By Kelly Worrall, EA Canada
August 4 was a perfect day for a parade. Although the skies were clear, the temperature was less than oppressive and very conducive to a day of being awesome along the streets of downtown Vancouver.
For several months leading up to EA’s first-ever participation in the Vancouver Pride Parade, a dedicated team of employees led by Susanne Pengelley worked hard to dream up and create an experience that would properly reflect the pride we have in our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered employees, as well as our commitment to embody the principles of equality and diversity in everything we do.
I was fortunate enough to be part of that team, and wish I had the words to adequately describe how amazing the vibe was throughout the entirety of the project. There were several core components of the experience that I’d like to share, so that others might be able to get a taste of how great it felt to be a part of this team.
Commitment to Message
EA has consistently shown a respect for LGBT individuals in our corporate policies and products. In fact, I would argue that EA stands at the top of the list in terms of allowing players to pursue gay and lesbian relationships in games, thus helping “normalize” the idea of homosexuality in our market.
We not only had a social right to be there – but at the same time, we had to be very cognizant of the purpose of the parade (which historically began as a civil rights march, not a celebration).
We knew that we were there to celebrate diversity, to show our support for our LGBT employees and their families, and to firmly plant the EA flag on the right side of what is still a very controversial topic in many circles.
Pleasing the Crowd
We knew that we were going to be marching the EA brand past hundreds of thousands of people.
Our partners at EA Los Angeles, EA Redwood Shores and PopCap in Seattle were instrumental in making sure we had the supplies we needed to leave the sun-drunk Vancouverites with smiles on their faces. In addition to t-shirts and a fantastic EA Pride logo and banner, we had thousands of cute Chuzzles to hand out and a couple of big Zombie heads that two of our walkers wore. Even more importantly, our studio partners gave us a lot of advice and support based on their previous experiences with the parade in their respective cities.
In addition to Chuzzles, the EAC Pride Committee sourced a ton of awesome stuff… Mardi Gras beads, EA Pride stickers, EA Pride temporary tattoos and squishy basketball, football, soccer ball and hockey puck stress balls were *huge* hits among parade goers young and old. Lots of happy faces, lots of EA branded toys going out. We rented a pickup truck to transport supplies and provide a steady stream of awesome music, and covered the truck for good measure with huge decals.
For added measure, we brought a dozen or so squirt guns to help keep the crowd (and each other!) cool on a hot day.
The Vancouver team gets their Pride supplies ready!
Going the Extra Mile
The highlight of the entire experience, for me, was the creation of four gorgeous wigs designed and created by EA Analyst Ryan Stewart, who had the help of the entire EAC Pride Committee in their manufacture. For several weeks, Ryan single-handedly created (literal) wire frames and shaped them to the heads of the four people who would wear the final results.
Once the frames were made, Ryan engaged us all in a big papier mâché project in a former shower-room that had been converted to an art center at EAC Burnaby. After the wig frames were plastered, they were painted, and then hair from costume wigs were painstakingly cut and glued onto the frames, resulting in four extremely creative and fun head-pieces (which survived the parade admirably!).
Each wig was accompanied by an EA Pride jersey for the appropriate sport (which we ordered… we didn’t sew jerseys!). The final look was outlandish, gorgeous and totally Pride.
Wigging out with Pride! Our EAC team works on a number of different EA SPORTS franchises, so the wigs reflected the athletic spirit.
Over the Top! How My Day Went
For my part, I wore the football wig (also, in keeping with the spirit of the day, I wore rainbow socks, pink yoga pants, etc.). In the morning, I stopped on the way to EAC to get a cup of coffee. I expected to get a reaction from the woman at the drive-thru window, but apparently they have seen everything. Not an eyelash was batted.
I met up with Susanne, Wendell Harlow and Stacey Watson at EAC Burnaby to load up the truck, after which we made our way to the staging area downtown. The atmosphere was incredible. In total, we had somewhere around 50 people walking from all different areas of EA.
When Ryan arrived with the wigs, the energy level skyrocketed! The four “athletes” (Ryan Stewart, Martin McQueen, Katie Dueckman and myself) plus Stacey, who sported a referee outfit, Wendell and her cheerleader outfit, as well as special guest Anna Propriate were instantly fawned over by photographers. The paparazzi descended, and the cameras were in love!
After a minor wardrobe change (Roanna Tulauan had an even cooler pair of rainbow socks that she let me wear), and some last minute water fetching (for the temporary tattoo folks), we were finally on our way.
Even though we were near the end of the parade, the folks we passed by were visibly pleased and excited the moment we came into view. Seeing the wigs, sports people, zombies and banner really made a strong visual impression. Ryan (in drag character as Valynne Vile) was breathtakingly exotic, and Katie brought enough energy to dance the entire parade with a basketball on her head! Having that impression followed up by free stickers, stress balls, tattoos, beads and Chuzzles kept the enthusiasm up all day. People clamored to be sprayed by squirt guns.
The best part? The enthusiasm did not waver throughout the entire parade!!
By the end, I was beat. I was smart enough to wear a good pair of running shoes, so my feet still felt terrific, but I was tired from a lot of sun, and from keeping such a high energy level for such a long time in very silly clothing with an enormous football on my head.
I drove home very satisfied, and enjoyed a cool, refreshing shower before heading online to check out all the great photos people had been uploading throughout the day on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter (#EAPride13).
Many thanks to the EAC Pride Committee: Jacob Barrows, Frank Bassett, Cam Boutin, Jay Bulbrook, Katie Dueckman, Karl Germyn, Wendell Harlow, Rachel Irvine-Halliday, Ian Lloyd, Ivy Mui, Brian Pang, Susanne Pengelly, Ian Seale, Olga Skutina, Ryan Stewart and Stacey Watson.