Close your eyes and envision what a fragrance commercial typically looks like. Maybe it's a woman gleefully galavanting around Paris in a ballgown and her bare feet. Maybe it's a couple having a passionate romp in their penthouse suite. Nine times out of 10, it's a woman gliding through a mansion wearing the fragrance, and little else.
"I didn’t want a fabulous girl in a fabulous dress," Siriano tells Refinery29. "Obviously I love the glam world of fashion, but I felt like for this, it didn’t make sense to do that. I wanted to be more excited about a social message than just a fragrance."
So, Siriano redirected his campaign into a "call to action" that celebrates the diversity of America. The ad stars people that have long been excluded from traditional fragrance campaigns, including transgender beauty blogger Gigi Gorgeous, transgender model Mimi Tao, Muslim activist Blair Imani, curve model Tess McMillan, actresses Patricia Clarkson, Whoopi Goldberg, and Danielle Brooks, drag star Violet Chachki, and Siriano's mother and sister.
"The whole idea came from all these different people of all walks of life to be in one photo to show what beauty should be," says Siriano. "It's time to celebrate our diversity, and to see it as a really beautiful thing."
The fragrance's name, People Are People, comes from a T-shirt Siriano showed at his Fall 2017 New York Fashion Week show, with proceeds from its sale benefitting the American Civil Liberties Union. "People are people — that’s my point," Siriano says. "Why do we care where people come from or what [they] do or who [they] date? People are complex and amazing and every one of us makes the world more interesting."
This dedication to inclusivity is nothing new for Siriano, who routinely casts women of various sizes, ages, and races in his fashion shows — but it is relatively new for the beauty industry. Before the "Fenty Effect," size and racial diversity have been noticeably lacking in most fragrance campaigns. But in the past few weeks alone, Sarah Jessica Parker launched her fragrance Born Lovely with a campaign starring a curve model, and Kim Kardashian West released KKW Body II and KKW Body III with ads that featured women proudly showing their stretch marks, body rolls, and cellulite.
But Siriano stresses that this isn't a "trend," but rather the fragrance world finally catching up to the way things should be. "I hope that in the end, people see that this is what beauty in our world is," Siriano says. "It’s about celebrating all these walks of life. We all come from different places, and who's to say what’s better than the next? Who decides all these rules? There’s no gatekeeper. There’s no person to dictate. It's up to us."