How MAC Viva Glam Pioneered the Concept of Beauty Collabs

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The story starts 27 years ago with the founders of MAC, Frank Angelo and Frank Toskan, partners in life and business. As the brand was becoming more successful, HIV and AIDS were wreaking havoc on the fashion and makeup artist communities. Angelo and Toskan wanted to do something. They created the MAC AIDS Fund and a lipstick — the first Viva Glam — as a fundraising mechanism. One hundred percent of the selling price would go to help men, women, and children affected by HIV and AIDS.

There was no TikTok. There was no Instagram. There was no instantaneous news. There was no transparency. But we always brought to light the person on the cusp of fame. When Viva Glam first launched in 1994, MAC used RuPaul as a spokesmodel before drag was mainstream. It disrupted beauty norms in a playful and engaging way.

No one started this as a marketing campaign. They did it because they wanted to help those who truly needed it. The giving model to HIV and AIDS organizations was unprecedented: We leveraged lipstick to help charitable efforts on a massive scale. Lipstick is great for fundraising — you use your mouth to spread a message and it is visible. The name, Viva Glam, came from the idea of glamour, of course, and life.

In the late 1990s, when HIV and AIDS were affecting people of color more than anybody else, we partnered with Mary J. Blige and Lil' Kim. In 2009, Lady Gaga came to me and said, "I saw Boy George in the window for a Viva Glam campaign and I wanted to do that myself." These artists leave a lot for the culture.

Since 1994, MAC has had 46 of the most influential icons associated with Viva Glam, and we love working with them to create conversations that are larger than beauty. A lot of them didn't always have picture-perfect stories. They were talented, they were outspoken, they had an edge and a point of view that some people didn't agree with. That was polarizing, but the brand is about the power of raising your voice, of using your position to promote change, and enabling makeup to transform lives.

We've raised more than $500 million for AIDS research, but statistics are just things to talk about. Viva Glam is a tapestry of community stories and that's what matters. To be able to continue it is really a blessing. — As told to Paige Stables and Brennan Kilbane

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