Is the fight over? Are we done? Is it safe to un-rainbow our profile picture? I still have 6 rainbow faced friends on my sidebar and I am still sporting Obama shooting rainbows out of his hands while riding a Unicorn. That may stay there for a while, until someone snaps a good photo of me.
And that may be just it. Let's change our profile picture to fit the cause of the week and when the next catchy or serious thing comes along, we'll move on to that (I'm guilty, too!). I know many of us ooohed and aaahhhed at all of the businesses that were rainbow-fying their profiles, logos and what not. And then we had the "Homophobe lashes out at NBC for 'changing' its logo to support gays."
So why is this a Throw Back Thursday post? Instead of getting all emotional because of all the rainbows and watching famous buildings light up ROY-G-BIV for one night (yes, they were pretty and amazing and we teared up just a little or a lot) we should be looking back and remembering who in the past months, and years have been supporting us through an through. Who has lit up their places of business week after week, month after month with the hope of helping us win the marriage equality fight.
In the latter part of June, I had been in touch with Anthony Ingham, VP, Luxury & Design Brands, North America at Starwood Hotels & Resorts. Anthony oversees the W Hotels; Turn It Up for Change Campaign in support of LGBT marriage and workplace equality (see info below or here). I had sent Anthony some questions about his campaign just before the nation exploded with love. I still wanted to put a spotlight on what he and his organization had developed to help our community. Anthony graciously answered my questions about Turn It Up, W Hotels, and Jennifer Hudson. Here they are with his answers.
Instinct) Are there events during the first week of every moth at all the U.S. W Hotels? How successful have they been?
Anthony) Since the TURN IT UP FOR CHANGE launch in October 2014, we’ve hosted more than 40 local events at W Hotels nationwide, including major gatherings in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. Our total donations to the Human Rights Campaign have exceeded $100,000 since the start of the campaign.
Instinct) How many of the 46 W Hotels and 16 W -branded residences located in United States are in states that do not have equal rights?
Anthony) No longer applicable!
Instinct) The campaign raised $100,000 in the first 6 months – where does the money go?
Anthony) The money goes toward supporting the Human Rights Campaign. Because this effort is focused on advocacy for marriage rights in all 50 states, we felt the Human Rights Campaign, as the largest national organization focused on this issue, was the perfect partner.
Instinct) Has there been any flack or negative press yet? Any negative customer feedback?
Anthony) The response to the TURN IT UP FOR CHANGE campaign has been overwhelmingly positive across the board. We've seen an incredible level of turnout for our marquee and local public events, a highly supportive reception among our guests and associates and an enthusiastic response to our #TURNITUPFORCHANGE social media initiatives.
Instinct) Are other chains within the Starwood Hotels & Resorts family doing similar campaigns?
Anthony) Equality, love and marriage are crucially important issues for many Americans, including our guests and associates. Starwood has many associates and guests who are supporters and members of the LGBT community. Several of Starwood's brands are active in marketing to the LGBT community. W Hotels as a brand has been dedicated to promoting and practicing equality since its inception. As a gay, married man myself, I feel proud to work for a company that is a leader in corporate diversity and has such a strong commitment to making a difference.
Instinct) Will this campaign develop into having a presence overseas focusing on LGBT rights in foreign nations where Starwood Hotels / Ws are located? It seems you and / or your partner or both are originally from elsewhere, yes?
Anthony) Before taking on my current position at Starwood, I was living and working in Europe with my husband. I would not have been able to take this job and relocate to New York were it not for the NY Marriage Equality Act. Elements of the campaign are already visible in W Hotels globally. There is a video interview with me and JHUD speaking about the campaign on W Vision, our brand channel that plays on televisions in all of our hotels worldwide.
Instinct) Were you aware that Gay Days – Fort Lauderdale was held at the W – Fort Lauderdale Beach location? Will the W and this campaign look for large events like this to host in the future? Any plans for Pride promotions this summer / year to be linked to this campaign?
Anthony) Yes, we encourage our hotels to participate in local LGBT events, even outside of the overall TURN IT UP FOR CHANGE campaign. In 2011, the W Hotels in New York City were the first to offer same-sex wedding packages when New York State passed marriage equality. W was the first hotel brand to have a presence in New York’s famed Gay Pride Parade and has continuously offered unique LGBT package experiences since its debut in 1998. This summer, we’re looking to make a splash in a big way following the Supreme Court decision.
Instinct) Will Jennifer Hudson do more than a year with this promotion? How long is her contract for with Starwood?
Anthony) Jennifer Hudson is a fierce equality advocate. She has an enormous following among the LGBT community, and she credits them with helping her to achieve her phenomenal success. We are fortunate to have her support for the campaign and look forward to more great things with her in 2015.
Instinct) What has been the biggest success so far? Besides marriage equality, any other goals of this campaign that should be highlighted? Any positive side effects so far?
Anthony) In addition to TIUFC raising the volume on the battle for marriage equality in the U.S., the campaign generates overall support for the LGBT community to achieve full equality in all respects. We believe that promoting the values of equality and inclusiveness has positive ramifications for all people. We’ve received some great attention and buzz for our marquee events, which has helped spread the news and raise awareness for the overall campaign and has trickled down to the local hotel events.
Yes, we need to thank those organizations that added to the rainbow explosion online after the SCOTUS ruling. I am not sure if I would call then fair weather friends jumping on the band wagon and flying our colors after there was true victory. But we must not forget the companies and organizations that have flown our colors not just now but during the weeks, months and years we have been fighting for our causes.
I want to thank Anthony Ingham, SPG, W Hotels, and Jennifer Hudson for all that they did in the past and will do in the future for our LGBT community. If you go to the Turn it Up for Change website, there are still some events on the calendar. I am sure they are not done supporting our community. I'm looking forward to what is next from SPG and W Hotels.
What companies do you feel need the biggest shout out for their support?
Which ones if any do you think just jumped on the band wagon just because we won?
We can watch JHud's video "I Still Love You"
one many more times, right?
Turn It Up for Change Initial Press Release:
October 21, 2014 10:23 AM Eastern Daylight Time
NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–W Hotels Worldwide today announced it has joined forces with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality, in the fight for nationwide LGBT equality by launching a fundraising and awareness initiative, “TURN IT UP FOR CHANGE”. Grammy® and Academy Award® winner Jennifer Hudson will lend her support and voice to the campaign, which combines the W brand’s longstanding support of the LGBT community with its ongoing passion for music. As part of the program, W Hotels around the country will host monthly TURN IT UP FOR CHANGE music events, in which a portion of proceeds will benefit HRC. Some events may also include surprise performances by Hudson, and coupled with a special room package and robust social media campaign (#whrc and #lovehasnolimit) led by W Hotels, HRC and Hudson, W hopes to bring real and lasting change for LGBT Americans in all 50 states.
“W Hotels has always been ‘out’ about our support of the LGBT community, and we believe that equality, love and marriage are crucially important issues to many Americans, including our W Talent, our guests and our local communities,” said Anthony Ingham, Vice President, North America Brand Management, W Hotels Worldwide. “As someone who benefited from New York’s Marriage Equality Act, I personally believe that everyone in this country should be able to marry whomever he or she loves. We’ve recently seen incredible momentum around this issue, and we at W are proud to stand up alongside all of our guests in the fight for equality across the nation.”
“I owe a large part of my success to the LGBT community, who has embraced and supported me from early on in my career,” said Hudson. “That is why I am thrilled to join forces with W Hotels and HRC to use the power of music to promote LGBT equality. We have come a long way in such a short time, but now it’s time for the final push, perhaps the hardest one of all, to legalize same sex marriage and broader equality across the entire country. It’s time to ‘turn up’ the volume on this crucial human rights issue.”
For more information on TURN IT UP FOR CHANGE, please visit www.whotels.com/lovehasnolimit. Follow @WHotels on Twitter and Instagram, and follow the movement at #whrc and #lovehasnolimit.
About W Hotels Worldwide – Information provided by W Hotels and one of their PR firms Mark Allen & Co.
W Hotels is a contemporary, design-led luxury lifestyle brand and the industry innovator with 44 hotels and retreats, including 16 W-branded residences, in the most vibrant cities and exotic destinations around the world. Inspiring, iconic, innovative and influential, W Hotels provides the ultimate in insider access, offering a unique mix of cutting-edge design and passions around fashion, music and entertainment. W Hotels offers a holistic lifestyle experience that is integrated into the brand’s sensibility through contemporary restaurant concepts, glamorous entertainment experiences, stylish retail concepts, signature spas and inspiring residences. With 15 years of proven success, W Hotels is on track to reach more than 60 hotels by 2018. W Hotels have been announced for Amsterdam, Shanghai, Beijing, Bogota, Tel Aviv, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Amman, Jakarta, Panama, Muscat, Suzhou, Changsha, Chengdu, New Delhi, Kuala Lumpur, Shenyang, Marrakech and Brisbane, while upcoming W Retreats include Goa, Phuket, and Hainan Island. For more information, visit www.whotels.com, www.whotels.tumblr.com or www.facebook.com/whotels. To live the W Hotels lifestyle 24/7/365, visit www.wresidences.com. Follow @WHotels on Twitter and Instagram.
About Jennifer Hudson
Grammy and Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson is an extraordinary talent. Hudson’s highly anticipated new album, “JHUD,” dropped September 23rd to rave reviews. Prior to release, she dropped singles, “He Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” featuring Iggy Azaelea; “I Can’t Describe,” produced by Pharrell and featuring TI; “Walk It Out,” featuring Timbaland; and “It’s Your World,” featuring R. Kelly. Hudson’s 2008 debut album went Platinum and entered Billboard's Top 200 at No. 2 thus marking the biggest first week sales for an R&B female entry since 2004. The album was nominated for four Grammys and won for "Best R&B Album." In 2009, Hudson released her sophomore album, "I Remember Me" which debuted at No. 2 on Billboard's Top 200 and R&B Albums charts and has since been certified Gold in the U.S. Hudson won an Academy Award for her role in "Dreamgirls," an adaptation of the Broadway musical. Her breakout film performance also garnered a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a BAFTA and an NAACP Image Award. Additional film credits include "Sex and the City,” "Secret Life of Bees," "Winnie Mandela," "The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete," and "Black Nativity."
About Human Rights Campaign
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.