‘We got more political’: Beauty responds to rising anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric with Pride campaigns

At a time when the LGBTQ+ community is increasingly being targeted with hate, violence and discrimination, beauty brands are incorporating activism into their Pride campaigns and celebrations.

The Body Shop, for example, is focusing on the recent legislation passed in Florida. It’s been dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law due to its nebulous language that could lead to teachers being sued for discussing any  LGBTQ+-related topics. The brand’s campaign against the new law and copycat legislation in other states includes retail signage, social media content and an online educational hub. It is also creating a set of special-edition liquid highlighters, with $1 from each sale donated to the organization Advocates for Youth.

“Last year, in both Canada and the U.S., we increased our advocacy work in support of the LGBTQ+ community specifically because we wanted to address growing discriminatory policies against the community, which we didn’t feel particularly aligned or supported our values,” said Hilary Lloyd, vp of marketing and corporate responsibility for The Body Shop. She said the brand has noticed that this is an issue “this year more than ever.”

In addition to legislation, anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes and threats have been on the rise, which experts say are being stoked by the increasingly incendiary rhetoric from GOP politicians. Most recently, a group of 31 neo-Nazis was arrested in Idaho on their way to instigate a riot at a local Pride event. 

Hair-care brand Ouai also addressed the “Don’t Say Gay” law with its Pride campaign this year, sponsoring a float in the L.A. Pride Parade with the tagline “Ouai Says Gay.” As part of the campaign, the brand donated a total of $50,000 to the Los Angeles LGBT Center, as well as Prism, a LGBTQ+ non-profit based in Florida. 

“This year, we got more political,” said Colin Walsh, CEO of Ouai. “We wanted to make a stand and be vocal about our point of view, [supporting] the importance of conversations around gender identity and sexual orientation in schools,” and access to healthcare and mental health resources among LGBTQ+ youth.

Many beauty brands have leaned into the celebratory aspects of Pride over the years, with calls for more activism to avoid “Pride-washing.” According to Enrico Frezza, CEO and founder of Peace Out Skincare, the brand’s approach to Pride is about finding a “balance between the two,” by celebrating while also addressing the “ongoing struggles and battles we are still having to deal with in 2022.” Peace Out is partnering with tanning brand Isle of Paradise for a special-edition Pride gift set. The brands will donate 20% of proceeds to The Trevor Project.

The recent rhetoric and legislation “certainly illuminates how fragile the ground is,” said Matthew Malin, CEO and co-founder of Malin + Goetz, who described the “Don’t Say Gay” law as “repulsive and shocking.” The brand has celebrated Pride annually for 18 years, since it was first founded. Special-edition products are especially common among brands celebrating Pride, but Malin + Goetz is taking a different approach. Its Pride campaign includes a free in-store lip balm giveaway on June 24 and a donation of 50% of proceeds from sales to The Trevor Project on June 28, the anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising.  

“The milestones that the community has made over the years are nothing short of astounding. There is indeed so much to celebrate.  But there could never be a celebration without activism, especially during the current zeitgeist. We can never take for granted the liberties we have fought so hard for; Matthew and I always remain very active and vigilant,” said Malin + Goetz co-founder and owner Andrew Goetz.

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