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“We are really looking forward to seeing that lip color on condoms all over the world,” says Gaga. “We want to make this trendy and fun. We don’t want this discussion of AIDS to become this overly intellectual discussion, because we need to make discussions about AIDS really normal — not sitting in school nodding off because your teacher’s handed you some sheet that’s like all these percentages and graphs, and you’re thinking, well, she probably hasn’t had sex in 15 years. Sex education should be bright and vibrant and every woman should want to have this in her purse.”
“A woman who hasn’t had sex in 15 years is probably more vulnerable,” Lauper shoots back. She, too, is passionate about her causes, especially gay rights; she has founded the True Colors Fund, which raises money for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. However, she’s straight, married and the mother of a 12-year-old son — and anxious to reinforce the message that AIDS can happen to anyone, including 50-plus women.
“We’re made to feel like when we turn 50 we’re not a sexual being anymore — that’s not true in real life,” Lauper says. “You’re still a sexual being and you’re still going to have urges where you lose your mind. That’s why cases of AIDS in women my age are on the rise. A lot of people mistakenly think it isn’t a straight-person’s disease. It is an every-person’s disease. No one is immune. Everyone in the demographic between me and Gaga is affected.”
“Buying condoms is seen as a male accessory,” says Gaga. “We were joking that we wish the lipstick had on the side, ‘Where’s my best friend, the condom? Come out with me tonight.’ The lipstick should be a reminder to practice safe sex on their own, as opposed to hoping that the guy they went out with has it in a drawer next to his bed.”
Cracks Lauper: “Yes, and I burned my bra at the first Gloria Steinem demonstration.” Turning serious, Lauper adds, “During the age of the hippies, all of a sudden it was a sexual revolution and everyone was free — but the woman still wasn’t free, because if you didn’t put out, you weren’t cool. So you didn’t even have the choice to not put out. You had to put out. It never was a women’s empowerment.
“You can say ‘Abstain from sex,’ but the truth is, we are all sexual beings, and people don’t,” Lauper insists. Adds Gaga: “It’s unrealistic.”
“I come across in all my videos and all my music as this sexually empowered woman, but even I say no,” says Gaga. “Just because you are a sexual woman doesn’t mean you are dumb.”
She’s also quite passionate about the no condom, no sex issue, insisting that all women should carry condoms in their bags: “When the guy that she’s seeing says, ‘Baby, it doesn’t feel good when I wear that,’ or ‘Baby, it’s just you,’ you say, ‘F--k you, I’m out of here.’ I don’t want to be with a guy who feels like that. What does that say about who they’ve been with before? You have to be worried about yourself, because it can happen to you.”
The ad campaign, conceived by James Gager, senior vice president and creative director of MAC Cosmetics, was shot by Ellen von Unwerth. It will begin running in April fashion, beauty and lifestyle magazines, as well as a few weeklies later this month. “Cyndi looks sexy, I look sexy — I think it’s a more feminine side of me,” says Gaga.
This year, Viva Glam is focusing on the increased risk women face in terms of HIV/AIDS infection, notes John Demsey, group president of the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. and chairman of the MAC AIDS Fund. “The litmus test for this campaign is that each person has to be able to stand in front of a MAC audience and be passionate and believable about this,” he says. “Because both of these women are so iconic in an alternative world as well as with young people, the juxtaposition of the two of them takes Viva Glam to a new level.”
While Demsey declined to discuss sales projections, industry sources estimate the two new lip colors could generate at least $20 million at retail in total in their first year on counter.
“Women need to get tested and they need to know their status,” says Nancy Mahon, senior vice president of MAC Cosmetics and executive director of the MAC AIDS Fund, noting the number of women contracting HIV is growing in every area of the world, especially in the U.S. — where the number of women living with HIV has tripled since 1985. “We need to raise a lot of money because we have a lot of work to do.”
MAC will donate an additional $2.5 million to fund model programs that address the increased risk women face in terms of HIV/AIDS infection.
The MAC AIDS fund has raised more than $160 million to combat HIV/AIDS since its founding in 1994, says Demsey. Previous spokespeople have included Mary J. Blige, Fergie and Lisa Marie Presley.