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adobo SheCreative Conference 2024: Unilever PR and Influencer Lead Lui Castañeda highlights the importance of representation and authenticity in advertising

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — “It felt like a love letter to the community — a way to promote self-affirmation and representation to everyone through the work that I do,” Lui Castañeda, PR and Influencer Lead at Unilever Beauty & Wellbeing Southeast Asia (Malaysia/Philippines/Singapore) shared in her talk at the 2024 adobo SheCreative Conference last March 26. “I’m so proud that at Unilever Beauty & Wellbeing, we are leading the charge with groundbreaking un-stereotyping initiatives.”

This year’s SheCreative Conference was centered around the theme “Forging a Sustainable Future for Creativity” — exploring ways to create a more stable foundation for the creative economy. Being an avid lover of all things beauty and fashion since a young age, Lui shared her experiences today as an integral member of these industries, and how her self-identity and passion to serve the LGBTQIA+ community help progress representation in advertising. 

While most people like the aesthetic of beauty and fashion, Lui was drawn to the business aspect of these industries. “Leveraging desire into making a business — making an economy out of desire,” was how she described what piqued her interest in these fields. Shortly after graduating from college in 2010, she pursued a career in beauty and fashion. However, she found out that those industries weren’t as welcoming back then as they are now. “There was this heteronormative standard. As a trans woman, I didn’t feel that I belonged.”

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What looked like a setback actually presented her with the opportunity to discover a new perspective on how she can join the world of beauty and fashion, and started the path that would lead her to where she is now. She joined PR agencies and had worked closely with popular beauty and fashion brands. And through her projects, she was able to make small steps towards representation and inclusion. But that wasn’t enough to make the impact she was aiming for. “I realized that us agency people, we can’t really call the shots. We’re always out to execute someone else’s vision. If I wanted to change that, I had to do it from the inside.”

This epiphany led Lui to Unilever Beauty & Wellbeing, where she now actively challenges the norms of society and champions equity, diversity, and inclusion — the same values in Unilever’s DNA. “It felt like a love letter to the community — a way to promote self-affirmation and representation to everyone through the work that I do.”

She emphasized that Unilever thoroughly does its research on how consumers perceive advertising materials, and expressed that the numbers are quite staggering. “A lot of people felt disconnected from the advertising,” Lui stated. She explained that there’s also a strong desire for more inclusive portrayals in the media targeted towards the consumers. 

“As an industry, we can do so much better. Not just as brands, but also as suppliers, agencies, and creatives, everyone in the industry can do so much better. I’m so proud that at Unilever Beauty & Wellbeing, we are leading the charge with groundbreaking un-stereotyping initiatives.”

Being a trans woman who has experienced firsthand the hardships of changing society’s ideas on representation and inclusion, Lui expressed that she also has the advantage of offering in-depth discernment on the matter. “Our goal here is to create an authentic, accessible and equitable world, free from stereotypes. Who better to do that than someone who is a minority? Someone who benefits from this inclusivity from inside?”

With the leadership and power she now holds and takes great care of, Lui shared that her greater purpose and the reason why she enjoys doing her work is because she knows that she can help people discover their true beauty. Her vision of the future of creativity is about forging diverse connections, and helping break barriers to unleash the potential of different people.

“It’s amazing what the power of beauty can actually do when we are more inclusive. This is, I think, the future of beauty. And this is a future built on inclusion.”

Lui divulged more of her thoughts on breaking stereotypes in advertising, how brands can create safe spaces for people of diverse backgrounds, and championing authenticity in this exclusive interview with adobo Magazine held at the SheCreative Conference:

The adobo SheCreative Conference 2024: Forging a Sustainable Future for Creativity was co-presented by Unilever and in partnership with Future Proof.

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