A new Gillette ad being praised for its inclusivity features a transgender man shaving for the first time while being coached by his father.
The ad begins with Samson Bonkeabantu Brown, an artist from Toronto, Ont., talking about how when he was growing up, “he always knew he was different.”
The video, shared on Gillette’s Facebook page, shows Brown standing in front of a bathroom mirror, razor in hand, with his father coaching him in the background.
“Shaving is about being confident,” Brown’s father says, urging him not to be nervous.
Confidence is something that Brown says he brings to every aspect of his life and, by extension, his art.
“As a child growing up I knew that I was meant to be a boy who eventually grow into a man,” Brown said in an email to CTV News.ca
“Since becoming more in tune with my spirituality and…serving my ancestors, I have found the confidence to live my truth and come into my own.”
Brown, a self-described “Jamal of all hustles,” is a transgender advocate and artist with credentials in acting, tap dancing, playwriting and stage and production managing.
His website states that his primary focus “is to create visibility for men of trans experience and to educate the general public on trans issues.”
Brown says his art is “directly affected by (his) identity,” and he uses his identity “for the purpose of spreading a message of love for self and community.”
As for his starring role in the Gillette commercial, Brown says it’s been an “affirming experience.”
“For the black trans community specifically, it is not only affirming but it is a testament to all that we can achieve when we commit to standing in our truth,” he said.
Giving examples of successful black trans women in the spotlight – Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, Dominique Jackson and Angelica Ross – Brown said “it’s not often that we see black trans men center stage in the media.”
“For a community that has seen far too many losses in the countless trans women who have lost their lives for living their truth, I think being able to see another trans man center stage has been a welcome change.”
In a statement to CTV News.ca, Gillette said they “recognize that the trans experience is underrepresented” and in their process of learning about the role shaving plays for the transgender community, they “were lucky to meet Samson and have the opportunity to share his story.”
Brown’s Gillette ad has been viewed on Facebook over 800,000 times, shared over 6000 times and is still making waves on Twitter and Instagram.
The comment section underneath the Facebook post is inundated with messages of support and thanks to Gillette, with many users sharing their own ‘first shave’ moments as a transgender person.
The ad, also a short film -- titled “First Shave” -- is part of Gillette’s “My best self” campaign, and will be premiering at the Inside Out LGBT Film Festival in Toronto which runs from May 23 to June 2.
Gillette also announced its relationship with The 519, a charity “committed to the health happiness and full participation of the LGBTQ2S communities” in Toronto.
“Trans communities remain one of the most underserved and under-represented communities,” said Stacy Kelly, director of philanthropy at The 519 in a statement.
“Meaningful partnerships like this not only provide critical resources but also offer opportunities for dialogue and meaningful representation.”
Brown said there are many ways Canadians can support the transgender people in their lives and communities – asking respectful questions, using whichever name or pronoun they go by and being honest about any struggles they face in their relationships with transgender people.
“Get to know us,” he said. “We are people just like you.”
More on this story from CTVNews.ca