Behind the Retro Glam Infomercial Celebrating 40 Years of the LGBTQ+ Charity BAGLY and Starring Drag Queen Jujubee
To celebrate its 40 years of existence (one year late thanks to Covid) and to fundraise for its initiatives for LGBTQ+ youth in the Massachusetts area, Boston-based charity BAGLY has partnered with Arnold Worldwide to create the ‘Audacity Campaign’.
Starring Rupaul’s Drag Race star Jujubee, the nostalgic and glamorous ‘80s TV style film showcases the work that BAGLY has done for Queer and LBGTQ+ youth throughout its existence and reminds people watching to not just donate, but to “live audaciously”. With glitter and vibrant colours popping out from every costume, prop and rainbow graphic, the spot uses its charm and campy humour to reach out to philanthropists who could be prospective donors for BAGLY’s causes.
Alongside the audaciously charismatic Drag Queen Jujubee are Queer youth leaders and spokespeople from BAGLY, who share their own thoughts on how other members of the LGBTQ+ community can live audaciously.
Arnold Worldwide’s studio and integrated production director Michael Houston and VP, creative director Sara Goldsmith spoke with LBB’s Ben Conway about how they created the ‘80s glam vibe, what BAGLY’s work means to them and generating the most audacity possible with a small budget and tight schedule.
LBB> Firstly, could you speak a little bit about your relationship with BAGLY - what it means to you and why you wanted to work with them?
Michael> Our partnership with BAGLY started about two years ago with a conversation around how our agency could help support their Youth Pride initiatives. It has since grown into something spectacular. We have worked with the organization on various activations, including a drag brunch fundraising pride event hosted by Havas, a rainbow wig wall that we built from scratch in support of Youth Pride back in 2019, and design support for their 40th Anniversary Gala event — and now the Audacity Campaign.
For all of us at Arnold, BAGLY’s impact on the Queer youth as well as on Boston’s LGBTQ+ community is beautiful and inspiring. Our team strives to make work that impacts change, not only in the way we push the narrative but in how we encourage others to make change on their own. BAGLY has served 40,000 youth for over 40 years – we hope our creative approach will help them increase their powerful work and mission.
LBB> We love the retro, infomercial style of the spot - where did the initial creative spark come from? Did BAGLY have a brief or did you approach them with the idea?
Michael> We initially wanted to find a way to influence the target audience that this video was made for: Queer philanthropists in the community and prospective donors that support BAGLY’s initiatives. The retro 80’s glam and camp vibe was meant to spark nostalgia and humour to that audience, so we did research on the inspirations around this concept — from big hair, glamourous gowns, sparkles to a high-fashion vibe that unfolded during this time. One major inspiration was from Brenda Dickson’s “Welcome to My Home,” which is a Queer cult classic that many may recognise. The over-exaggerations of movements, presentation and glam really sparked the idea of celebrating camp and adding a fashionable modern-day spin.
LBB> When was Jujubee brought into the conversation? And ow did you develop the idea of having members of the LGBTQ+ community read out the ‘guidelines’?
Michael> Jujubee, who’s best known for her larger-than-life presence in the RuPaul’s Drag Race franchise, was considered for this campaign since day one. We wrote the script for and around her. What makes the ‘Welcome to My Home’ homage so special is that we had to create this for a Drag Queen, as they’re the only performers that can bring this to life in a quintessential, colourful and exuberant manner.
LBB> In what ways does the spot commemorate, celebrate and utilise the 40 years (now 41) of BAGLY?
Michael> BAGLY started in a church basement over 40 years ago and worked their way up to operating their programming and services through their community centre. The video itself pays respect to the youth leaders and the Queer community that have come and gone throughout the years. We showcase many of the youth members of BAGLY (both current and alum) during the video and you’ll notice a quick nod from Grace Sterling Stowell (she/they), Executive Director and co-founder of BAGLY. She’s figuratively ‘passing the torch’ onto the next generation to continue the mission and messaging that BAGLY has fought so hard to protect. It’s a sweet moment that resonates with previous generations that have advocated for the Queer community to have basic human rights. They’re the ones that will continue to carry that work onto newer generations.
LBB> Where did the idea for ‘Audacious Living’ come from? Using ‘audacity’ as a positive in both the copywriting and as a theme for the spot is ingenious and… well… audacious!
Michael> The ‘Audacity’ often has a negative connotation and like many homophobic and transphobic slurs, we wanted to reimagine the word and meaning around it and make it more empowering, impactful, and positive for the Queer community and youth. ‘Audacious Living’ was our interpretation of Southern Living and a guide to how to live your best self unapologetically.
Sara> Additionally, to be your most authentic, Queer self is an act of audacity. And we wanted to show the infinite ways this can be expressed. Wearing clothes that will ‘out’ you to passers-by is audacious. Creating a new family with people that accept and celebrate you is audacious. Protesting for equal rights is audacious. Even existing is audacious.
LBB> How was the copywriting process for the guidelines? Was it difficult to highlight the ‘audacious’ visuals whilst also writing a sincere plea for donations?
Michael> This project was two years in the making and Becky Brinkerhoff, an incredible copywriter who conceived this idea, carefully crafted the narrative with BAGLY to make sure the guide was inclusive, fun, and represented what the organization is all about. Once we structured the scripts for the video, we finessed the language to focus on both the awareness piece and the donation factor.
The visuals fell into place once we involved our director, Deb Tam, and her production team to help bring this to life.
LBB> Who designed and created the set? What inspired them?
Sara> The visuals had to be dripping with glam and high production value to solicit big donations. Montana Pugh, a set designer based in NYC who kindly donated her time to the project, brought her keen eye for colour, fabric, texture, and props to create the set. Fresh off a Vogue shoot, she drove up to Boston with a van full of furniture and fabric.
LBB> Was there a costume designer, or did everyone choose their own wardrobe? What was the concept behind using such amazing colours and sparkle?
Michael> For Jujubee, she was given some inspirations and examples to work with, but she brought her own wardrobe options. She’s a drag queen so everything was lavish, extra, exquisite, and divine. She nailed the entire look that you see in the video.
For the rest of the talent, especially our youth talent from BAGLY, we wanted everyone to feel comfortable and wear something that best represented their true selves. With some guidelines to work from, they brought in their own wardrobe options, which we helped to accessorise and really make them feel like stars on set.
LBB> How was the shoot? How long did it take and does anything memorable stick out from this process?
Michael> The shoot had a lot of hiccups leading up to it thanks to the pandemic. We had to reschedule it a few times, but the team was insistent on capturing content as soon as possible as we all had the passion to complete this video.
In order to work within our small budget, we ended up capturing all of the content within three days - having an amazing production team and director allowed us to shoot over 18 hours of footage.
The most memorable moment for us was watching the youth shine and feel like celebrities while on set. We shot Jujubee and our youth talent on separate days so we asked if Jujubee could come back to surprise everyone and hang out for a few hours. She did that and more and it really made the day for them memorable, and we’ll never forget that — it just made all of the hard work worth it for us as a team.
LBB> How did you get the ‘audacity’ out of each speaker? - How much was directed versus letting the speakers improvise with their own personalities?
Michael> We had such limited hours with all of the talent, so we needed to make sure we got everything from them as quickly as possible without losing their authenticity or comfortability. Our director, Deb Tam, worked with each talent and got them to a space where they felt confident about how they were delivering their lines. It was amazing to watch.
We also had to find the balance between what was directed versus what was improvised, meaning the non-scripted and improvised moments were just as important to capture as what we had prepped for in the shoot. The improvisation is what showed off their personalities and styles the most in our B-roll footage. We were so impressed by how quickly everyone was picking up direction, and as a result, we compiled hours upon hour’s worth of great footage.
With Jujubee specifically, she’s a professional and was able to deliver many variations of her lines plus moments that were improvised, such as the phone conversation at the beginning of the video. The day was long, but she managed to keep smiling and make the experience enjoyable for everyone on set.
LBB> After showing the guidelines and the LGBTQ+ voices being ‘audacious’, funny and creative - how do you bring the message back to donation?
Sara> We knew Queer, campy humour would resonate with our audience. It’s a specific humour that came to life in every detail: the sound effects when Jujubee blinks her eyes, the way she brings the rainbows to life, and her faint at the end. And the tone was purposeful. People need to be entertained first and asked to donate second.
LBB> How did you get that ‘old T.V’ feeling? How did you achieve that retro sparkle and colour saturation look?
Sara> Most of this was captured on camera. We used filters on the lens to create a dewy glow and sparkles. The colour of the final footage is very close to what we shot on camera. We worked with Brickyard VFX to add additional sparkles and lighting blooms in post.
LBB> The editing has amazing energy, and the iris transition effects and multi-cam cuts give the intro and outro that glorious retro feeling. What were the inspirations and directions given to the editor/editing team? How was the editing process?
Sara> We tasked our editor with balancing the retro-glam vibe with the high-energy youth vignettes. The transitions were a crucial part of bringing this to life as was incorporating campy moments in the middle section, like the wink from Grace and Jujubee’s piggy bank shots.
LBB> What was the most difficult challenge you faced and how did you overcome it?
Michael> The most difficult challenge was executing this project with such a small budget. We came into this with very little to work from and our biggest worry was executing everything that we envisioned while still being within budget.
What’s amazing is that we received donated post-production support from our amazing partners and discounted costs on our production needs, along with having the expertise from our NYC crew that did this out of passion. Just another reason this project felt so special to everyone involved.
LBB> Do you have anything else to add about this project?
Michael> Everyone should support BAGLY. It’s an incredible LGBTQ+ organization that does everything in its power to support our youth and our community with impactful programming and services, while continuing to expand their physical presence accessible to and for their youth. They’re even fighting against Queer homelessness with their Host Homes Program.
And a special shout-out to PUMA, who agreed to match donations to raise money for the organization. And with the support of our campaign, BAGLY has raised nearly $50,000 in donations.
If you’re feeling ‘audacious’ and want to contribute to them continuing their amazing work for the youth and the community, please donate to bagly.org/donate.
Featured Companies: LBB Editorial