Looking Good, Doing Good
BY Neal Broverman
April 21 2011 12:00 AM ET
A lot of companies donate money to charity, but almost none of them give as much to AIDS causes, or with as much pizzazz, as M.A.C. cosmetics.
Over the past 17 years, M.A.C., part of the Est'e Lauder Cos., has donated $202 million for HIV prevention and treatment through the M.A.C. AIDS Fund'in 2010 alone the makeup purveyor raised $37 million through the sale of its Viva Glam lipstick and lip gloss, of which every penny went to HIV charities. Nancy Mahon, the senior VP of M.A.C cosmetics and executive director of the M.A.C. AIDS Fund, tells HIV Plus she has set a goal of $50 million in Viva Glam sales this year. Mahon and M.A.C. have a big ally to help them reach that milestone'Lady Gaga, who serves as spokeswoman for the M.A.C. AIDS Fund.
'Lady Gaga has enormous appeal, particularly with young people, but really across sexuality, gender, and age,' Mahon says. 'She has more Facebook fans than anyone in the world besides Obama.'
Gaga, who was co-spokeswoman for Viva Glam last year with Cyndi Lauper, serves as inspiration for the M.A.C. Viva Glam Gaga 2 nude lipstick. On the VivaGlam.com site, people can post photos, share stories about how HIV has affected them, and even take part in a fashion collaboration with Gaga and her stylist, Nicola Formichetti. On top of this, Gaga frequently talks in interviews about Viva Glam, the M.A.C. AIDS Fund, and AIDS in general'to raise awareness, she dressed as a condom for a February appearance on Good Morning America.
'Gaga is very committed to ending the shame and stigma around HIV. She's really about having those tough conversations,' Mahon says. 'It's just so important that folks who are positive can say, 'Isn't Gaga cool? Don't you love her music? Oh, and she's speaking on my behalf.' '
Gaga's job is also to help push her lipstick. Mahon says M.A.C. has deployed 'store ambassadors' to help too'these M.A.C. employees give background on the charity and work to increase sales and ensure that Viva Glam products have prominent placement throughout M.A.C.'s 1,500 locations. That's quite a commitment to charity, considering 100% of proceeds for the $14.50 lipsticks go to AIDS efforts.
Last year the money raised by Viva Glam went mostly to women's HIV organizations, both nationally and internationally, but Mahon says the focus is expanding this year.
'We continue to fund a lot of great projects in the U.S. around women, but we have also added programs specifically targeted at men who have sex with men,' Mahon says. 'Looking at the data and talking with the experts in the field, we found that 68% of men who have sex with men are infected by their primary partner. So we've funded a half-million-dollar couple intervention with Emory University in Atlanta to really talk with couples so they can be better protected.'
This year the M.A.C. AIDS Fund will also give money to UNICEF to help prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission. Some of those efforts include making sure HIV-positive mothers in Africa continue their care after they have their babies. Mahon says the M.A.C. AIDS Fund has provided many resources to South Africa's NOAH'Nurturing Orphans of AIDS for Humanity'and will continue to do so throughout 2011.
'In an environment where so many corporations are making cutbacks [to philanthropy] I'm just so happy I'm running a fund where the corporation is making a bigger commitment to give even more money,' Mahon says.