Q&A with M.A.C's Nancy Mahon

Nancy Mahon shares about AIDS, charity, lipsticks, and Rihanna

By Andrea Tim | Published: 14 Feb 2014

M.A.C fights AIDS
Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

From her role as executive director of God's Love We Deliver to becoming senior vice president of M.A.C Cosmetics and global executive director of the M.A.C AIDS Fund, Nancy Mahon has worked diligently to make a difference in the global effort to battle HIV/AIDS.

Thanks to her passion and numerous M.A.C project collaborations with music personalities, the latest of whom is Rihanna, Nancy's time in the cosmetics company has seen a massive growth in the fund as well as an undeniable AIDS-awareness reach.

The Yale and NYU graduate, Joan Baez fan, and mother of two spoke to ELLE Malaysia about the M.A.C AIDS Fund, in both a professional and personal light.

How does M.A.C. choose their ambassadors?
The M.A.C AIDS Fund is the heart and soul of M.A.C Cosmetics, representing a cause that has been embraced and adopted by thousands of employees and its artists around the world. We expect the same from our spokespeople.

The VIVA GLAM campaign leverages the support and goodwill of spokespeople like Rihanna who bring unparalleled exposure and awareness to the cause. When Rihanna speaks, tweets, Instagrams – people listen and we saw that with the immense success of her RiRi Hearts M.A.C collections. There is no better person right now to lend her powerful and unique voice to lead the young generation in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Campaigns with celebrities, such as Rihanna, help the Fund because they help to raise the profile of the Fund and garner much needed attention for the HIV cause. People listen to celebrities in a way that they often don't listen to their doctors or health professionals.

In addition to the advertising campaigns, we also communicate our VIVA GLAM campaign through our social media platforms, such as Facebook, YouTube, @maccosmetics twitter handle. We have also recently launched the @MACAIDSFund twitter handle to better communicate about the important work that we support, and highlight our grantee organisations.

How does the M.A.C AIDS Fund work?
In 1994, M.A.C's co-founders searched for a way to respond to the epidemic. Encouraged by input from employees, they decided to create the M.A.C AIDS Fund and make HIV/AIDS organisations the beneficiaries of the company's charitable focus.

To date, through fundraising initiatives such as VIVA GLAM, and with the help of celebrity spokespeople from the entertainment and fashion industries, the VIVA GLAM campaign has raised over $325 million USD. M.A.C VIVA GLAM is sold in over 80 countries around the world, and VIVA GLAM funds support local programmes working with people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.

MAF gives away approximately $15 million annually through our community grants programmes that focus on poverty based services for people living with HIV/AIDS. We also fund large scale partnerships such as our $6M partnership with UNICEF to prevent new infections. Through this global partnership with UNICEF, M.A.C markets around the globe have donated over $6 million USD to support scaling up efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV, and expanding treatment access for children living with HIV/AIDS.

How is the contribution of the M.A.C. AIDS Fund different to other global efforts to prevent HIV/AIDS?
M.A.C as a brand is not afraid to be edgy and take risks, and that translates to the work of the M.A.C AIDS Fund. We are able to fund programmes that other donors may not want to fund, and take risks funding new and innovative programmes. For instance, we fund harm reduction programmes and clean syringe access programmes to help prevent the transmission of HIV, an area that many funders will not support.

We have also funded pilot programmes to help HIV/AIDS organisations launch new programmes, such as our partnership with Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and the World Health Organisation to pilot their Treatment 2.0 initiative in Vietnam to improve and increase access to treatment.

What sort of challenges has the fund faced since its inception?
Over the last few years, funding for HIV/AIDS has been declining. There are 33 million people living with HIV in the world, and we would love more company and have more funders and companies joining us in the fight against AIDS.

Why did you choose Rihanna for the 2014 Viva Glam campaign?
Rihanna is the brand's first creative partner, and her RiRi Hearts M.A.C collections were so successful that we decided to extend her role into the philanthropic side of the brand with the M.A.C AIDS Fund. Bringing Rihanna into VIVA GLAM was a natural next step as VIVA GLAM is solely in the lip category and we saw the success that the RiRi Hearts M.A.C lipsticks had almost immediately. It's no surprise as lip products are a staple to her beauty looks.

M.A.C AIDS Fund will reap the benefits that the brand has seen with Rihanna's ability to boost our lip category, and 100 percent of the selling price of every M.A.C VIVA GLAM lipstick goes directly to support people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.

Why lipstick? Why not an eye shadow or a cosmetic bag?
We would like to have a product as universal as possible, and everyone needs a lipstick in their purse. By buying a VIVA GLAM lipstick, you can save a life, so we hope everyone can participate in our VIVA GLAM campaign.

How would one lipstick be able to remind people, especially those who buy it, of the global fight against AIDS?
One VIVA GLAM can purchase 254 condoms to prevent the transmission of HIV; purchase 200 new syringes, which are given to injection drug users in exchange for used needles to prevent HIV transmission; provide client and nutrition services for 13 people living with HIV/AIDS; and provide fresh fruit, vegetables, and grocery essentials to a mother and child affected by HIV for a full week.

How is M.A.C.'s charity work different from other fashion and cosmetic brands?
M.A.C's model is a 100% selling price model, which is very unique for all cause-related marketing campaigns. When you buy a M.A.C VIVA GLAM lipstick, 100% of the selling price goes to the M.A.C AIDS Fund and to support people living with HIV/AIDS.

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