“I am ready to fight the whole world to see my daughter happy.”
While she may not have to fight the whole world, Nadezhda and her lesbian daughter, Karina, do face a barrage of legal and social challenges in their home country, Russia. While coming out is hard in many places, it is especially difficult for Russian LGBTQ+ people and their loved ones given the lack of representation in media and popular culture — exacerbated by a law that silences public discussion of LGBTQ+ issues.
To support the local LGBTQ+ community, the Levi’s® team in Russia recently partnered with queer culture magazine O-Zine to launch their first Pride project. Inspired by activities hosted by Europe’s LGBTQ+ employee resource group (ERG) for National Coming Out Day, they decided to create a series of videos featuring LGBTQ+ individuals talking about the fears of coming out in Russia and the importance of family support.
“People are ready to talk openly about their stories in Russia, despite all the risks,” said Maria Belitskaya, Marketing Director, East Region. “We strongly believe that it’s our mission to support the values of the brand and be ready for bold moves, like our work with O-zine.”
Levi’s® first learned about O-zine, a digital platform dedicated to dismantling stereotypes about LGBTQ+ people, in the spring, after the marketing team started working with LGBTQ+ activists to supply Levi’s® Pride pins, patches and samples of our Pride collection to influencers. Through this network, they eventually met the founders of O-zine, and the Levi’s® x O-zine project launched just a few months later.
Released in November, the videos have garnered thousands of views on Instagram as well as coverage in Russian outlets like Afisha and Buro 24/7. Levi’s® x O-zine aims to show that coming out can be a positive experience — that it can help strengthen familial relationships rather than compromise them.
In one video, Nadezhda admits she was unsure of how to react to Karina coming out but knew she wanted to remain a part of her daughter’s life. “If you love someone, you don’t try to change or fix them,” Nadezhda said. “You should accept them as they are.”
Although this particular project is over, the team is already discussing future plans with O-zine, including offline activities.
“This has actually opened us up for other uprising projects,” Maria said. “We’ve received several other proposals.”