Reinvention requires equal parts courage and conviction. Boy George, lead singer of 80s pop icon Culture Club, knows a thing or two about reinvention and he shared his story with a small group in Cannes thanks to our partners at MediaCom.
Boy George is a man who has defied convention. His androgynous style and soaring falsetto was only further accented by his stage name. Challenging gender roles was a groundbreaking move during the Reagan Era, when most of Middle America didn’t even know what a homosexual was. In the process, Boy George became a visible symbol and a rallying point for those who knew they were different.
People of all ages admire him and thank him for breaking the rules and conventions. Boy George claims that the 70s was a great time to grow up and was the last decade with interesting and competing music. Fame came to Boy George overnight after covering for Elton John, who couldn’t perform due to illness. As his stardom faded in the 80s, Boy George wrestled with addiction problems and the need to redefine himself. The man who is synonymous with some of the catchiest songs of the 1980s fought his way back to the top by writing two autobiographies, becoming a legendary DJ, creating a record label, appearing on TV shows, hosting radio programs and is now a philanthropist.
Ever the Karma Chameleon (sorry, couldn’t resist), Boy George is a complex soul and as he said during his presentation, “You never know what you are going to get with me, you always need to read the ingredients.”
The secret to Boy George’s reinvention is his ability to connect emotionally with people—interesting thought for brands and all of us in advertising. The goal, for whatever Boy George is doing, is to make people feel something—whether that’s the desire to sing, cry, dance or just feel inspired. So, what does Boy George claim he can bring to brands? He resonates with the outcasts, those who are on the sidelines and feel left out. He’s been there and knows the feeling all too well. He knows them and they know him.
Technology has definitely played a role in reinvention and innovation when it comes to the Boy George story. In its glorious heyday, MTV brought him directly into your living room—whether you liked it or not. Boy George has innovated both music and culture, especially the later. Bottom line, he believes that today’s innovation is about allowing every generation to find their own version of what is new and innovative. Even if those of us who experienced the Boy George and Culture Club phenomenon firsthand have seen it done before.