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Influence and Impact with Amanda Gorman and Estée Lauder


Cannes Lions Amanda Gorman
Amanda Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history. She is a committed advocate for the environment, racial equality, and gender justice. Gorman’s performance of her poem “The Hill We Climb” at the 2021 Presidential Inauguration received critical acclaim and international attention. As the first-ever Estée Lauder Global Changemaker, National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman is not only the face of a global company but a creative artist and social advocate.

Can you please describe all the influence you'd like to create in the world now?
Amanda Gorman: I come from a sociological background and in sociology we talk a lot about the difference between freedom and power/influence. Freedom is the ability to make your own choices and power is the ability to influence the choices of others. And when I think about influence is not necessarily that I want to mechanize the choices of other people, but I want to expand the choices they have available and that's something that I've loved doing with writing change. With Estée Lauder we are thinking of how can we stand together to make sure that marginalized communities, especially the women in those communities, have as much choices, opportunities and options as possible. I think I've been very fortunate to have a lot of visibility at a very young age. I can use that visibility to make sure that a light is shed on other people. I can't imagine a more profound use of my time.

Many of us knew of you before the inauguration, however, that was a moment where your name came to signify something quite broad and powerful. And so, talk a little bit about that responsibility.
Amanda Gorman: I think it was one of the things that really solidified in my head and thinking to myself, oh you've entered a new chapter in your life. Somebody sent me a video of a student reading poetry in their classroom, and this was a student who had a really difficult time speaking up and being heard at school, and one of the things he said to his father after he recited his poem was, “Dad I was like Amanda Gorman.” It just struck me that someone so young and so talented would use my name as if those words meant something to him. And I think that really underscored for me that words matter and I think some of the most powerful words are in names, in saying them, in earning them, in deserving the type of light that we want to embody just by stepping into space.

What was behind your decision to put your name to a brand like Estée Lauder? At a moment when there were a lot of choices at your feet. What guided your decision?
Amanda Gorman: In that space around three years ago, I suddenly felt like I was under the spotlight. I wanted to partner with a brand that shared my story, my value system in which we would use my power to empower others. My team and I, we did a lot of research, had a lot of conversations, and we had so many amazing brands that wanted to work with us. But I think what really drew us to Estée Lauder is that the team really came with such a clean and open slate. A lot of other conversations I'd had before wanted me to fit into a cookie cutter traditional spokesperson role which is fine for certain people. But I wanted to find a company that would enable me to break outside of those rules and regulations and to find a way to do something new, and something impactful that spoke to something larger than ourselves. Like thinking what we can do with literacy and women? And how can we put our funds behind that and how it can be connected to makeup? I was just exhilarated and it felt like such a safe and insurer, but also intentional space to share with the world. I'm so grateful and I am so happy that I made that decision.

What are you looking for in terms of a brand being behind its values and what does that look like to you both as a consumer and as somebody who made the choice to partner with the brand?
Amanda Gorman: I think this is something that also Gen Z is very interested in when we purchase from engaged different brands. Something I look at is the history of that brand, and I don't necessarily mean where it's starting or its past, but where it's going, where's its trajectory. Is it aiming itself at tomorrow as opposed to kind of rooting itself in yesterday? And so, I love to pay attention to that. Names speak but also numbers do. And that's something that the consumer is more and more aware of as time goes on. We know the brands that are fast fashion, we know the brands that are giving money to causes that aren't serving the planet or the world, and so we really now more than ever have a lot of currency in the knowledge of the values of a brand. And when we're examining those, both I as just a spokesperson or a consumer, the more kind of ticks that you can get if checking off; I know this is getting sourced well, I know that the people that are building this are getting compensated, I know that this money is not going to just pay for a company but also for a vision. Those are the things that I look to not just for the authenticity in an organization but also just the goodness like where is this power being utilized?

Data can be comforting as much as it can be misleading. Because you want to change the world how do you measure that?
Amanda Gorman: To bring it back to my sociology background, when you are doing a study, the first thing that you look for is operationalization, which is a really long way of saying: How do I know these numbers, the way that I'm measuring this is actually measuring what I want to look at? How do I know the way I'm looking at is actually reflecting the question that I have? And that's something that I've taken into our partnership where we've been really fortunate and blessed to be working with incredible organizations that are doing amazing work behind literacy, but we also want to hold ourselves accountable that this money is actually being operationalized or expanded in a way that goes beyond just giving a dollar. And I've felt really lucky that I've been able to have sit-down conversations with the heads of these organizations and I think in those types of conversations, you get information that transcends numbers. You get information about what is the environment, the emotional health, the psychology of the people that are entering this organization now. How have they grown? How have they changed? That's a way of responsible giving. It's not giving and walking away. It's giving and participating in whatever leads next from that one domino being flicked. And so just being a part of the dialogue is one of the main steps that I take to make sure that writing change is actually not just writing change but making it.

Each brand and each person have a unique voice. How do you combine the two or keep them separate and distinct from one another?
Amanda Gorman: I think what was important for me in this partnership is obviously Estée Lauder companies and I have two distinct voices, but we're singing a very similar song. I think it's having the trust to say, “I'm going to let you sing the chorus and I'll join with you on some verses and some bridges.” We don't have to be singing the same exact thing, but as long as what we're saying is chiming and flowing together, we're actually louder as a single voice together than we were alone.

Advocacy work is often heavy, exhausting, and slow. How do you keep from letting frustration overtake you?
Amanda Gorman: There's something in psychology called negative sentiment overload. It's kind of if we go from zero, I'm feeling great and okay to 10, and I'm feeling super stressed and overworked. If you're at eight or nine most of your days, it takes very little things to push you over the edge where you're feeling just so burnt out. And if we can find ways to bring that eight or nine down to a six, then life becomes a little bit more manageable and a little bit more monitorable. What I try to do is I know I live a life which is constantly going to want me to be at that nine. It's my job for myself to take that run, take that walk, watch that TV show, and pet my dog, whatever I need to do to honor the need in myself to have what I call kind of cave time, meaning the time where I'm not expected to be anything, I'm just expected to exist. And that's something that I have to demand for myself because no one else is going to give it to me unless demanded of.

Finally, what change do you want to see in the world?
Amanda Gorman: I want to see more of a bright and beautiful, diverse range of stories in the world. I want to see more storytellers, more voices and narratives that we have yet to see in history. I'm excited for those truths to be brought to light.