The National Post, Tuesday, September 15, 2009
By Nathalie Atkinson
If the preferred shade of breast cancer fundraising is demure pink, then AIDS fundraising is an unapologetic lipstick red, thanks to MAC’s groundbreaking Viva GLAM fundraising. And you can bet that’s the shade of lippy rapper (and Viva GLAM spokesperson) Eve will be wearing to Toronto’s first-ever Cinema Against AIDS dinner tonight.
MAC Cosmetics, the now-global beauty brand, was a pioneer in HIV/AIDS awareness and fundraising in Toronto (think Fashion Cares) well before the company officially founded the MAC AIDS Fund and launched the very first Viva Glam lipstick in 1994. That’s when the company’s primary charity vehicle was established to support the men, women and children affected by HIV/AIDS globally. But MAC has always done things differently, and how they raised nearly $150-million for the MAF since that first tube is no exception. Ru-Paul, the transvestite entertainer, starred in the inaugural in-your-face campaign. How MAC gives is renegade, too: Where most other such initiaives donate a percentage or set figure, 15 years later MAC continues to completely underwrite all the costs associated with the Viva GLAM fundraising campaigns. It’s pure donation, since 100% of the purchase price of every Viva GLAM product goes directly into the MACAIDS Fund coffers, for distribution to groups around the world (more than $6-million of that to Torontobased groups alone).
“It was a radical move when it was done 15 years ago, and it’s as radical today,” says John Demsey, Estee Lauder group president and chairman of the MAC AIDS Fund, who is flying in from fashion week in New York to attend tonight’s fundraiser. “And we continue to do what we do consistently, persistently and with heart and emotion. We like to say it’s the heart and soul of the company. It’s the one issue for everybody who works for the company, no matter where they work in the world. And it’s still with us 25 years later as one of the key genetic components of MAC.”
Both MAC and its AIDS philanthropy were born in Toronto (the brainchild of visionary “founding Franks” — the late Frank Angelo and Frank Toskan, who started the company in 1985), which makes it especially fitting that the company is co-sponsoring the first Toronto edition of the Cinema Against AIDS gala fundraiser, along with Sullivan Entertainment (to benefit Dignitas International and amfAR, the American Foundation for AIDS Research).
Cinema Against AIDS is arguably the most famous of amfAR’s fundraisers, and this is its first foray into the Toronto International Film Festival. The first was hosted during the Cannes International Film Festival in 1993 by founding chairman Elizabeth Taylor and its raucous auction quickly became the highlight of the annual Cannes calendar. But the event has since grown from the French Riviera to include dinners during the Venice, Sundance and Dubai film festivals. Toronto’s inaugural gala will include performances by Deborah Cox and Sarah McLachlan, with amfAR chairman Kenneth Cole, ambassador Michelle Yeoh, as well as rapper and Viva GLAM spokesperson Eve in attendance, not to mention a slew of TIFF’s visiting celebrities.
Can’t fathom a $1,000-to $10,000-a-plate gala? Remember what Anna Wintour told David Letterman she’d do with a $25 fashion budget:Buy a lipstick. “These are hard times,” Demsey admits. “The beauty of what it is that we do is that you go to a MAClocation, you can get some retail therapy, a pick-me-up, and 100% of that money goes to a charity. And it costs less than lunch!”