Netflix star Lena Waithe gives advertising industry a lesson on diversity

 In Company News

“You don’t want to be the face of something, you want to be the voice”

In a robust discussion, Lena Waithe and fellow speakers on Getty Images panel ‘Seeing is Believing: The Power of Re-picturing Stereotypes’ tell Cannes Lions delegates to hand over the reins and let people represent themselves


Cannes Lions delegates were given a lesson on diversity in a thought-provoking panel hosted by Getty Images in the Lumière Theatre this afternoon. Moderated by Pam Grossman, Director of Visual Trends at Getty Images, the panel saw Netflix actress and writer Lena Waithe join Piera Gelardi, Co-founder and Executive Creative Director at Refinery29 and photographers Campbell Addy and Braden Summers to discuss how the media and advertising industries can better visually represent the world’s diverse communities.

Seeing is Believing: The Power of Re-picturing Stereotypes, which took place at the Lumière Theatre at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, explored why imagery is so important when it comes to reframing concepts of gender, race, mental illness, LGBTQ and religion – altering perceptions, evoking empathy and helping brands engage with a broader audience.

Discussion points included:

  • What diversity does and does not look like
  • Why diversity and inclusion are so beneficial for businesses to partake in
  • Why diverse voices at all levels of the creative process is just as important as picturing diversity in campaigns
  • How storytelling about specific lived experiences can resonate globally with the mainstream

A selection of speaker comments are included below for your reference:

Lena Waithe:

  • On what diversity should be: “It’s not about seeing people of colour on the screen, it’s about actually having substance. The material needs to have a lasting impact. We don’t want to just put black faces on the screen, otherwise the people at the top are just profiting from our culture…People of colour need to be behind-the-scenes too and not just used as props, to truly help change the scene.”
  • On her work: “I have to be really black and really gay and if that makes you feel uncomfortable then great. Because eventually it won’t.”

Campbell Addy:

“I hate the talk of diversity as a trend that has emerged over the last few years – that makes me angry. This is my life –my 24 years. I’ve always been here, we’ve always existed.”

Braden Summers:

“When I first produced my images, it was the LGBT community that pushed back and gave a lot of criticism – they felt the images were too romantic. But my thinking was that if people saw the beauty – saw the romance – they’d be so taken by it they would forget they were looking at an image of a gay couple…and would instead have a positive association with romance. The more that becomes normal, the more people will become comfortable with it.”

Piera Gelardi:

“Diversity is not about altruism, it’s about good business sense.”

The panel session has been recorded and will be available to view on the Cannes Lions website in the coming weeks.

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