Creatives and artists explain how diversity fuels brands

Actors Idris Elba and Gabourey Sidibe are among the creative voices explaining why diversity is crucial for the advertising and marketing industries.

Huda Kattan

Beauty entrepreneur

Social media has made the world a smaller and much more open place. It has broken down barriers and stereotypes when it comes to beauty and what it should be; the notion of traditional beauty is not relevant any more. 

People are moving away from looking at celebrities and are now exposed to more-diverse people, online personalities and profiles from all around the globe.

Diversity and individuality are what inspires me most and that is what fuels the brand. We live in such an incredible time where being different is empowering and people are embracing who they are 100%. 

Working with a very diverse team that has members from different parts of the world has really challenged me and encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone and try different things. 

Being Middle Eastern and growing up in the US, I love the fusion of Eastern and Western beauty trends and champion this as much as I can. Having such a worldwide audience, I feel obliged to continue to share and educate about all types of beauty and to empower others to embrace who they are. 

Idris Elba 

Actor, musician, director

Diversity is important because that’s where the best ideas come from: collaborating with people who have different points of view; seeing things from different perspectives. If we all had the same opinions, there would be no depth of thought and we’d be churning out the same stuff day in, day out.

Creativity comes from diversity; not just with people, but actually trying new things, giving something different a go. I’ve always tried to work with different types of people from different backgrounds, and I’m always on the look-out to try something I’ve never done before – like taking up mixed martial arts or directing a feature film. 

My work with Purdey’s has been about helping other people realise this too. After all, you never stop learning, do you? You never know, you may discover your next big thing in the process. Diversity is creativity – pure and simple.

Photo credit: Alex Kryszkiewicz


Gabourey Sidibe

Actor, director and author

My own experience with diversity – that of a plus-size, dark-skin, black woman – drives me to see my own reflection in media. 

In the world we live in, unfortunately, with its value system set around public visibility, there are so many images in the media that tell us our value. If I can’t see myself on TV and in magazines, if I’m not visible, am I to assume that I have no value? 

I feel driven, as someone who knows whether I can see myself on TV or not, that I have value, to be visible in media for others who look like me, but are still searching for their value. 

Nicola Mendelsohn

Vice-president EMEA, Facebook

Supporting diversity within the creative industries isn’t just the right thing to do, it also leads to better business outcomes. After all, diverse teams aren’t just more creative and innovative, they’re also better equipped to understand and meet the demands of the diverse audiences the creative industries serve. 

Ultimately, the first step toward tackling workplace diversity in the industry is to recognise our own shortcomings. 

Everything at Facebook, but especially our culture, begins with the same mission: to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. We value openness and transparency. This is why we were one of the first companies to audit ourselves for gender diversity in 2014. When the results showed there was still work to be done, we vowed as a team to step up our efforts. 

Part of this programme was tackling the unconscious gender biases that affect us when recruiting, managing or having career conversations with women. To combat this, we developed our own unconscious-bias training course using the latest academic studies and best practical examples. To date, 99% of people at manager level and above have taken the course voluntarily.

But fostering a culture that values openness and transparency isn’t just about being open with your own people. It also means working in collaboration with other businesses. After all, issues like gender diversity cannot be solved in isolation. Only by working within the entire creative industry ecosystem, and sharing insights and successful methods with others, will we be able to accelerate change.

Shaun Ross

Model, activist, actor and dancer

It’s simple, as ever. Creativity is meant to be there to create in every way possible. It’s the dimension within something that allows you to think differently, allowing your mind to be pulled in a new direction. I do feel that brands today aren’t as creative as they should be. They take a chance for a second and then go back to their own sense of commercialism, and it sucks, simply because you must continue the idea to push through; to see change.

Cindy Gallop

Founder of IfWeRanTheWorld and MakeLoveNotPorn 

I want women and people of colour in advertising to be the future of advertising by starting their own ‘agency’. By this I mean, not an agency like the ones you see all around you, dominated by white guys and white-guy culture, which, unless management is gender-equal and actively open to re-education and change, will always exclude, rather than welcome you and your ideas. (Diversity and inclusion are two very different things.) I mean a business designed around what you uniquely bring to the table, that gives you agency.

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