I imagine I don’t really give the impression of someone who would have to hide who I was, given how outwardly confident and passionate I am about the industry. But despite all the experience I’ve had as both a producer and owner of my own production company, I spent many years of my career doing exactly that.
What the majority of people who meet me assume, is that I date men. Given how the LGBTQIA community weren’t as accepted then as they are today, I was wary of correcting people when I first started out in the industry.
Whether it’s because of doubt, not feeling comfortable enough to speak out at the time, or internalised homophobia, it’s a situation that many LGBTQIA+ creatives can relate to. Narrow-minded associations with our community were so commonplace, those like me who could blend in, often would do so to avoid being held back.
I hid who I was from colleagues and clients who would ask about my personal life. But one conversation in particular stood out. Whilst working on a shoot in London, I was advised by a peer that to be a successful producer as a woman, we all had to “flirt to work”. I’d already set up my own production company at that point and was thriving, despite being in the middle of a recession. But what she said really stuck with me.
There’s no clear standout point as to when I began to feel more comfortable in being open about who I was dating. But slowly, the ‘he’ in my life became a ‘she’ whenever anyone asked. In reality, no one reacted badly, but it made a huge difference for me personally at work, and because I had a life I could talk freely about, the working relationship with my clients felt a lot closer.
Virgilia and I have a working relationship that spans seven years. When we both realised that we had the same goal of showing brands the benefits of what a genuinely diverse team can bring to their campaigns, coming together to form Gather made sense, to create a change in the industry.
Even though I’ve produced shoots for the likes of Rolex, John Lewis, Virgin Atlantic and Coca Cola, it took me 15 years to be my authentic self at work. I don’t believe it should take anyone else that long, and since Gather is determined to show brands the value diverse talent brings to their team, we’re making sure it won’t.