MAC sets an industry precedent, honoring Transgender Day of Remembrance

By Deanna Utroske contact

- Last updated on GMT

Gizelle Messina (photo courtesy of MAC)
Gizelle Messina (photo courtesy of MAC)

Related tags: Senior vice president, Mac cosmetics, Nancy mahon

The Estée Lauder Companies’ color cosmetics brand has stepped up as a thought leader today and all throughout National Trans Awareness Week. Here, Nancy Mahon, senior vice president of global corporate citizenship and sustainability for MAC, shares insight into the brand’s inclusive approach with Cosmetics Design.

Today, November 20th, is the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Gwendolyn Ann Smith created the annual vigil in 1999 “to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998,” ​according to​.

“The Transgender Day of Remembrance seeks to highlight the losses we face due to anti-transgender bigotry and violence,” ​Smith says in remarks posted on the site. “I am no stranger to the need to fight for our rights, and the right to simply exist is first and foremost. With so many seeking to erase transgender people—sometimes in the most brutal ways possible—it is vitally important that those we lose are remembered, and that we continue to fight for justice.”

MAC is involved in this fight, thanks to the guidance and wisdom of Nancy Mahon, senior vice president of global corporate citizenship and sustainability for MAC. Mahon also serves as SVP of MAC Cosmetics and executive director of the MAC AIDS Fund. And as she tells Cosmetics Design, “my role is to ensure we, as a brand, remain authentic and transparent in our giving and storytelling.”

Lives matter

Asked about the relevance of transgender people in the cosmetics and personal care industry, Mahon says, “The beauty industry holds a large responsibility in giving all people, including the trans community, the opportunity to feel comfortable in their own skin.”

“The beauty and fashion industries have had both triumphs and failures when it comes to heralding diversity and inclusion. At MAC inclusion is in our DNA, from being at the forefront of supporting HIV/AIDS to considering all races, ages, and genders in everything we do. Supporting the trans community was a no-brainer for us, especially in these turbulent times - we hope other industries and cosmetics leaders do the same,” ​she tells this publication.

Actions speak

The beauty brand’s mission is an actionable one: “At MAC, we have always been committed to all ages, all races and all genders. This is not just a simple catch phrase; we breath this into everything we do - from the artists at our counters, the billboards you see on the streets, to the shades of foundation in our stores,” ​explains Mahon.

“We have LGBTQ employees, artists, friends and family - they add texture to our community, voices that matter and creative perspectives that push us forward. We will continue to do all we can to ensure everyone is celebrated and supported in our community and the communities in which they live.”

During National Trans Awareness Week, this means airing short video clips on social media  as part of Refinery29’s Gender Nation coverage of gender identity and gender fluidity. MAC collaborated with Refinery29 on Trans102​, a series of video piece featuring both well-known and everyday trans people that is meant to open a dialog and extinguish some of the erroneous ideas and misconceptions that have attached to differently gendered people. 

The videos were funded as part of the beauty brand’s $1.5m investment in programs that support transgender rights, the communities’ access to health care, to economic empowerment, and to job readiness services.

Corporate decency

“It’s simple: inclusion is not just the right thing to do, it’s good for business,"​ emphasizes Mahon.

"Employees should feel that their values are being upheld in the places they spend so much of their time and consumers are continually spending their money with brands that are values driven. The business community needs to recognize that brands, just like people, are global citizens and must coexist in a meaningful way - not just focus on sales.”


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