Rock The Vote: Teen Vogue X TOMS Event Slayed! – Politically and Socially

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Photo: Courtesy of TOMS, Rock the Vote Attendees at the New TOMS Williamsburg, Brooklyn Store

Covering the Rock the Vote: Teen Vogue X TOMS event has been one of the most thrilling moments for me this year. Why? It was unexpectedly delightful and inspirational. It moved me to act; to care more; to save our democracy; to donate; to tweet and raise awareness about the impact of the midterms and how each of us – really can make a difference. I had this preconceived notion that this event, geared toward Teen Vogue’s Gen Z audience, a far cry from my hazy Generation X/ millennial cusp residency, wouldn’t be relatable to me. Thoughts of ill-conceived, potentially overheard conversations I’d be succumbed to, filled my head: From Cardi B’s/Nicki Minaj’s latest feud-y clap-backs to the best unicorn hair color dye brands on the market. Boy, was I proven wrong. I was surrounded by teens and girls in their early twenties that had founded nonprofits for trans youth in need, created grassroots organizations to get women elected, and launched crowdsourcing campaigns for victims of gun violence. These girls have powerful messages to convey: Get ready. We are changing the world!

Founded in 2003 by parent company Condé Nast, Teen Vogue still caters to fashion lovers, keeping up with the beauty and fashion trends, its sister magazine, Vogue exemplifies as the beacon of  high fashion and beauty . These days, Teen Vogue, primarily a digital magazine, captures the attention and support of political and social activists. According to Alli Maloney, Teen Vogue’s news and politics features editor: “We cover news as it happens. But we also cover things that we reframe in a new lens. We get pushback every day basically with people telling us to stay in our lane, but our readers’ lane includes politics now. It’s a political world.” And on this night the political world took center stage. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was the guest speaker for the Rock the Vote discussion, moderated by Teen Vogue’s news and politics editor, Lucy Diavolo. Gillibrand, who began her political career in Congress in 2006, ran for an incumbent held Republican seat, which she defeated, and in 2009 became Senator of New York State.

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Photo: Courtesy of TOMS, from L to R, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and News+ Politics Editor, Lucy Diavolo

Gillibrand, who’s seat is also up for re-election, didn’t shy away from audience questions on our failed political system under-serving Americans. She acknowledged the system is broken and that young people, women, people of color need to take action to see themselves represented in the House and Senate. The work is tireless and essential to protecting people’s rights for adequate healthcare, education, and women’s reproductive rights. Gillibrand became the first member of Congress to post her official daily meetings, and personal financial disclosures. Her push for transparency in politics led to the passing of the STOCK act, which makes it illegal for members of Congress, their families, and their staff to benefit from insider information gained through public service. Diavolo posed questions to Gillibrand on the minds of many Americans right now: What are the pressing issues, if Democrats take back the House and Senate, that will take precedence? Is she running for president in 2020? What are some bipartisan solutions both parties can agree on and pursue – with gun reform regulation? And of course, with Trump’s proposed agenda to erase Transgender rights, especially affecting trans youth. I asked Lucy, as a transgendered journalist, her thoughts on the following:

DSMC: In a Teen Vogue article from October 24th, you wrote: “As I said in the speech I gave during the Hell No to the Memo rally on Sunday, October 21, I believe voting alone is not enough right now. I believe it is important to go beyond the polling booth and provide direct, material support to transgender people.” Can you elaborate on this statement? What do you mean by “material support?”

Lucy Diavolo: In terms of providing material support to transgender people, I think there’s a number of options. As I wrote on the 22nd, it can be as simple as just checking in on your trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming friends with a kind word, calling a congressperson, or educating your family and friends. In terms of material support, simple things like donating directly to a trans person, taking the time to make a trans friend a meal, helping them cook or clean, giving them a place to crash if they don’t have one, or weighing in on a job application can all be very direct ways to do so.

DSMC: Should the proposed Trump bill reversing Obama-era protections for LGBTQ citizens be instated, what can the LGTBQ community and their supporters do to fight back?

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Photo: Courtesy of TOMS, Lucy Diavolo, News + Politics Editor, Teen Vogue

Lucy Diavolo: If you’re talking about the transgender HHS memo, absolutely not. Under Obama, the LGBTQ community saw serious progress made at the federal level for the first time in history — it’s a low bar, but Obama (like many Democrats) changing his tune on marriage equality and standing up for trans kids in schools was unprecedented. Many of us believed a Trump presidency would undo much of that progress, and the HHS memo was the latest horrifying proof that the current administration is actively engaged in looking for ways to strip our community’s basic human rights.

Lucy Diavolo: Whether you’re a binary trans person, a non-binary trans person, or experiencing your gender in other ways, know that you’re valid. Being young and trans (or any kind of queer) in a hostile environment can be very challenging. I know because I was outed as bisexual in the 8th grade and spent most of high school suffering for it. My best advice for a young person in a situation like that is to look for community where you can. It can be online, where there are lots of great community spaces for learning and having conversations. Or it can be in the other folks who might be struggling at your school, who can commiserate with you over your situation, even if it’s when no one else is listening. A sense of community has made even the most difficult, painful, and ugly parts of my transition feel safe and supported.

If you find yourself in a truly untenable situation, know that, in many cities, there are people, social services, and communities that will support you. Young LGBTQ people have been running to the cities for decades, and in many places, there are not only organizations working to serve them, but entire populations of older LGBTQ folks who want to support them. Look for those organizations and people in online spaces if you feel you absolutely have to get away from wherever you are.

Apart from curating news and politics for Teen Vogue’s monthly 5 million plus monthly visitors to the site, Diavolo help founded the Transfeminine Alliance of Chicago and plays bass in the Chicago-based band The Just Luckies.

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Photo: Courtesy of TOMS

Rock the Vote event host and Teen Vogue advocate, TOMS, opened their new store/café – complete with an outside patio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. DSMC asked TOMS’ Director of Global Brand Marketing, Kate Faith, to discuss the – successful and impactful – Teen Vogue and TOMS collaboration.

DSMC: TOMS has partnered with Teen Vogue in the past, the recent Teen Vogue Summit in Austin last month, what makes this partnership so special?

Kate Faith: Our partnership with Teen Vogue started last year with the first ever Teen Vogue Summit where we hosted the opening day reception at TOMS HQ in Los Angeles. To continue this partnership, this year we hosted meet ups at our TOMS stores across America including Chicago, Austin, Los Angeles, and finally at our new store here in Brooklyn. Teen Vogue is educating and inspiring young people to take action, which is at the heart of what we’re doing here at TOMS. We both know that Gen Z has the power and courage to change the world. We are here to support Teen Vogue as they rally the next generation to create a better world for us all.

DSMC: With over 60 million pairs of shoes donated to children around the world so far, what does TOMS hope to establish with the one-for-one model eyewear? Is eyewear as scarce as shoes around the world? Why this product line?

Kate Faith: Since our founding in 2006, TOMS has given over 80 million pairs of shoes to those in need both abroad and here in the United States. That number is something we’re very proud of, but we also recognize we can do more and have the opportunity to scale our impact beyond our shoe gives. TOMS launched eyewear in 2011 as we saw a need to help more people in a new way that would make a very big difference in their lives. During Blake’s travels, he saw many kids who weren’t able to see the chalkboard at school so would fall behind and elderly people developing cataracts which affected their work life and the livelihood of their family. Wanting to find a solution, he came up with TOMS eyewear – with every pair of sun and optical purchased, a person is provided an eye exam and given treatment through prescription glasses, medical treatments, or sight-saving surgery. We have now provided sight to over 600,000 individuals around the world. I recently was in India on a Giving Trip and was able to witness a cataract surgery first hand. It was incredibly moving to see people’s reactions when their bandages came off and they were able to see their loved ones – some for the first time! I’m proud to work at a company that is creating this level of impact in the world.

DSMC: Does TOMS support/endorse certain politicians for the midterms?

Kate Faith: Our #1 objective is to inspire and educate young people around the importance of using their voice to create positive change. Voting is one (very important) avenue for people to address the issues they care about most, and we want to provide the tools for people to make informed decisions when heading to the polls. We don’t endorse specific politicians, but our hope is that elected officials support basic human rights for all individuals. We are in this together and must create a world that works better for all of us. To learn more about TOMS global work and products, click here.

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Photo: Courtesy of TOMS, Attendees at the Rock The Vote Teen Vogue X TOMS Event

This event opened my eyes to a whole new group of passionate activists that are committed to making a difference in our nation. I had once solely perceived them as meme-creating, snap-chat happy simplistic youth consumed with finding the perfect selfie. Sure, they may engage in these activities on their down-time, as most of us have, but they are laser-focused on championing for causes that are vital to their generation and ours.

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Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi Ad – Who’s at Fault? Everyone!

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Social Media has revolutionized the immediacy of how the public reacts to news and entertainment. Forget the days of snail hate mail of yesteryear sent to networks and celebrities in large bags. Every single person has a voice – and social forum to be heard. Less than 24 hours since the new Pepsi ad was launched featuring Kendall Jenner, one of the hottest it-models of the moment – the ad has been pulled from every marketing vehicle imaginable. What happened exactly? I follow the Kardashians on social as I’m a pop culture junkie and after I viewed the fury-inducing ad on Kris Jenner’s Instagram, I wasn’t moved, I brushed it off, yet I had a sinking feeling it wouldn’t be well received by the public. It was awkward in execution, odd images of Kendall Jenner abandoning her “model” duties and joining a protest. After having attended two protests this year: The Women’s March in following the inauguration and Not My President’s Day March in February. This commercial didn’t necessarily poke fun at protests – it trivialized the protesting experience. It lumped protests into the next “cool” thing young people are doing or engaged with. Similar to the “Cash me outside, How bout’ Dat?” teen or the incessant iterations on the Internet of Salt Bae. Yeah, nope. The Twitterverse was not having any of it. Everyone and their, mom, aunt, dad and grandpa had to something to say about it. Martin Luther King Jr.’s youngest daughter, Bernice King, posted: “If only Daddy would have known the power of #Pepsi” with a picture of cops strong-arming Martin Luther King Jr. in the 60s.

Pepsi is such a well-known global brand and being asked to be a Pepsi ambassador is mecca for any celebrity: A sign that you’ve made it. Recognition is absolute. Your star power is blinding! If you look at Kendall Jenner’s Instagram post just days before the controversy unfolded, there’s a picture of her idol, Cindy Crawford in a 1992 Pepsi ad.

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Kendall and her clan (momager, Kris included) were so clouded by the prestige Pepsi invokes – that they forgot the messaging behind this partnership. It was an afterthought. No one said, “Hey! maybe this is ad’s message is a little insensitive to people’s causes” As an adoring public, fans, spectators on the sidelines, we want our favorite models, actors, and sport stars to reach the pinnacle of success with all the advertising, movie, fashion deals out there – but one misstep and the crucifixion begins. Kendall Jenner has removed all traces of her ad on her social media accounts and Pepsi has apologized and lamented their insensitivity. But we as a the public must not go on the attack and instead educate companies, and clueless celebrities about history and what protests mean and can achieve for the misrepresented and people without a voice. Not once did I see or hear anyone say: “Hey Kendall, come to my town or join my group so you can see what protesting is really like and what the impetus behind this march means.”

More Than a March: A Global Call-to-Action Movement

0ba2cdbf-9fa2-45d4-bd12-b7cf26a5cfd8As I made my way to Dag Hammarskjold Plaza on 47th and 2nd – the meeting point for the New York Women’s March, I was filled with anxiety, dread and just plain fear. I had attended a preliminary Women’s March meeting  earlier in the week  held by a group of professional women’s video and documentary filmmakers. “How to properly record immoral acts of violence?” “How not to get arrested.”What happens when you do.” These phrases kept lingering in my head throughout the week. I’m not a person who typically demonstrates. Yeah, I’ve been to a few Revlon Run/Walk 5Ks and previous March of Dimes walks and felt good about myself. Exercise was the motivator, really, and then yes, supporting the cause too – this was an after thought.

Two nights before the march I abruptly texted my friend Sandra. “Do you want to march on Saturday?” I asked. “I would like that. I’m in.” She said. I was taken aback. I was happy that she wasn’t indecisive. I didn’t think any of my immediate friends would want to march. The day of: I was running behind, The gypsy and NJ Transit buses were nowhere in sight to get me to NYC. I saw a young mom carrying a toddler. She must be off to go to the mall or visiting her parents, I thought. NOPE! Was I wrong. And, I loved that I was. “Look! Baby.” She said to her daughter after glancing at the two signs I was holding. “She’s marching too!” This warm feeling swept over me. I couldn’t believe that this mom and I had the same cause in common.

As I fast-walked through from West-to-East on 42nd Street, I halted. There it was. My first glimpse of all these different people coming together as one to protest our causes: Women’s Reproductive Rights, Human Rights, Equality for All, Embracing Diversity, The Future of America.

We are at a standstill on 42nd and 2nd Avenue. So many people had amassed in that central location that no one could really move. Streets were closed off. “This is a conspiracy!” I thought. “Why aren’t I getting any service?” “Trump’s people are behind this.” We stood there for over 3 hours before the march actually started. “What is going on?” “My feet hurt and I haven’t gone anywhere yet, Uggh!” My thoughts were getting to me. “Stop being a wuss!” “You have to find Sandra.” Sandra’s was coming from Queens and there was lots of construction going with the trains. Sandra and I finally met up and we started marching. I couldn’t express at how elated I felt that I was part of something so much bigger than myself, the marchers around me, New York, Hell! the world.

8c1e6b2a-ea7c-4587-88e4-5df0b9d62b88I had been interacting with teens, men, women in their 60s and 70s of various ethnicities being friendly to one another, courteous, singing and chanting alongside one another. We marched all the way up to 55th and 5th Avenue; 2 blocks shy of Trump Towers. I was disappointed at first that the cops had barricaded the streets, but then remembered what the march was about and how many people from different walks of life and age groups came out to protest for what they believe in. What a beautiful day!