As Pride month 2020 comes to a close, Matte PR’s president and founder, Heidi Ruggier, is sharing a few words as a member of the LGBTQ+ community about creating a safe workplace, advocacy work that’s inspiring her, and what other business leaders can do to elevate other members.
As Matte PR’s president and founder, how do you ensure your workplace is a safe space?
Matte PR’s company culture is open, casual and familial. It’s a place for people to truly be themselves without judgement or prejudice. It’s also driven by who we hire. My team has a responsibility towards creating and feeding this company culture, and I love them for it. They each bring different lived experiences to the table, creating an environment that is fun, open and based on camaraderie. This richness spills over into our work, informing our campaigns and leading to strategies that aren’t coming from just one perspective.
What are some things Matte PR stands for as a company and how does that tie into your personal beliefs and advocacy for LGBTQ+ communities?
I strongly believe in the power of PR to elevate ideas and entrepreneurs that contribute to equality and create a representative society. Our company seeks out brands that are building the kind of world we want to see. Change is constant and everything is related. It’s up to us as a whole to elevate political leaders, business leaders, institutional leaders and social leaders that put pressure on our system to change for the better. And for the better I mean, they work to facilitate equal rights and justice for all.
At a grassroots level, I am a mentor with OUT for Business by the Canadian Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (CGLCC). This work has a very specific purpose, to empower the LGBT+ community by facilitating the success of LGBT+ youth entrepreneurs. Last year, I had so much fun mentoring Jordynne Ropat of Plant Joy, a vegan doughnut company out of Windsor, Ontario. When we started, Jordynne was doing pop-ups and baking out of a kitchen she used part-time. During our time together, Jordynne opened Plant Joy’s first stand-alone location. Last month, Plant Joy celebrated its one year anniversary and was voted the best vegan doughnut shop in Windsor! Seeing Jordynne grow is so rewarding. I encourage you to check her place out if you’re in the Windsor area.
Who is an LGBTQ+ activist that inspires you? How do you emulate their work at Matte PR?
I’m really inspired by the work of Mic Carter, Creative Director at L’Uomo Strano. At this moment, his work may not seem overly radical, however, we have to remember that in 2014, his runway show at Toronto Men’s Fashion Week was cut just three days before the date for being too “feminine”. That is only six years ago! Mic Carter is an inspiration to me through his very existence. L’Uomo Strano ended up showing, but that was only after a public back and forth debate whether the collection was menswear or womenswear. Matte PR was very proud to work with L’Uomo Strano last year, inviting the brand to show his work at an event we produced called REPRESENTATION. The energy on the runway gave me goosebumps. So fucking awesome.
Dr. Ben Barry, Chair at Ryerson’s School of Fashion is another huge inspiration. I am so proud to be part of the work happening inside Ryerson’s Faculty of Communication & Design. Right here in Toronto, a new generation of fashion students are graduating with a new fashion imagination. One that sees fashion as a political tool to deconstruct and reevaluate history. His feminist-driven project titled Refashioning Masculinity was and still is a huge personal inspiration for me. I have such fond memories of that runway presentation. It swept me into the kind of world I want to live in. Looking forward, there is still a lot of work to be done. Gender norms are part of a system of gender relations that affect everyone. They are ultra-entrenched into the minutia of our everyday lives. Disrupting these norms is key to pulling apart the patriarchal gender system and rebuilding it so that gender equality and diverse voices can thrive.
What is one goal for the future of Matte PR or your own personal career journey that you’d like to achieve within the realm of LGBTQ+ advocacy?
Working with likeminded people towards a pathway to true, bonafide change. What does change look like? Creating a world where ‘coming out’ during the entrepreneurial process isn’t a difficult decision. Working with investors, policymakers and VC’s that make elevating LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs part of their ongoing practice. That includes making space for Black, POC and female voices, ensuring representation doesn’t stop at the surface.
Especially important right now is integrating trans people into our workforce. We know this is an area of our community facing great challenges when it comes to employment. I call on my fellow business leaders to show up and normalize the presence of trans people within their workforce.
To any LGBTQ+ aspiring PR professionals, know that my door is open to you. Just drop me a line. Happy Pride!
Creep Heidi’s Instagram at @heidirugger.