Diversity isn’t boring: drag artist & Isobar creative Gigi Giubilee on why subverting norms is essential for creativity

Gigi Giubilee on why drag philosophy would help creatives hire diverse teams

The philosophy of drag can stop creative businesses slide into creating ‘norms’ in its creative teams, according to Gigi Giubilee, creative at Isobar Hong Kong and drag act.

While many creatives don’t like to be considered at ‘normal’ Giubilee argues that many agencies fall into the trap of hiring among their own, instead of subverting norms and causing the friction needed to create great work.

Speaking to The Drum, Giubilee said that the best parts of drag as an art form exist because they subvert expectations of gender, humour, spectacle and thrill.

“In my day to day life, when I go to perform at clubs and venues, there may even be some people that are afraid of it or uncomfortable with it and it’s because it is taking gender and flipping it upside down," says Giubilee. "There’s vulgarity and all sorts of things that we bring in that are improper and inappropriate and we use that for entertainment.

"It’s the philosophy of drag - to take these norms and turn them upside down,”

The diversity debate is a continued important debate in the industry but, as recent comments from M&C Saatchi creative Justin Tindall reveal, many aren’t as convinced of the reasons why it’s important to creative businesses.

Giubilee says that people revert to ‘normal’ because it’s easier than working on getting good work out of diverse teams, despite many being convinced that it would create better work.

“The reason that drag is scary is that people like normal," argues Giubilee."We think people want to be special but people want to be normal because it’s more comfortable. We like categorisation, being in the boxes we are in and knowing which boxes we are in.

"You can tie that back to our industry and diversity by asking whether there is such a thing as normal in our industry and there is – particularly around who we hire and who comes in, who gets promoted and takes on leadership roles and who becomes a visible face of our industry. It’s the same in a lot of different markets."

“You will see some of the best agencies in the world will have a particular culture, so that’s what we call normal but they would call it a ‘culture fit’ because they would never want to admit that they are normal. But it is a normal. Should it exist in a creative industry or an industry that prides itself on not having boundaries? It probably shouldn’t but it does,” asks Giubilee.

Many agencies now are trying to become ‘change agents’ or at least prove innovation capabilities to brands, however, Giubilee says that sticking to ‘norms’ shows a lack of willingness to change.

“Make drag your philosophy for hiring. Use the subversive nature of drag, so that every time you bring on a new creative, flip your department upside down to a bottom-up approach. Change things up and shake things up and from that the culture resolves, rather than having an established cultural vibe that people have to fit into.

"People, at whichever agency or company, come from a place or background, so it can be limiting in ways we don’t want to admit. Bring in people who don’t fit, who could cause drama, who could cause tension, who could cause uproar or scare you, but most importantly - people who can change you.”

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Charlotte McEleny

Charlotte McEleny is The Drum's Asia Editor, charged with finding all the interesting industry news and insights from the Asia Pacific region. During her year in Asia, she's covered topics as wide ranging as industry overwork to artificial intelligence, and interviewed top CMOs such as Alibaba's Chris Tung, and world famous creatives such as Rankin.

Based in Singapore, she travels the region regularly, attending and presenting at many top events, such as Spikes, Ad Week Asia and Innovfest.

Prior to her role as Asia Editor, she spent 10 years working across the London marketing trade magazines, even picking up an award for Best Digital Team at the PPA Digital Awards during her spell as digital editor at Marketing.

All by Charlotte