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Mardi Gras’ CEO on Bringing Magic to The Streets of Sydney

January 1 | 3 minute read

Memo Gil Beckwith Mardi Gras Interview Hero 16x9

Words by Ruby Devlin

Originally published on | February 7

In preparation for MECCA MAX’s second year as the exclusive makeup partner of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and their first-ever float at the Parade, we sat down with Mardi Gras CEO Gil Beckwith to talk allyship, beauty essentials and the festival's important history.

The history and significance of Mardi Gras

For the uninitiated, Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is more than meets the eye. Behind the glitz and glamour, rainbows and celebration is a rich and important history. Originating as a protest for equal rights and recognition, Beckwith says the festival has become a powerful symbol of the LGBTQIA+ community's diversity, strength and resilience.

“To me, Mardi Gras is a celebration of who I am and the community I belong to. It's a reminder of the struggles we've overcome and how far we’ve come,” she says.

“The festival highlights the vibrant diversity within our community. It's a time when we acknowledge our past, revel in our present and look forward to a future of inclusivity and acceptance.”

The theme of the 2024 Mardi Gras is ‘Our Future’, which “signifies hope, progress and a commitment to continue the work of those who came before us, ensuring a brighter future for all in our community,” Beckwith says.

The highlight of the festival every year is the Mardi Gras Parade – “a powerful display of pride, history, and solidarity” – along Sydney’s Oxford Street, Flinders Street and Anzac Parade.

Memo Gil Beckwith Mardi Gras Interview Portrait 3x4 2

MECCA MAX Mardi Gras campaign images featuring MECCA team members.

Memo Gil Beckwith Mardi Gras Interview Portrait 3x4 3

Makeup and the LGBTQIA+ community

Makeup has a long history not only as a creative medium, but in affirming identity; Beckwith calls it “a transformative tool for self-expression [that] plays a significant role in many people's journeys towards self-acceptance and pride.”

For her own beauty routine, Beckwith likes to keep it simple: “I am all for taking care of my skin. I always use MECCA COSMETICA To Save Face SPF50+ Superscreen and MECCA MAX All Day Every Day Moisturiser. I also love fabulous fragrances and recently bought Comme des Garçons Concrete.”

She adds, “To be honest, I am not one for makeup. However, my girlfriend loves the MECCA MAX eye shadow range, and I love her in it.”

For many, makeup is the colourful cherry on the top of the Mardi Gras experience, and as Beckwith notes, “It's thrilling to see new participants bringing their energy and creativity to this iconic event, adding to its vibrancy and message of inclusivity.

"Everyone at MECCA MAX will love it, it is such an extraordinary experience!”

Memo Gil Beckwith Mardi Gras Interview 16x9 1
Gil Beckwith speaking at a Mardi Gras event.

How to be a good ally during Mardi Gras (and beyond)

Beckwith has spent the last few decades working in queer spaces, and during that time has seen society's treatment of the community evolve significantly – but there is still work to be done.

“The shift towards inclusivity and understanding has been heartening, though the journey towards full equality continues,” she says.

For those wanting to show up for the community, Beckwith says true allyship requires active support: “It’s about listening to LGBTQIA+ voices, advocating for our rights and using one's privilege to challenge discrimination. It's being an active participant in the fight for equality, not just a passive supporter.”

Wrapping up our interview, I asked Beckwith if she had a message for young queer folk around the country.

“You are valid, loved, seen and an important part of our community. Embrace who you are, and don't be afraid to express yourself,” she said, adding, “The journey might not always be easy, but know that you are never alone.

“There's a whole community here to support and celebrate you.”

Heading to Sydney for the celebrations? Book in for a complimentary Mardi Gras workshop at MECCA on the 16th or 23rd of February, or take your Mardi Gras look next-level with a 90-minute full glam service available at select MECCA Sydney stores.

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