At no other point in our history has the definition of masculinity come into question as has become apparent recently. What has long been held as the quintessential mark of what makes a man, has come undone under the realities of the devastating harm that the misinterpretation of what masculinity is can cause in our society. However, there is opportunity to breathe new life into the idea of what masculinity is, or more importantly, what it can be. Masculinity no longer needs to be viewed in terms of how it contrasts against femininity, but by how it can complement it. Masculinity no longer needs to be attributed to physique, but a man’s presence, and masculinity no longer needs to be about how strong a man is, but how gentle and nurturing he can be with himself and those whose lives he can touch. Vaseline MEN embarked on an ambitious campaign to delve deeply into how the modern man can be redefined.
The year two launch of the #StartStrong campaign took place on the 21st of June following the success of the brand’s 2017 launch. The second year sees Vaseline MEN building on and deepening the conversations that were started in the previous year, with a focus on three key themes, grooming, heritage and family.
The event saw rapper extraordinaire Riky Rick and young cricket phenomenon Kagiso Rabada return as partners in the 2018 chapter. The brand did not stop there though, with the MC being the ever-stellar “hostess” Lorna Maseko, Vaseline MEN packed more heat for the wintery June night by bringing a constellation of venerable influencers who are doing a lot of work with regards to shaping the definition of what it means to be a man in 2018. Unilever Marketing Manager Bakani Ntaisi was hands on deck for the launch and shared that, “the role of men in society is really being questioned and we need to have conversations around that. To do this we’ve partnered with a group of people who can help us do exactly that”.
Perhaps what was just as interesting about this particular launch is that Vaseline MEN did not focus on just grooming as most would expect, but also the key themes of grooming, heritage and family. These themes featured different personalities whose work and brands touched on each topic. On the grooming set, there was entrepreneur and founder of Legends Barber, Sheldon Tatchel who’s haircut business is probably the most sought after in the country. The fact that Legends Barber is on par with the rest of the world in terms of the high standards of stylistic acumen and technique as well as its growing popularity, all began with a young man who first held a pair of clippers at 14years old, bought by his father. This proves that Vaseline MEN hit the mark in partnering with a brand that recognizes the value of not only bonds created through grooming but of building long-lasting legacies.
Then there was also the winner of GQ’s Best Dressed Man of the Year and founder of Afrocentric Gentleman, the ever-dapper Menzi Mcunu as well as Siya Beyile, founder of Threaded Man and probably one of the most iconic of the young style gurus in the country.
The Heritage stage was as quintessential as it was relevant for a brand whose name doesn’t just represent a cosmetic company but symbolises grooming rituals that have bonded generations together. Marvin’s very own George Matsheke was also on stage as a partner and shared his views on the significance of heritage; “when you understand where you come from and the sacrifices that were made for you to be where you are, it becomes easy for you to build on that”. He adds on by saying that “the world doesn’t need another magazine, the world needs Marvin – if we don’t take care of the conversations between men, it is women and children who will suffer the most”. On set with George was award-winning illustrator and designer Lazi Mathebula whose unique visual aesthetic and design prowess has seen his distinctive hand appear on adverts, fashion campaigns and in art galleries.
Lastly and definitely not least on the heritage stage was Tebello ‘Tibz’ Motsoane. He is an entrepreneur whose business savvy has seen him build brands across multiple industries from entertainment to marketing as well as beverages. He has also co-founded Atelier MCMXXX Méthode Cap Classique, with one of his most recent ventures being “Cafe Tibz”, a private dining experience. Guests at the launch were treated to a menu of delightful dishes curated by the entertainment guru himself.
The Family set was probably the most touching of the three sets as it spoke to the nostalgia that most South Africans relate to when it comes to Vaseline MEN, which has been a part of many people’s earliest memories of familial intimacy. On the chair there was Skwatta Kamp member, businessman and founder of online platform Slikour On Life, Siya Metane. Slikour, as he is popularly known, kept it in the family by bringing his son with him on stage. “It is an important story to tell”, he said of the campaign. “(and what is) hardly spoken about, which is men as parents, taking care of their kids”.
Actor SK Khoza was also on set and spoke fondly about the foundation that was laid through him and his brother and fellow actor Abdul Khoza’s upbringing which helped them to #StartStrong. “It goes back to how we were raised”, he says. “Born and raised Muslim, my brother and I fought through it all and today we’re in a place where we can be strong in the same industry”.
Kagiso Rabada has been obliterating scores, records and wickets since he was a teenager, to earn himself the title of legend in the making. With his parents being instrumental in helping him make the right moves, especially off the field, his biggest fans, amongst the thousands he has, are most definitely his family.
What could be seen as the highlight of the night was when Vaseline MEN introduced its “Vaseline MEN x Riky Rick Extra Strength Limited Edition” lotion. The packaging features the illustrated bust of Rikhado “Riky Rick” Makhado himself, set on a beautiful pattern of African inspired prints. There is a significance to this move which may elude the eye. For a brand that has long been associated with the physical and emotional act of nurturing, a process generally associated with maternal care, to actively engage in men’s issues in a time when men’s role in society is increasingly seen in a negative light and to do it in such a multifaceted approach, this speaks of a brand that is not afraid to evolve.
Vaseline has a long standing heritage in South Africa, having been around for a long time, but in the time of social media and empowered customers, it is imperative that brands continue to evolve. Vaseline MEN uses the heritage and continues to do exactly this, an evolution that has kept the brand relevant and authentic without losing the very essence that, has through the years, enabled starting strong.
Writer: Vus Ngxande Photographer: Judd van Rensburg Stylist: Mpumi Sinxoto Copy Editor: Palesa Motau Make-Up: Simangele Hlabathi Creative Director: George Gladwin Matsheke