThatsDazs both seek to amplify diverse voices in the creative industries by partnering with Hollywood power players known for speaking in favor of more opportunities for BIPOC content creators. Both Waithe and Rae were signers of last year’s Hollywood 4 Black Lives letter, which called for investment in “developing, producing and distributing anti-racist content that humanizes and advances nuanced portrayals of Black people.” Certainly these corporate partnerships are steps in the right direction - as society has kept these marginalized voices silent for far too long.
Image credit: Cameron Venti/Unsplash
Megan is a freelance writer and editor interested in sharing stories of positive change and resilience. Her blog - Joyful, Brave & Awesome - chronicles her experience as a parent of a special needs child.