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DiversitySpikes Asia

The Creative Industries Should Think Like A Drag Queen

It’s not every day you see a drag queen deliver a keynote at an advertising conference — but maybe this kind of thing should be a more frequent occurrence, given the unique blend of provocation and common sense spoken by Gigi Giubilee at Spikes Asia.

“Essentially, drag is scary because drag queens are not ‘normal’ people,” she says. “We’re weirdoes. And part of that is on purpose; we subvert norms, and that’s how we entertain people. We look at what is ‘normal’, at gender and identity and lifestyle norms, and twist it around.”

And this carries over into Gigi’s other professional life, where by day she’s better known as Creative Director Gianni Gurnani. “No matter the brief, whatever the client or the planner says, I’m always looking for how you take something that exists that is normal, and turn it inside out, upside down, fuck it up. That’s what makes great creative, and great drag performances.”

We already know that people tend to favour easy classifications; they’re comforting and safe, and our inclination to making snap judgments comes from millennia of evolution, where we had to make instantaneous fight-or-flight decisions. But we aren’t always cognisant of the ways this habit shapes our lives. “‘Normal’ influences your taste,” says Gigi. “If you subscribe to ‘normal’, it can choose what you wear, what you watch, what values you hold dear, who your friends are.”

This reliance on norms is what gives drag such power to shock and delight. It is also at least partially to blame for a lack of diversity in creative departments. “I believe there is an expectation of normal in every department, every agency, every market,” says Gigi. “It could be in terms of aesthetic, hobbies, sense of humour. Everybody sort of has the same look, they laugh at the same jokes. And while that isn’t necessarily a big deal, sometimes personality traits can be proxies for other big things that matter a lot more… gender, sexual orientation, race, social status, whether you grew up rich or poor, your background, how you speak.”

And while the creative industries pride themselves on being forward-thinking, open-minded and progressive, Gigi thinks hiring practices are being held back by the notion of what constitutes company culture. “When there’s a normal, there’s always a not normal,” she says. “Normal equals a culture fit. Normal does not equal diversity. So, by my magical math powers, culture fit does not equal diversity. They’re opposites of each other. When you’re hiring for a culture fit, diversity doesn’t happen.”

So what is the answer? Taking a knife to these norms, tearing and shaping them into something new and spectacular. In short; drag is the answer.

“If you want to fight normal, make drag your new HR policy,” she says. “Make it your new hiring methodology. Make it your new way of life. Use the subversive philosophy of drag to turn your creative department upside down every time you bring in someone new. Don’t ask who’s going to fit in. Ask who’s going to screw shit up.”

The way Gigi sees it, only by continually challenging our own unconscious biases and comfort will we truly build diverse teams and generate the most creative work. By hiring the people who don’t quite make sense to us, who maybe don’t comply with our old-fashioned ideas of “professionalism.” People who will change the dynamic of any room they’re in. People just as capable as drag queens of shocking and delighting you.

“Drag is the new diversity,” says Gigi. “Drag is the new disruption.”

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