Who says #Menday can't be socially relevant?
More than five years since its inception, the NOH8 Campaign has grown to over 33,000 faces and continues to grow at an exponential rate. The campaign began with portraits of everyday Californians from all walks of life and soon rose to include politicians, military personnel, newlyweds, law enforcement, artists, celebrities, and many more. It has become an iconic brand and in addition to sharing poweful, visual statements, funds raised by NOH8 are used to promote and raise awareness for Marriage Equality and anti-discrimination on a global level.
And as I am huge advocate for Marriage Equality and equal rights, I jumped on an opportunity to interview NOH8 founders, Adam Bouska and Jeff Parshley. It's taken a bit of time to connect but I am so honored and grateful they took the time. They are heroes to me.
Q: How did the style of your photos (the logo + white shirt and background + duct tape) come about?
A: When we were originally toying with the concepts of what would ultimately become the signature NOH8 look, we wanted to find a simple way to illustrate the way we felt. We felt like our voices were being forcibly silenced by Prop 8, so we came up with the visual of subjects being silenced with duct tape while their protest of "NOH8" spoke past the tape. We chose plain white shirts against a plain white background to put the focus on each person as an individual and the connection through their eyes.
Q: When you first started taking these photos, did you intend for them to become such a polarizing component of the fight for gay rights?
A: We like to call ourselves accidental activists. We never intended to create a campaign, we were just looking for a way to speak out on our social media the best way we knew how. It wasn't until we posted our own photos and had friends reach out wanting to do photos and get involved that we realized NOH8 was taking on a life of its own; something bigger than just the two of us. So many people were looking for a way to express their feelings on how Prop 8 affected them, and NOH8 became a way for them to sum up their feelings through just one picture.
Q: You’ve photographed “regular people,” celebrities, politicians – even dogs and cats. Have there been any real surprises in your shoots? Anyone who showed up and blew you away?
A: There have been so many touching moments for us over the years. One of the great things about NOH8 photos is that everybody brings their own individuality and their own story, and it's been amazing to meet so many people and learn about why the fight for equal rights matters to them. The issue really is so relative, as everybody can relate to being discriminated against or bullied for being themselves. It doesn't matter if you're a celebrity or not; everybody has their own unique network of friends, family, and peers that they can share their message of support with. One of the most surprising photos for us was Cindy McCain (wife of Senator John McCain), which is why it was so it was important for us to tell her story and show that support of equality is not a party issue. And her story was just one of thousands!
Q: What would you still like to accomplish? What lies ahead for the next five years?
A: In just over five years, we've taken over 35,000 NOH8 photos in 45 states and 17 countries, and we can only hope to achieve as much in the next five years as we have in the first five. There is still a lot of hate in the world, and we plan on continuing to spread the message anywhere and everywhere we can until all people across the world are treated equally.
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Adam and Jeff, you've won my heart. Thank you for all that you do.
So if you're not a blogger, I can't say this post will hold a lot of interest for you, unless you're just completely fascinated with the inner-workings of our universe. For which I wouldn't blame you, actually....
But if you're not interested, might I direct you to these other amazing posts from bloggers I love:
You may recall I've been to BlogHer before, so I come in with a modicum of perspective. Overall, I would describe this year's conference as educational but perhaps not in the way you'd think...
Kara Swisher. I was previouslyonly vaguely familair wish Swisher - she is the Executive Editor of Re/Code, an outlet I've read a bit. I had no idea she was honest, witty, funny, real and all-around awesome. She interviewed Melissa Barnes, the Head of Global Brands for Twitter, and it was interesting.
In fact, most - if not all - of the keynotes were solid. One of my idols, Danah Boyd, was everything I wanted her to be. Even though I don't watch "Scandal" (I know, I know), I found Kerry Washington to be intelligent, witty, reverent and beautiful. I found new bloggers to be obsessed with in Feminista Jones and Cherylyn Harley LeBon. And The Bloggess was, as always, hilarious, a little whacky and totally insightful.
I attended a couple workshops that I enjoyed as well. I seldom learn anything new at blog conference workshops just by virtue of having been a blogger for so damned long, but I picked up a couple good tips in a monetization workshop and really enjoyed some of Charlie Capen's insights on growing your Instagram following. I wish I'd made it to the personal blogger mini-con, which I heard was excellent, but I started to crash by then and had to nap or face falling over on my face.
It is hard to beat the "B2B" networking at BlogHer. The best part of the conference is just hanging out. Is that worth the expense? Maybe. Say what you will about other aspects of the conference -- this is the opportunity to fly into one place where you can see a myriad of bloggers you may only speak to otherwise via social media. And that's pretty exciting and a lot of fun.
The closing party. They nailed it. McDonald's sponsored a terrific affair, with food, drink, lounge areas, tables, photo hot spots, a dance floor and an unmatched DJ by the name of Reverence Run (oh yes, the guy from RUN-DMC). When they were secretive about the location, and we heard whispers of it taking place in a parking lot, I think many attendees were apprehensive. But they nailed it.
As awesome as the big, closing party was, I'm afraid the sponsor suite parties were as disappointing. Crammed into fairly small suites, where you basically felt like you were in someone's hotel room (not everyone decorated). I'm not sure how they could have done it better but I'm sure that they could have. So many bodies in and out of the rooms, so little A/C, so little water to give out.
Actually, water was hard to come by all around. Which surprised me. With temperatures during the weekend being at least 95 degrees, I anticipated the A/C would be on blast and that we'd be able to find bottles of water in the Expo hall or at least for sale somewhere. But for much of the show, I was warm and thirsty. (Toward the end, I wised up and just carried a refillable cup with me -- Bailey's Creamers provided them at a couple meals and I didn't want to carry it around but then realized it was a good idea.)
As for as the Expo itself -- it was okay. It was smaller than it was the last time I attended BlogHer. There's something to be said for that, of course. It does not seem as unattainable to hit every. single. booth. at the expo but then, I also had seen the whole Expo in about three hours and then never needed to go again. Some of the booths provided truly exceptional experiences (An east coast brand, Heluva Good, had a particularly fun photo booth and tasty treats, for example; Chuck E. Cheese was giving away a prize a minute.) while some of the booths were staffed by temps who did not know how to deal with bloggers except to hand them free swag and send them on their way. (What a waste of the brand's ROI, right?)
Which brings me to the swag issue, of course. I think a lot of bloggers felt like there wasn't a lot of great swag this year. That didn't really bother me. I think the swag is nice -- everyone loves free, cool stuff -- but that is not why I personally attend these conferences so this was never a major concern for me. It was only a concern when the event itself was subpar (i.e. the sponsor suite parties) and I felt like I needed to get something out of it.
The other thing I must say is that while the networking at BlogHer can be absolutely terrific, the cliques can be pretty "terrific," too. I'm fortunate that I know a lot of bloggers from my area and otherwise. I continued to run into friendly faces wherever I went. But there were definitely a few times I tried to approach new girls and went right back to being the unpopular girl in high school, trying to talk to the cheerleaders. And I guess when you put 1500 women in a room, that kind of behavior shouldn't surprise me, but it stll disappoints me. Because one of the best things about blogging is the community it joins you to.
I want to be clear. Planning a conference like this is profoundly labor intensive and time consuming and exhausting. What the BlogHer organizers go through is pretty arduous and I don't envy them or believe I could do a better job. Nor do I want to appear ungrateful so I hope you all can see that I still very much enjoyed this trip. So will I go again? I don't know. I was originally going to write "no" but I've said that before about other events and gone back anyway and had twice as much fun.
It was, as I said, educational. I learned a lot, truth be told. Not in a direct way but by observation. I learned about bloggers and their behavior. About brands and how they represent themselves. About meeting people and not meeting people. I made assessments about the future of blogging; what it's arrived at, what it's going to be... More on that later.
Should you go to BlogHer should it even happen in 2015 (many people are speculating it won't)? My advice would be to make an honest list of why you're going and what you want to take away from it. See where they're having it and how much it costs and make the best decision that will allow you to sleep at night.
This is what happens during panels when I have a Sharpie and fresh paper.
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Last thing -- this video. This was made to celebrate ten years of BlogHer by the very talented Jessi Sanfilippo and I wanted to end with it. It's lovely.
Growing up in Los Angeles and now working in the epicenter of Hollywood, it's pretty easy to forget about the world outside of our little bubble. And so it was a privilege and honor to join some co-workers recently for a night out with The Burrito Project. It really affected me and so I wanted to share it with you here.
TBP began a few years ago as a group of friends, meeting monthly to commune with one another and share quality food with the disenfranchised people of Los Angeles. Today, it is made up of several chapters across Los Angeles, its surrounding areas, and throughout the country, which each take responsibility for meeting, purchasing, production, and the distribution of fresh burritos. Their aim is to serve as a message of hope for the homeless population that have been neglected and ignored.
Despite the reasons for these people’s displacement, The Burrito Project offers them warm food without judgment. There is no sermon or lecture but there are handshakes, hugs and stories. While they do not claim to be a solution to a big, often forgotten problem, their project is an inspiring starting point that hopefully motivates all those who come in contact with them to make a difference.
It's this simple thing we did that almost seems like nothing and it makes such a difference. You just show up, assembly line about 100 burritos and then you caravan to a location to serve them to those in need. Those people have come to expect and appreciate TBP and line up in anticipation. The burritos get handed out in no time, and before you know it, you're turning people away.
The people who run the program rely on donations to buy the food but often buy it themselves. The kitchen we used was in a community center at a local park -- a dodgeball league rents the indoor court for practice and their rental includes the kitchen, which they don't use, so they allow TBP to utilize it.
I was really moved spending time with this special group and I plan to go back. Whatever gifts they may share with the community during their regular meet-ups, what they shared with me was immeasurable as well.
To learn more about The Burrito Project, please visit their website. They regularly post updates and meeting invites in their chapter Facebook groups. You can pay a visit to the chapter I met up with in West Los Angeles here.
No matter what city you may live in, it’s important to remember that valuable lesson we all learned as children: SHARING.
Watch this trailer. Or at least some of it. (Personally, I couldn't get through the whole thing.)
Now, read this post. I'm being lazy and linking to it because if someone else can say it better than I can, why should I even try?
But here's what I will say. I'm a blogger. I have been for over ten years now. I am a publicist who works with bloggers and have for almost seven years now. And while I have no doubt that all of the women in this trailer are bloggers, and that they could very well be lovely, wonderful women, and that the director could be a great guy who lovingly made this documentary because his wife is a blogger and he is fascinated by her and her blogger friends...
This documentary called American Blogger does not speak for this American blogger.
If I made a documentary about American bloggers, you might see a more diverse cast.
That's Marie on the left there. You might know her from The Curvy Fashionista. She has been featured in Glamour, Black Enterprise, the LA Times and much more... She has a Master's Degree and teaches college courses on marketing. On my other side is my dear friend Chris from What I Run Into. Also a holder of multiple college degrees. She's got an amazing sense of humor, is a KING among Social Media consultants and loves hockey. She's currently expecting her first child with her husband whom she lovingly calls "The Wife."
Xenia from Raised by Culture is a blogging MACHINE. She has four boys, an amazing husband and after eighteen year at the same job, she was cruelly laid off but it did not deter her for a moment. She is an ideas girl -- she's always coming up with ways to include others and work with bigger brands and I am proud that she counts me as a friend. We share a love of curse words, by the way.
Melissa Dell has a beautiful family, a full-time job, a business she owns on the side and a terrific blog. In addition she co-leads the SoCal Lady Bloggers with Carolyn West, who is a force in her own right. Melissa is also a miscarriage survivor and instead of making it a terrible, miserable thing that happened to her (which it is), she has made it something that helps others going through it and does not shy away from speaking out about it.
To be fair, the wife of the filmmaker began blogging following her own miscarriage - I just want to be honest about that - but this documentary has nothing to do with that - at least not that the trailer shows.
Did you know men blog, too? Charlie and Andy are the twisted, wonderful geniuses behind HowtobeaDad.com. If you've ever used the "banana for scale" meme, you probably owe Andy a nickel or something. He's high on life and a lot of caffeine, is a hugely talented grpahic designer, dad to three boys, plus the blog. Charlie is a dad to two boys himself, works for a rather large entertainment conglomerate in social media, acts (I guarantee you've seen him in a commercial) and is a beautiful writer.
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This list could be longer. You all know I have a b'zillion bloggers that I check in with regularly - I've written about that. I just want to directly address things said in this trailer and then I'll leave you alone.
"...that will change the way you see an entire industry..." // The filmmaker had an opportunity to craft how and if we see it at all. What is he changing? I am confused.
"...a new form of expression..." // Is it? I'm not sure when something stops being "new" but I think the bigger point is, blogging has been around for a long time and is still continuing to evolve. And that's probably where the change comes in.
"...beautifully filmed and artistically crafted... with stunning cinematography..." // It's nice he mentions that in his own trailer. How adorably self-serving. But I guess he did include sprawling landscapes. And he got to restore a vintage AirStream, so that's cool.
"...range of bloggers..." // Said right as he sat down with the single African-American blogger you see in this trailer. Never mind the glaring omission of male bloggers.
The filmmaker told The Daily Dot he selected bloggers based on "who said yes." That's really what he said. And if that was his only criteria, he missed a huge opportunity. There are more than 7.3 million blogs in America and this is not how I want my craft represented.
For the record, if this documentary had a better title and different branding, we wouldn't even be having this discussion. Because I spent time in film school and work in the entertainment industry, I can't devalue how hard it must have been to get this film made. But for those same reasons, for all of the reasons I've mentioned in this post, and many more, I can't say I'll be downloading a copy of this film, or even give a shit about it once I hit the "publish" button.