Pride Media, Snapchat form LGBTQ augmented reality experience

Champions of Pride map, courtesy of Rogers and Cowan PMK

In the spirit of innovative technology and celebrating diverse LGBTQ+ leaders from around the country, Pride Media, which publishes The Advocate, teamed up with social media company Snapchat to produce a cutting edge augmented reality experience for the magazine’s Champions of Pride list. Champions of Pride highlights 102 LGBTQ people who have been enacting substantial change in their communities locally and nationally.

The Champions of Pride list features two representatives from each U.S. state, plus Washington D.C. For Pennsylvania, the Pride Media team chose to feature the ACLU’s Amber Hikes, former executive director of Philadelphia’s Office of LGBT Affairs, and Brian Kelly, founder of the travel blog The Points Guy.

 A screenshot of the Champions of Pride augmented reality experience

“The Advocate is part of queer history, but it’s also part of the queer future,” said co-editor in chief Tracy Gilchrist. “We’re not just looking back, we’re looking toward the future, so it’s also up to The Advocate to amplify the voices of the young queer people who are coming up and out and who are going to be carrying the mantle and forcing change for the next generation. This partnership with Snapchat is beautiful because it’s a look at history, and it’s also a look to the future.” 

Snapchat’s Official Lens Creators fashioned different virtual lenses — which overlay imagery on to a screen — for each region of the U.S. The North Atlantic lens portrays Champions of Pride through a New York-style gallery setting, with virtual photos of each person on the walls. Other lenses capture the essence of the Pacific West, Mountain, Midwest and Southern regions of the U.S. Artist Joshua Keeney designed the North Atlantic lens. 

Hikes and Kelly, whose photos appear in the virtually gallery, were chosen to represent Pennsylvania for their work in the LGBTQ community.

“What we look for in the champions is people who are making strides, despite whatever obstacles they’ve had to overcome, and those who are making room and space for other LGBTQ+ people through their visibility and representation,” Gilchrist said. “Both [Amber and Brian] are representative of that and are genuinely champions.” 

Hikes has achieved noteworthy change fighting for LGBTQ communities, communities of color and intersections of the two. As the former head of Philadelphia’s Office of LGBT Affairs, she oversaw the formation of the LGBTQ State of the Union, and perhaps most famously, she added black and brown stripes to Philadelphia’s LGBTQ flag, inciting a larger conversation about the intersection and inclusion of people of color in the queer community.  

“That conversation persists today,” David Artavia, The Advocate’s co-editor in chief, said. “It’s so poignant, especially now when we’re talking about inclusion of Black and Brown faces and Black and Brown voices in the narrative of LGBTQ equality.”

As part of his advocacy and philanthropy, Kelly donates airline points and miles to the organization Rainbow Railroad, which helps LGBTQ asylum seekers get to safety and supports them before, during and after their journey. He is also matching up to $50,000 in donations to the Ali Forney Center, a New York organization that provides a wealth of resources for LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness, including transitional housing and mental health and substance abuse resources.

“That for me is a perfect example of how CEOs and entrepreneurs can give back outside of just money,” Artavia said. “He was using his platform to give back in a way that’s a little bit outside the box.”

Both Artavia and Gilchrist commented on the technological aspect of the partnership as a tool for igniting activism and change. 

“The idea of tech activism is so poignant right now,” Artavia said. “If you’re looking around at what’s happening today in the country with the protests, this is all organized by young people, by people who are aware of what’s happening in the culture, but also who know how to use tech. They’re organizing through social media and through their apps and in all of these different ways that older generations might not necessarily be in step with just yet.”

Gilchrist added that Snapchat and Pride Media’s partnership also represents the resilience of the marginalized communities in the face of decades of uphill civil rights battles.  

“I think that holding onto that resilience and being able to visualize and see this beautiful swath of diverse people who are out there making change, some of them in their 80s, some of them in their teens, it really highlights that we are strong people and we’re not going away,” she said. “In this quiet way, it’s about the strength of community and movements.”
The AR experience of the 2020 Champions of Pride issue can be found at