Laverne Cox on Smirnoff’s long-standing support of the LGBTQ+ community and World Pride
Smirnoff is rolling out the welcome mat for the millions of LGBTQ+ community members and allies traveling to New York for World Pride celebrations with its ‘Welcome Home’ campaign. The campaign, starring Orange Is The New Black actress and LGBTQ+ advocate Laverne Cox, continues the brand’s decades-long support as an ally in the ongoing fight for equality.
Joining Cox in the campaign are Alyssa Edwards, star of Dancing Queen and RuPaul’s Drag Race, and Queer Eye television personality, hairdresser and web series star, Jonathan Van Ness.
This year New York is hosting the largest global Pride celebration, spanning all of June and marking the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. Smirnoff, which is made in America but enjoyed in more than 130 countries globally, will welcome love in all its forms to New York through the ‘Welcome Home’ campaign. It will strive to honor and celebrate the strides made towards LGBTQ+ liberation over the past five decades, as well as those still to come.
“Smirnoff has been supporting the LGBTQ+ community for decades now,” Cox told The Drum. “It’s never too late to start supporting this community, but Smirnoff has been doing this for a very long time.
“And I think now, with everything that’s happening in the world, particularly for trans people — we know that trans people were just banned from serving in the military. There’s a case that’s going to the Supreme Court that’s going to be heard in October, and in June 2020 the Supreme Court will be deciding if Title VII (federal law that prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion) covers the LGBTQ+ community. So, it’s really important now that people are aware that the trans community, and LGBTQ+ people in general, are still fighting for rights…and that’s not acceptable in the United States of America,” said Cox.
The ‘Welcome Home’ campaign includes a digital video series; an immersive experiential pop-up; two styles of limited-edition Smirnoff No. 21 Pride bottles; a float at the NYC Pride March and a continued donation commitment to Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the United States’ largest LGBTQIA+ civil rights organization.
“In the spirit of our brand’s international footprint and building off decades of support, we are continuing to push for global equality through our new ‘Welcome Home’ campaign and our continued commitment to HRC,” said Jay Sethi, vice-president, Smirnoff, Diageo North America. “While 85% of LGBTQIA+ consumers want their community represented in brand campaigns, only 12.6% of marketers actually include them in their annual media planning…we have taken a stance to support this community year-round.”
In Cox’s videos, she is seen dancing on a set overlooking the New York skyline, toasting a cheers to the LGBTQ+ community and welcoming people to the city for Pride to be themselves as rainbow flags are waved proudly around her. She also teaches people to say ‘vodka’ and how to greet others in different languages.
She appears in an outfit she said is a “modern take on a 1950s hostess, wearing red latex…it’s this Stepford Wife on steroids. That’s been really fun and I get to speak some Russian and a little bit of Spanish, because it’s World Pride, so we want to celebrate that Smirnoff is the number one vodka brand in the entire world, and everybody’s going to be descending on New York.
Cox said that one of the things that was great about living in New York for the more than 20 years that she lived there was meeting people from every culture. “One of the most fun things I started doing was, whenever I would meet someone from another country – I used to wait tables – I would ask them how to say thank you in their language…so I love that World Pride is in New York this year. I love that it’s an international city and will become even more so, and Smirnoff is celebrating that.”
Other elements of the campaign include a House of Pride with Van Ness, an Insta-worthy pop-up experience for media, influencers and consumers in downtown Manhattan filled with fun, global-themed Pride cocktails; donations of $1 for every special bottle made to the Human Rights Campaign (totaling nearly $1.5m by 2021; and the NYC Pride March with Alyssa Edwards, with the drag icon riding a New York City–themed float dressed as ‘Lady Liberty.’
“As we celebrate this incredible uprising that was Stonewall, that kickstarted the modern LGBTQ+ civil rights movement, we have to remember that there’s a lot of work to be done, and I think our corporate support is crucial. Support from Smirnoff, support from everyone sends a message that it is not only OK to be who you are, but it is desirable and better to embrace who you are fully. That’s why I’m working with Smirnoff, to send that message, and it should also be a celebration,” said Cox, adding that she’ll be celebrating with “a good cosmopolitan made with Smirnoff.”
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