Jonathan Van Ness talks Pride month and advocacy: 'No one’s free until everyone’s free'

The world has been a lot more colorful the past few weeks in celebration of Pride month, with retailers, big-name companies and advocates everywhere sporting all things in rainbow in honor of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Though it may seem like acceptance and visibility of the LGBTQIA+ community is widespread as it is accepted, the frustrating truth is that it is not.

Pride month has become an opportunity for companies, organizations and influencers to use their platforms to bring visibility to a community that is still marginalized, misrepresented and unheard across so many different mediums.

A long supporter of the Human Rights Campaign and the LGBTQIA+ community, Smirnoff is stepping up their game this year for Pride month by launching a multi-faceted campaign called ‘Welcome Home’ as a tribute to WorldPride which will be hosted in New York City this year.

The campaign will feature a video series starring actress and LGBTQIA+ activist Laverne Cox that will be broadcasted at New York City area airports to greet incoming Pride-goers as the land in New York for Pride-related festivities.

Watch the 'Welcome Home' video here:

Smirnoff's campaign will also include an immersive pop-up experience called “House of Pride”, which will be hosted by Queer Eye star Jonathan Van Ness from June 26 to June 28 in New York.

For Van Ness, a vocal advocate and exemplary activist in and for the LGBTQIA+ community, working with Smirnoff means more than simply signing on to participate in a fun campaign or hosting a quick event in his city — it stands for an entire movement:

“Something I really appreciate about Smirnoff is that they’ve long been supporters of the HRC and and the LGBTQIA+ community and to have such a big company that is advocating for that community on a larger scale is really great. And as I get older, I think that Pride is really more about making sure that we have visibility and we have awareness around equal rights and we keep working towards that together. So the fact that Smirnoff hires LGBTQIA+ people to help campaign is just great, I'm really honored that Smirnoff is expanding those boundaries.

Pride means so many different things. I think that Pride month is so great because it’s a time for us to come together with our chosen family and our LGBTQIA+ family and just come together in general. Especially in the political climate that we’re in now .. just having the chance to be celebrated and have that safe space is so important.”

Smirnoff will be debuting limited Pride-edition Smirnoff No. 21 bottles branded with the word “Welcome” in six different languages throughout Pride, alongside 'Love Wins' bottles that will be for sale, with $1 from every bottle made being donated to the HRC:

“When we first started [working together] Smirnoff had pledged to contribute $1.5 million to the HRC by 2021, which I'm was so excited about, and [Smirnoff is] staying true to that and I just think that is amazing.

The bottle features this idea that love looks all different ways, and I think that’s really beautiful — totally gets my stamp of approval!"

Donations and campaigns aside, Van Ness knows that there is still much work to be done and much tougher yet necessary conversations that need to be had, and that need to be had on a national and global scale:

"I want to see more people talking about trans women who are facing violence at disproportionate rates. I want people to talk about the Trump administration’s constant attack on trans peoples’ access to healthcare and their ability to serve their country … also women’s rights and women's access to healthcare — we should be standing up and advocating for equal rights for everyone. I think thats something the LGBTQIA+ community has really always been about is that no one’s free until everyone’s free and the LGBTQIA+ people have always been the people that have advocated for everyone’s freedom."

So whether you’re celebrating Pride on the streets of New York City or from the comfort of your home wherever you may be, Van Ness wants to remind everyone that there’s no one right way to do it:

"Go into Pride celebrating it how you want to celebrate it — do it safely and do it with your friends and enjoy Pride responsibly. Have it be the celebration that you want it to be, not what you think it’s supposed to be. It’s like New Years Eve in that it's such a huge celebration that you don’t want to put too [many] expectations around ahead of time. Use it as a time to celebrate your uniqueness and as a time to bond with your fellow family, your chosen friends and family."

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