The creative minds behind Gayletter have a message for brands wanting to collaborate with the LGBTQ publication: think beyond Pride Month.
“The experiences that we don’t really love are the ones during Pride where we get an e-mail about collaboration and the first question we have is — if it’s not clear — who are you supporting and why should we tell people about this?” said Abi Benitez, who cofounded the zine with Tom Jackson.
“Because from our perspective, we’re LGBTQ every day, 365 days of the year and when we’re not convinced I feel like those are probably collaborations that we won’t get involved in.”
Jackson echoed these sentiments, stating that they like it when corporations engage authentically with them.
“We don’t like it when we get p.r. releases asking us to support events that aren’t actually giving anything back to the community. We like brands that support gay culture beyond Pride Month,” he said.
According to the duo, Gayletter, which publishes a biannual print magazine as well as a weekly newsletter about nightlife and culture, has had both good and bad experiences with brands since its inception over a decade ago and while it has improved, there’s still a long way to go. “We don’t want to finger point, even though we could.”
For Richie Shazam, a model, activist and artist, it’s vital for brands not to use him as a “sparkly tag line.”
“My realities are very jarring and very intense and that’s something that I want brands to understand and to respect and to not just utilize us one month out of the year,” he said. “Have us as part of the larger conversations, have us in the meetings, have us collectively working on creating initiatives for people that are marginalized.” In short, “get us off your mood boards.”
One example of a brand really taking this on board was when Shazam shot a recent campaign for Michael Kors. “I never thought I would be given this incredible platform to shoot imagery for this iconic brand and to be able to converse with him. He had a desire for me to rearticulate what Studio 54 was — it was a Studio 54 capsule collection — so I got to cast all the models, cast my friends and it also felt great to get all of my friends paid.”
Another brand that he has collaborated well with is Thom Browne, which has also been a longtime supporter of Gayletter.
“He’s been a very big support of my work and really has allowed me to document and photograph different talents in his clothes,” added Shazam. “Being able to work with this incredible designer has impacted my present and my future because it’s allowing me an opportunity that I didn’t think was possible.”
Artist Silvia Prada concluded that it’s not only how brands can connect with the LGBTQ culture, but how she can help brands to be in line with the culture “so that they can create history and be meaningful for the future and future generations.”