Years and Years’ frontman Olly Alexander has attacked corporations for exploiting the rainbow flag and LGBT+ community during Pride Month, describing them as “icky”, “embarrassing” and “sh*t”.

Sharing a photo of an email his manager was recently sent, the lead singer of the British synth-pop band accused companies of only doing the “bare minimum” by slapping the rainbow flag across products during the LGBT+ awareness and celebration month, in a bid to superficially capitalise on a much broader movement and struggle.

Olly Alexander on the Birmingham Pride 2019 Main StageNikhara Korpal
Olly Alexander from Years & Years at Birmingham Pride 2019

Accompanying a picture of a vague e-mail request asking Alexander to do a post for a brand’s “amazing Pride collection”, the singer wrote on Instagram:

“My manager has been getting requests like this every day, I’m guessing it was emailed out to a bunch of people, no details on what this amazing pride collection is or what this big famous brand with lots of money plan to do with any ‘proceeds’.

“I just…. the bare minimum approach here makes me laugh. No matter where you stand on corporate brand-pride tie ins it’s hard not to feel this years 2019 pride collection of mouthwash, t-shirts (socks shoes jumpers glasses hats ) banks and sandwiches has felt especially icky.

“Representation matters, of course, and corporate pride / rainbow capitalism might be hideous but at least queer people are getting paid.”

Years & Years frontman Olly Alexander in Birmingham last November last yearAdam Yosef
Years & Years frontman Olly Alexander in Birmingham last November last year

The 28-year-old singer, who has regularly been vocal about LGBT+ issues, including bullying, youth suicide, mental health and supporting LGBT+ Muslims, added:

“I know there are well intentioned people behind many of these campaigns but….just no. Re-doing your logo in a rainbow and ‘donating a portion of proceeds’ is not enough!!!! (possibly not even happening with this brand!??) I wish brands would realise how embarrassing this kind of shit is 🤦🏼‍♀️”

The artist’s posts shaming big brands appeared to be a response to a plethora of Pride-themed products that have hit store shelves this month, including Listerine mouthwash, Doritos crisps and Marks & Spencer’s ‘LGBT’ sandwich, bizarrely named for its Lettuce, Guacamole, Bacon and Tomato ingredients.

Alexander’s message has gained over 27,000 likes, with fellow music stars Sam Smith and Christine and the Queens replying “Amen”, and Ru Paul’s Drag Race season seven winner Violet Chachki responding with: “SCALDING HOT TEA”.

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my manager has been getting requests like this every day, I’m guessing it was emailed out to a bunch of people, no details on what this amazing pride collection is or what this big famous brand with lots of money plan to do with any ‘proceeds’. I just…. the bare minimum approach here makes me laugh. No matter where you stand on corporate brand-pride tie ins it’s hard not to feel this years 2019 pride collection of mouthwash, t-shirts (socks shoes jumpers glasses hats ) banks and sandwiches has felt especially icky. representation matters, of course, and corporate pride / rainbow capitalism might be hideous but at least queer people are getting paid…and….I know there are well intentioned people behind many of these campaigns but….just no. Re-doing your logo in a rainbow and ‘dOnAtInG a PoRTiOn Of pRoCeEds’ is not enough!!!!(possibly not even happening with this brand!??)) I wish brands would realize how embarrassing this kind of shit is 🤦🏼‍♀️

A post shared by olly (@ollyyears) on

The sentiment around the rainbow flag being hijacked by big business isn’t new, with many in the LGBT+ community feeling sceptical of brands and organisations who only adopt the flag during this one month, and only aesthetically.

Corporations who are involved in or fund human rights violations in other parts of the world, especially those which target LGBT+ individuals, have also been heavily criticised; with the practice commonly known as “pinkwashing”. The phrase can also be often used to simply describe organisations, political entities and corporations who try to use the rainbow LGBT+ ‘brand’ as a means of appearing more inclusive, tolerant and progressive; regardless of whether this is true or not.


Which brands have controversially adopted rainbows?

Donald Trump launched Pride Month with a $24 'LGBTQ for Trump' t-shirtDonaldJTrump/Twitter
Donald Trump launched Pride Month with a $24 ‘LGBTQ for Trump’ t-shirt

Incredibly, more brands dressed themselves up in the LGBT+ rainbow flag this year than ever before, as it becomes an increasingly appealing means of appearing progressive to potential customers. Some of the more controversial appropriation attempts so far this year have included:

  • Listerine became the butt of jokes last month when the brand released a rainbow-coloured bottle of mouthwash.
    In response, one Twitter user wrote: “I’m so f**king tired of companies just chucking a rainbow on their shite to sell to us as if it means something”, while another joked: “We as gay people, we get to choose how we freshen our breath.”
  • Marks and Spencer launched a special LGBT sandwich as early as May this year but rather than the initials standing for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, the M&S version apparently stood for lettuce, guacamole, bacon and tomato. While some admired the wordplay, many were left confused at the idea of individual and group identities being comparatively reduced to a supermarket snack. The supermarket also received some flack for not donating proceeds directly to LGBT+ groups, opting to donate £10,000 to the Albert Kennedy Trust instead, a charity for young homeless LGBT+ people.
  • Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump offered the most bizarre contribution to the rainbow-ready corporate machine, with an “LGBTQ for Trump” T-shirt just in time for Pride Month. The POTUS was selling the souvenir garment for $24, despite actively choosing to ignore Pride month repeatedly since taking office. Doubling down on the anti-LGBT+ stance, Trump’s administration has attacked LGBT+ rights more than 100 times, according to LGBT acceptance organisation GLAAD. Strangely, the t-shirt in question appears to have vanished from The Donald’s website since the ensuing uproar.
  • The British Home Office has also come under fire for wrapping its logo in the rainbow flag at the start of this month across its social media platforms; in the same week it decided to deport a gay man named Ken Machari back to Kenya, where gay sex is illegal.
  • The NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) was also attacked for its decision to cut ties with transgender activist Munroe Bergdorf as the face of an anti-trans hate campaign, all while flying the rainbow flag within its logo for Pride Month. Oh, the shame.
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https://www.iambirmingham.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Olly-Alexander-attacks-corporate-Pride-explitation-800x508.pnghttps://www.iambirmingham.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Olly-Alexander-attacks-corporate-Pride-explitation-300x190.pngStaff ReporterBusinessLGBT+NewsRetailWorldappropriation,Birmingham,brands,Brum,business,corporate,corporations,Donald J. Trump,Donald Trump,Gay,Gay Pride,Home Office,I Am Bham,I Am Birmingham,Instagram,Lesbian,LGBT,LGBT rainbow,LGBTQ,LGBTQ Month,Listerine,M&S,Marks and Spencer,NSPCC,Olly Alexander,pink-washing,Pinkwashing,Pride,pride month,Pride rainbow,rainbow flag,Social Media,t-shirt,Transgender,UK,US,USA,years & years,Years & Years band,Years and YearsYears and Years' frontman Olly Alexander has attacked corporations for exploiting the rainbow flag and LGBT+ community during Pride Month, describing them as 'icky', 'embarrassing' and 'sh*t'. Sharing a photo of an email his manager was recently sent, the lead singer of the British synth-pop band accused companies of only doing the...The latest news, updates and events in Birmingham