MAC Cosmetics and Lady Gaga: Promoting Women’s Sexual Empowerment Through HIV/AIDS Awareness

Huff Post

NYC writer focusing on women’s issues; co-founder, cultureID

Posted: 8/30/11 11:59 AM ET


Notice: To sexually active women of all ages who have ever hesitated to ask their partners to suit up and wear protection, fear no more! You now have an outspoken advocate on your side. Lady Gaga is on the case with the message, “Live with passion, love with protection.”

Up until now, advice from your mother or best friend that unprotected sex is a bad idea may not have made an adequate impression. Perhaps you haven’t seen the stats. Globally, half of the people living with HIV/AIDS are women. For those of reproductive age (15 to 44), HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death and disease worldwide. In the United States, AIDS diagnoses for women more than tripled between 1985 and 2005.

Enter Lady Gaga, teaming up with the MAC Cosmetics philanthropic arm, MAC AIDS Fund, for the VIVA GLAM campaign. The objective: to launch a new lipstick and lipgloss shade, every penny of whose purchase price goes to the MAC AIDS Fund. Working off of her personal brand of distinct individuality, Lady Gaga is the perfect model for self-advocacy. As this year’s official VIVA GLAM spokesperson (last year she shared the role with Cyndi Lauper), she has instructed her admirers “to live passionately, but do it safely.” Perhaps her strongest advice is, “Be your own biggest fan and protect yourself.”

I sat down with Nancy Mahon, Global Executive Director of the MAC AIDS Fund. She spoke to me about the company’s “corporate responsibility” model, which has been “embedded in the MAC Cosmetics DNA” from its inception. The MAC AIDS Fund was started in 1994, as a response to the AIDS epidemic. This giveback philosophy permeates the company. It encompasses not just the executive level, but also the diverse sales force that feels a part of something beyond “just selling lipstick.”

The Fund has an impressive track record. They have raised over $202 million and sold over 13.8 million VIVA GLAM lipsticks. They focus on highlighting the link between “poverty and AIDS” and on targeting “underserved populations.” The results of what one VIVA GLAM sale can do are impressive. Internationally, their Mothers2Mothers program enables a two-day support group for pregnant women “newly diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.” In America, The Women’s Collective Program provides a minimum of 45 minutes of “lifesaving HIV prevention skills” for girls and women in groups of 20 to 74 people. That’s critically important, especially because domestically, HIV/AIDS is the leading killer of young women of color.

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.