Last year, I was invited to speak to students of a university in the “Periferia” of São Paulo – in Brazil, Periferia are socially vulnerable areas far-away from business centers. When I naively tried to explain the importance of outside references to open our minds, a student said: “I’ve never left this neighborhood, imagine leaving the city”. Sometimes we jump so deeply in our own battles that we forget how other people face huge challenges, too. I was fighting sexism before realizing that the advertising industry is not only sexist, but extremely elitist, too. That day, I understood my own duty of using my white privileges and everything my career has allowed me to achieve to try to shorten the distance between the “periferia” students and the big agencies. 

This year, I officially launched PerifaLions (“Perifa” is short for Periferia), a personal-independent-non-profitable project with the mission of bringing students from the “periferias” into the advertising market, by offering mentorships, training programs and a creative contest which the award is an all-inclusive ticket to Cannes Lions Festival plus an internship position in a big agency.

Brazil is one of the main players in advertising marketing. But as awarded as it is, few are the opportunities to those who are “out of the bubble”. The talk I mentioned above at the university in the “periferia”, changed my life and my views of the advertising world. There are so many talents being underused due to the industry’s inability to look at them and the lack of equal opportunities. The “periferias” are filled with creativity, references, beauty and fresh eyes – everything advertising always aimed for. But, as I came to understand, our industry only celebrates the diversity in manifestos, not in the workplace.

So, we mapped and found out that just in São Paulo there are more than 3.000 students from the periferias. Can you imagine how many talents the advertising marketing is losing? Since we started the mentorships we already connected more than 150 students to the biggest names in the leading agencies. From these connections, students have already had access to courses they couldn’t afford, internship positions and even a full university tuition paid by one of the mentors. 

Because of the pandemic, we had to put off some plans, like the creative competition aiming periferia students. As the prize for the 1st. place was an all-inclusive ticket to the Cannes Lions Festival and the event was cancelled this year, the competition will take place in 2021. This is just the first year of the project, I don’t know yet how far we can go with it. But our focus is on the periferia students to strengthen their self-esteem so that they can feel confident enough to understand that their place is in their neighborhoods, business centers, Cannes, big agencies or wherever they want to be.