You can't help who you are. It's a nature that's stronger than our forces and our discipline. But we've perhaps all had the experience of discovering that, in the context of our society and our time, that same nature, inoffensive on its own, can make our lives a solitary tragedy.
It's up to us how to negotiate, and maybe transmogrify, that pain—as much for ourselves as for the ones like us who follow.
This is the beating heart of "She, a J&B Tale," for Diageo Scotch whisky brand J&B Rare in Spain. Transmogrification is a good word to use here, given the two protagonists who collaborate in presenting a new identity to their family.
It's all set to a Chaco rendition of Charles Aznavour's "She."
Brought to life by agency El Ruso de Rocky and production company Agosto, the film opens with an older man enjoying a glass of whisky. His wife sets her purse down on the table beside him and walks off. The lipstick that slides out of it is the pretext for the rest of the story.
We watch as the old man, behind a locked bathroom door, furtively keeps a little pouch of makeup over the medicine cabinet. We watch his first initial struggles with applying makeup, and the discouragement that follows. He begins to acquire a small collection of his own, and slowly, stolidly, learn how to make beauty.
The film hits its climax around a holiday party, where we meet 26-year-old Alvaro—the old man's grandson. And here, the poignant twist in the tale—the grandfather, again behind that locked bathroom door, uses his newly learned makeup tricks, to painstakingly beautify Alvaro—who then presents herself to the family as Ana, flanked by her supportive patriarch (no small endorsement in a Latin family). There is silence at the table. Then Ana's mother embraces her, conjunction is achieved, and we all burst into tears.
The film closes with the words "The magic is not only in Christmas. The magic is also in us. Can't wait to celebrate (us)."
"It is a Christmas story," the brand says in a statement, "that tells the beautiful story between a grandfather and his granddaughter, and how the love that unites them is so great that it overcomes any prejudice or barrier that may separate them. This story is a reflection of acceptance, respect and above all tolerance."
Úrsula Mejía-Melgar, marketing director for South Europe at Diageo, adds: "From J&B we want everyone to feel free to celebrate the holidays, giving visibility to a reality that thousands of people face, including the LGBTIQ+ collective who seek a safe space to be and show themselves openly, but also for families who many times also suffer the absence of those loved ones who, due to their gender identity or sexual preference, are not present at the parties."
This is an interesting position, for many reasons. Presently, as Adweek observed, the rights of queer and trans people are again in jeopardy, and support from brands and celebrity ambassadors has become a more delicate matter. There is also the larger context of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which—in addition to the whole alcoholic beverage drama it set off—also happens to be a country where LGBTQ+ rights feel inconceivable.
J&B is also a whisky brand. This is a spirits category best known for emphasizing just how much hair it can get on your chest, using the most masculine stories conceivable. But it merits mention that whisky brands are changing, too. Two years ago, Fistful of Bourbon repurposed old Western tropes—a dog whistle for a certain kind of man—and turned the genre on its head, using humor to portray a more complex manhood. In 2018, Johnnie Walker's "striding man" made a diverse cast of friends. And Glenmorangie's just gone full psychedelic.
A lot of these campaigns feel more like quests than hard positions. J&B Rare's "She," however, is a reflection of larger Diageo efforts to align with inclusivity efforts. (This also applies to Johnnie Walker, which is owned by Diageo as well.) This year the Diageo Rainbow Network supported Pride with a major flag-raising event across 85 sites. It is also partnered with the U.K.'s first national LGBTQ+ museum, Queer Britain, and a founding sponsor of OutBritain, the U.K.'s LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce.
These are just a few of its efforts. Diageo's chief HR officer, Louise Prashad, and chief marketing officer, Cristina Diezhandino, were named Top 50 Ally Executives on Involve's Outstanding LGBT+ Role Model Lists.
Brand: J&B Rare
Brand Team: Úrsula Mejía-Melgar, Gustavo Belaustegui, Paula Álvarez, Celia Razola. Agency: El Ruso de Rocky
Executive Creative Directors: Ángel Torres, Lucas Paulino
Creative Director: Ángela Pacheco
Creative Team: Álvaro Marugán, Alberto Santos, Pita Sagra
Strategy Team: Laura Alfaya, María Moreno
Account Team: Estefanía Gimeno, Paloma Roc
Agency Head of Production: María Iglesias
Production House: Agosto Director: Gabe Ibáñez
Executive Producer Agosto: Belén Gayán
Producer Agosto: Miguel Ángel Fernández Belando
DOP Agosto: Daniela Cajías
1st Assistant Director: Jose Calero
Casting: Mimi Correa, Edrien Guillermo, Miguel Ángel Fernández
Head of Art Agosto: Stephane Carpinelli
Photographer: Víctor Bensusi Sound: Sonomedia
Music: "She" from Charles Aznavour, version from Chaco
Music Post production: Jacaranda
Media Agency: PHD