Once, years ago, when I was still capable of feeling, I was out at my favourite transsexual lip-synching night in Montreal (Cleopatra’s forever!) with my best friend Jean-Luc, crying about a boy. Said boy had ended things with me to get back together with his ex-girlfriend, a financially, emotionally and even aesthetically stable girl who thought her exaggerated obsession with ballet flats and Buffy the Vampire Slayer made her quirky and hilarious. But I’m not judging!
As Jean-Luc and I watched our favourite transsexual – who was dressed up in head-to-toe sequins and a black wig – mouth the words to Liza Minnelli’s version of “New York, New York” with the emotional range of Daniel Day-Lewis, J-L shared something prolific with me. First he said, “Franchement, Vicki, it’s like we’re actually experiencing Liza in her prime!” And then he told me this: There are two types of people in the world, cheesecake and strawberry shortcake. Most people are strawberry shortcake, and strawberry shortcake is fine. You always get what you expect, and while you’re never overwhelmingly satisfied, there’s definitely a spark missing. Then there is cheesecake. Cheesecake is unbelievable and sublime! You just have to look at it to become obsessed with the idea of over-indulging, but after a few bites, most people can’t handle it anymore. They’d rather have strawberry shortcake, as lacklustre but nevertheless predictable as it may be. He then said, “You, my love, are cheesecake.”
Sure, being cheesecake means you won’t always fit in, won’t always feel the love from the pack and might even be made to feel like you don’t belong from time to time. On a not-so great day, it’s sometimes hard to remember that being different is the same thing as being special. That’s why I love M-A-C Viva Glam campaigns. Not only do 100% of the sales from the lipsticks and lipglosses in the ads go to helping people living with HIV/AIDS around the world, the stars in the campaigns are always people who perfectly embody what it is to be cheesecake. I’m sure someone told RuPaul at one point that she’d never become the icon that she is today if she didn’t tone it down, but she stayed true to her authentic self, showed us all what it means to “werk” and continues to inspire a ton of young people to accept their badass, atypical selves today. Oh my God, I think my eyes just welled up with tears. I am capable of feeling! Here the top five M-A-C Viva Glam campaigns that make we unconventionals feel oh-so good about being cheesecake…
Viva Glam I, RuPaul
RuPaul was the very first M-A-C Viva Glam spokesperson, and she set the bar high. I mean, just look at those legs! I would lip sync for those legs! Her campaigns in 1994-5 led to the first million dollars of lipstick sales for the M-A-C AIDS Fund, and launched the Canadian cosmetic brand’s unique approach to “do goodin’” and propelled M-A-C’s “all ages, all races, all sexes” mantra into the stratosphere of awesome. Has red pleather ever looked this good? Sashay, shanté, muthaf*cka!
Viva Glam IV, Campaign 1, Sir Elton John, Mary J. Blige, Shirley Manson
Shirley Manson, Elton John and Mary J. Blige teamed up to be the spokespeople for VIVA GLAM IV lipstick in 2003, and this explosion of fabulousness ensued. Yeah, I’m only happy when it rains too, if it means pink clouds are in the sky and Elton John’s going to hold me close while he sings “Tiny Dancer.”
Viva Glam VI, Campaign 1, Dita Von Teese
I once got to hang out with Dita Von Teese for an entire day in Los Angeles, and I can tell you that she’s the coolest, nicest, and most original and beautiful person I’ve ever met. I know that sounds like bragging but, dudes, I interview celebrities for a living, and no one has impressed me the way Dita did. Dita single-handedly brought burlesque back into the mainstream and, hot damn, look at that perfect skin! She makes me believe in the idea that being unique is so much sexier than going for cookie-cutter hotness.
Viva Glam II, KD Lang
M-A-C followed its RuPaul Viva Glam campaign with one starring Canadian songstress kd Lang, who the brand referred to as a “non-lipstick lesbian.” In the ad, Lang is wearing pink lipstick as well as a lipstick kiss mark on her cheek. Keep in mind that this was back in the mid-90s when insinuated girl-on-girl action that was outside the realm of “lipstick lesbianism” still caused waves of shock in popular culture. This ad came out the same year that Ellen DeGeneres decided to make her character openly gay on the sitcom Ellen… and the show was cancelled less than a year later. That just goes to show you how bold this ad was at the time.
Viva Glam Ricky & Nicki, Ricky Martin and Nicki Minaj
Ricky Martin and Nicki Minaj joined forces for this awesome 2012 M-A-C Viva Glam campaign for their very own products, Nicki’s flamingo-pink lipstick and Ricky’s unisex lip conditioner. Not only did Ricky Martin prove that Neil Patrick Harris isn’t the only one whose career can be reignited by coming out, but his lip conditioner is actually ridiculously awesome – perfect for giving things like prejudice, homophobia, bullying and banality in general the kiss off.