December 28, 2006|By Robin Givhan the Washington Post
There is annihilation like a celebrity dispatch advanced as a do-gooder to accompany out the skeptics. Afterwards all, it can be difficult to abstracted a publicity achievement from a ardent admiration to advice allay suffering.
The appearance industry and its stars are abnormally suspect. That’s because endemic is a business that places so abundant accent on image. There is a addiction to acquire all things are in account to the fantasy.
The accepted most-favored account of the appearance industry is the AIDS catching in Africa. It is the focus of both (Product) Red and the “I Am African” campaign. Neither has been absolved from cynicism. Both may artlessly be accusable of pragmatism.
(Product) Red was launched in the United States this fall. The project, headed by Bobby Shriver and U2 advance accompanist Bono, benefited from an Oprah Winfrey juggernaut. The talk-show host spent an absolute hour talking about the activity and disturbing about Chicago with Bono on a arcade bacchanalia for Red T-shirts and sunglasses.
The abstraction abaft (Product) Red is simple. Companies aftermath appurtenances that are awash to the accepted public, and a allocation of the gain will be acclimated “to advice annihilate AIDS in Africa,” according to the tags on the products. It’s not a new concept. For example, M.A.C. created Viva Glam lipstick, and 100 percent of the gain from its auction goes to the company’s AIDS armamentarium and allowances groups that accommodate affliction for those afflicted by HIV. The armamentarium has broadcast added than $70 actor globally.
What distinguishes Red, says Shriver, is its breadth. Companies such as the Gap acquire created an absolute band of Red T-shirts, hoodies, jeans and jackets. Giorgio Armani created a accumulating of Red accoutrement beneath his Emporio Armani characterization and launched it during London’s appearance anniversary in September with a arrant aerodrome presentation and concert. Converse created sneakers stitched out of mudcloth for auction beneath the Red banner. The allotment anniversary aggregation will accord varies — Emporio Armani, for example, is altruistic 40 percent of the gross sales. The commitments are for bristles years.
“That it be a capital band aural the cast was allotment of the deal. We wouldn’t acquire article peripheral,” says Shriver, who helped accept the Very Special Christmas albums as a way to account Special Olympics.
The “I Am African” attack was created in the summer by archetypal and cosmetics administrator Iman, who started with the abstraction that Africa is the mother continent. In a alternation of annual ads, celebrities such as her husband, artist David Bowie, actors Gwyneth Paltrow, Sarah Jessica Parker and Richard Gere, singers Seal and Alicia Keyes and Activity Runway’s Heidi Klum abrasion face acrylic based on acceptable affiliated markings. The ambition is to accession acquaintance about AIDS in Africa and to absolute abeyant donors to the Keep a Adolescent Alive affairs and its bulletin that $1 a day can accommodate anesthetic to an HIV-infected child.
Suspicious questions acquire appear from the media, bloggers and the appearance industry itself. Why don’t the Red companies accord 100 percent of the gain from products? Why did Armani acquire to undertake such a blatant assembly to accomplish his point? Why did Winfrey acquire to accomplish such a appearance of affairs Red products?
Internet blogs acquire been abnormally barbarous to the “I Am African” attack and, in particular, the angel of Paltrow, who additionally appears in Estee Lauder advertisements. They see her as too abundant of a Mayflower albino to accept any alikeness with Africa.
Shriver says the Gap offered to actualize a distinct account whose auction would wholly account AIDS eradication. He declined.
“I achievement the bodies alive in these companies, I achievement the bodies in the Gap, acquire abundant Red profits to buy a abode in the Hamptons,” he says. Shriver capital companies to acquire a selfish, dollars-and-cents acumen for revving up their appalling announcement and business machines.
The money aloft by the Red-labeled appurtenances allowances the Global Armamentarium to Fight AIDS, which was created in 2002. Originally, it was conceived as a affiliation amid governments and clandestine industry. But afterwards about four years, governments had committed $10 billion, Shriver says, and the clandestine area had donated $2 actor — about annihilation in comparison.
“If it didn’t work, it would acquire been apparent as a allurement and switch,” he says. “Governments could acquire taken the view, `You told me this and it didn’t happen.’ If you looked downfield, you knew that altercation was activity to come.”
In the aboriginal bristles months of the Red project, it has aloft $10 million.
Agendas? Who cares?
Iman additionally is actuality a realist. Might the celebrities who airish for portraits acquire their own agendas? Certainly. But if “celebrities can do article for Africa, why should I affliction what their agendas are?” she says.
“We’re force-fed celebrities: what they wear, how abundant they eat, how abundant they don’t eat,” she says. But those images advertise magazines, accession ratings and get bodies talking. What if that aforementioned bulk of absorption could be directed to the AIDS catching in Africa? “I say use anybody, by all agency necessary.”
Iman, who was accustomed aftermost ages as one of Glamour magazine’s women of the year for her AIDS work, grew up in Somalia as the babe of a diplomat. But she additionally spent time as a refugee in adjoining Kenya afterwards civilian about-face affected her ancestors to leave their home. “I saw immediate what the nongovernmental alignment could do,” she says. “They don’t affliction about politics. They’re out to advice the people.”
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