Hooray for Progress: Benetton's Latest Ad Campaign Features Transgender Model
The United Colors of Benetton has a long history of championing diversity through advertising. Known for their pioneering campaigns that featured melting pot images of models from a range of races, they paved the way for more diversity in fashion. Through their imagery, they've also confronted the AIDS virus, the war in Bosnia, and other polarizing subjects, even earning a spot in the Guinness World Records in 2000 for 'Most Controversial Campaign.'
Then came their famous UNHATE campaign, which featured Barack Obama kissing Chinese President Hu Jintao. Now, for their Spring/Summer 2013 collection Benetton has continued to push the envelop by featuring Lea T., a transgender model. By highlighting this 29-year-old Brazilian beauty the company sees it as a way of overcoming prejudice, something the son of Brazilian soccer legend Toninho Cerezo has had to do on an everyday basis as she rises the ranks of the fashion industry to top-model status.
But Lea T. is just one of nine stunners in the 2013 campaign with a story to tell. Benetton's ads also focus on Hanaa Ben Abdesslem, a Tunisian model, who is showing young Arab women that they can do the same thing; Alek Wek, who has been active in drawing international attention to the humanitarian disaster in her homeland of Sudan; and Germany's Mario Galla, who walked the runway in shorts, revealing his prosthetic leg. Also included are Kiera Chaplin, an actress and granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin, and an active supporter of UNESCO; Charlotte Free, a Californian model made famous by her pink hair; and Dudley O’Shaughnessy, a mixed-race former national welterweight champion. Of his race, he says, "People need to realize that…whoever put us on this earth, if we weren't meant to mix, we'd be on different planets, but we're not, we're on the same planet.
Perhaps the best part of Benetton's 'controversial' campaign is that in 2013 it's actually not controversial at all. As the world grows more connected, celebrating diversity and difference is increasingly the norm—not the exception to the rule. And, since we are "on the same planet," that's a good thing.