Viva Glam, created by makeup artists, has been doing good for 20 years.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Good things come in small packages, and Viva Glam lipstick is a prime example. Over the past 10 years, the lipstick by MAC Cosmetics has raised $40 million for the MAC AIDS Fund.
John Demsey, the chairman of the fund and acting president of MAC, says the lipstick is a good, respectable beauty product on its own, but the fact that 100 percent of the selling price goes to charity has made it "the lipstick heard round the world."
"It brought incredible visibility to the HIV/AIDS issue in the cosmetics industry, and it's an emotional connection for people who work for us to be a part of something that's for the better good," he says.
A fashion favorite
MAC was created 20 years ago by former makeup artists, and it remains one of the most popular brands for fashion shows and photo shoots. The MAC AIDS Fund was born out of a sense of personal loss, explains Demsey, newly named as the global president of Estee Lauder Cos., because the fashion and beauty industries were disproportionately affected by the disease in its early years.
But, notes Lilia Garcia-Leyva, executive director of the fund, "The face of AIDS has changed over the years. It's now a young woman's face," she says, noting the high HIV/AIDS rates found among women in Africa.
Viva Glam lipsticks are not part of an awareness or research campaign. The fund works with charities that provide daily essentials such as food, shelter and medicine, with a particular emphasis on children, Garcia-Leyva says.
Seasonal greeting cards created by youths affected by HIV/AIDS are another fund-raising tool. The Kids Helping Kids cards on their own have raised more than $1 million.
MAC also created a beauty program three years ago called Good Spirits, which helps women undergoing HIV/AIDS treatments look their best. The company's sales staff is trained to work with women in their own communities who are dealing with hollowing cheeks and shifting fat, particularly to the back of their necks, which are common side effects from their medicines, Garcia-Leyva explains.
Charity a tradition
"For many of these women, it's the first time anyone has shown an interest in them personally, not just medically," she says. "And for the first time, these women are trying to feel and look better."
Good Spirits was modeled after a similar program the cosmetics industry created for cancer patients, although the specific beauty issues are different, Demsey says. "There's a long, long-standing tradition within our industry to do philanthropic work."
Viva Glam now has grown into a collection of five, and it's the only product that MAC does ads for. Demsey says Viva Glam V has raised $7.5 million since its launch.
"The No. 1 priority that we have today is to raise money. We need money to do the work that we do. We have a historical level of funding and giving, and nothing sells like a lipstick does," he says. Lipsticks are MAC's best sellers.
"I hope that most people who buy Viva Glam lipstick know where the money is going, but if they don't, their money is still going somewhere incredible," Demsey adds.
XOn the Net: http://www.macaidsfund.org.