Matt and Omar Lead the Way with their Abercrombie & Fitch 2023 Pride Campaign

June 21, 2023

Matt and Omar, shine as the faces of Abercrombie & Fitch's empowering 2023 Pride campaign. In a celebration of diversity and authenticity, the campaign showcases a remarkable ensemble of LGBTQIA+ individuals both on and off the camera, fostering an environment of inclusivity and safety. Dulcedo had the privilege of sitting down with Matt and Omar to unravel the magic behind the campaign's creation, delve into the profound significance of Pride in their lives, and gather invaluable advice for those navigating the journey of self-discovery and acceptance. Join us as we explore their inspiring stories and embrace the spirit of Pride together.

How did you get involved with Abercrombie & Fitch?

Matt: I had Abercrombie on my vision board as a brand I wanted to work with. It has always captivated my interest since I can remember. Despite its controversial history, I watched a documentary about Abercrombie that showcased its journey toward inclusivity and diversity. At the beginning of the year, I shared my desire to collaborate with Abercrombie with my agent. Graciously, they sent me some gifts, which I truly appreciated. In gratitude, I created a promotional video showcasing their products to reciprocate their generosity. Unexpectedly, Abercrombie expressed interest in continuing our partnership. They generously gave us more gifts for a sale they were hosting, leading us to collaborate on another promotional video. The brand found us to be likable and personable. They specifically mentioned Abercrombie's iconic Pride campaign. Abercrombie has been a prominent brand supporting the Trevor Project, consistently endorsing their campaigns and merchandise. I was particularly excited about participating in their Pride campaign, and to my pleasant surprise, they reached out to me in February. We discussed the campaign details, and the rest, as they say, is history!

What was the most memorable part about being on set for the campaign?

Omar: We found ourselves in Los Angeles, filming alongside eight other creators who were just as excited. What made this experience truly remarkable was the level of diversity on set. Not only were the cast members diverse, but the entire crew consisted of queer individuals. It was an incredibly inclusive environment. In the past, we had worked on Pride campaigns where we felt somewhat uncomfortable, almost like we were there as the token gay representation. However, this time was different. We were surrounded by people who were genuinely welcoming and accepting. We formed some wonderful friendships that day, and it turned out to be an unforgettable experience. It was simply the best—a truly fantastic day.

It was disheartening to see some of the negative comments on social media in regard to the campaign. How do you both as public individuals deal with negativity online?

Omar: It's unfortunate that we had to become accustomed to dealing with negativity, especially when we started gaining popularity on TikTok a few years ago. As an ex-Muslim who was vocal about leaving the religion, I received hate comments and even death threats. During the COVID lockdown, while posting content online, the death threats became overwhelming and took a toll on me. Gradually, I learned not to internalize negativity and started minimizing my interactions with comments. My focus shifted to creating content for those who truly appreciate and benefit from visibility and representation, rather than catering to a loud, negative minority. Responding to or educating such individuals is not my responsibility, as I prioritize the support and well-being of those who genuinely connect with us.
Matt: While nasty comments exist, they are outweighed by the countless lovely comments and messages from people who love what we do, inspire us, and find hope in our content, especially young queer individuals in small towns. It's essential to concentrate on the positive impact we have and the meaningful connections we make, rather than allowing detractors and their engagement-seeking comments to affect us.

Omar, since you are originally from the UK, I wanted to discuss the differences you may have observed in terms of progress and the queer communities between North America and the UK. Curious about the cultural contrasts in this regard.

Omar: In terms of acceptance and progress in the queer communities, I have noticed some differences between North America and the UK. While I feel that people in North America are generally more open and willing to engage in conversations about societal issues and our communities, I sometimes find that the mindset in certain areas of the UK, particularly as you move further north, can be more closed-minded and backward. It seems that in North America, there is more space for open dialogue and a willingness to analyze society and its challenges. On the other hand, in the UK, there can be a tendency to brush issues under the rug and avoid confronting them directly.
However, in terms of visibility and advocacy, I believe that we are more vocal and assertive in North America. We are louder about our need for visibility and recognition. Nevertheless, the UK still has a long way to go in terms of progress and creating an inclusive environment.
It's interesting to note that while there may be criticism of the US and its current political climate, similar issues and vitriol exist in the UK and other parts of the world. Sometimes, people fail to pay attention to these issues outside of their own immediate surroundings.

What advice would you have for someone who is struggling with their identity due to societal, cultural, family, or religious pressures?

Matt: There seems to be a lot of societal pressure surrounding the process of coming out, whether it's influenced by seeing others who are out or specific dates like National Coming Out Day. However, it's important to remember that coming out should happen when an individual feels ready, and it should not be forced or rushed. In an ideal world, there wouldn't even be a need for a coming out process, as acceptance should be the norm. Unfortunately, certain environments may present challenges, such as religious or familial pressures, making it unsafe for individuals to openly express their sexual orientation or gender identity. In such cases, it's crucial to prioritize personal safety and find small, safe spaces where one can be themselves, even if it's just a queer bar or an online support group. These can serve as stepping stones towards a future where it feels safer to fully embrace one's identity. The key is to take little, manageable steps toward that desired future, emphasizing personal safety above all else.
Omar: When I came out at a young age, my family's biggest concern was about what others would think of me. They kept repeating that question, "What are they gonna think?" However, I began to question the importance of caring about others' opinions. What if we stopped giving so much weight to what people think of us? Personally, I made the decision to prioritize my own happiness. I knew that if I didn't come out at that moment, I wouldn't be able to live authentically and find happiness in the long run. Fortunately, I had a safe space to retreat to. I had a close group of friends and a support system I could rely on. It's crucial to find that core group of people who will support and accept you unconditionally, regardless of what others may think.

If you could share a message for Pride this year, what would it be?

Omar: In today's world, there is an abundance of both challenges and progress for queer individuals. There is an overwhelming presence of media and targeted attacks aimed at the queer community worldwide. However, it is crucial to recognize the significant progress that has been made and the immense love and support within the community. It can be easy to become consumed by a single hate comment and allow it to overshadow the hundreds of expressions of love and acceptance. Therefore, it is important not to let fear hold you back. Embrace who you are and be unapologetically yourself, knowing that there is a vast community ready to support you.

We're only six months into the year and you have accomplished so much. What else is on your bucket list?

Matt and Omar: When considering a bucket list, we realized that our vision for the future is centered around opportunities that allow us to showcase our authentic selves, express our creativity, and connect with our community on a deeper level. Our focus is on living life to the fullest, embracing exploration, and finding inner peace along the way. It's about cherishing these moments and creating meaningful experiences that align with who we truly are.

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