Actress Taraji P. Henson to lead Olay’s Super Bowl LIV #MakeSpaceForWomen STEM Advertising Campaign.

For this year’s Super Bowl LIV, Olay wants to #MakeSpaceForWomen with their newest spot, by Badger & Winters, that pays homage to the women of STEM who are blazing the trail for future generations. Olay’s ambitious new ad will continue the brand’s commitment to inspire women to “Face Anything’ while also addressing gender parity and giving back to STEM-based organizations, like Girls Who Code.

The brand’s Super Bowl commercial is inspired by the historic first-ever all-female spacewalk and will pay homage to the women of STEM who are paving a path for future generations. Taraji P. Henson will star as ‘Mission Controller’ in Olay’s Super Bowl commercial, which will continue Olay’s mission to #MakeSpaceforWomen at the Super Bowl by speaking to the 45% of NFL fans that are women. Olay’s Super Bowl ad also stars Lilly Singh and Busy Philipps who take a trip into space with retired astronaut Nicole Stott. Their space mission is overseen by Mission Controller Taraji P. Henson and shared over the airwaves by Katie Couric. 

While nearly half of NFL fans are women, only a quarter (27%) of past Super Bowl ads have actually starred women. Last year, Olay helped narrow the gap, hero-ing a woman in its ad during the Big Game. This year, with Olay’s all-female cast, the brand is continuing to help close the gender gap in Super Bowl ads. According to the National Science Board, women make up half of the total US college-educated workforce, but only 28 percent of the science and engineering workforce. Olay thinks it’s time for a change.

There are many industries including STEM that has yet to reach gender parity, which is why Olay will be donating one dollar to Girls Who Code every time users tag @OlaySkin and use #MakeSpaceForWomen hashtag on Twitter until February 3, 2020, to enable the next generation of female scientists, engineers, programmers and space explorers to Face Anything.

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Forbes recently had the opportunity to speak to Award-winning actress, entrepreneur, and author, Taraji P. Henson, on appearing as herself in Olay’s Super Bowl ad as the head of the Mission Control Center. Henson is passionate about closing the gender parity gap in both STEM and entertainment industries. She pulled from her previous experience playing Katherine G. Johnson, the NASA aerospace technologist whose mathematic calculations of orbital mechanics helped land the first American astronaut in space, in 2016 the movie, Hidden Figures to execute Olay’s #MakeSpaceforWomen commercial. They spoke to her about why she was excited to participate in the commercial, how she empowers young women and why representation is extremely important.

What inspired your participation within their commercial?

“It was very personal for me because I did a movie called Hidden Figures and to my surprise, I had no idea that women were integral in getting men to space and it was crushing to me because growing up I always had a low expectation of myself excelling in math and sciences. It was an unspoken understanding that STEM subjects were for boys, so whenever I got to those classes, I would always go to the back of the classroom because I felt like I didn’t belong. From the moment I found out about those incredible women featured in Hidden Figures, I made it my mission to champion for young women in coding and science and math because I felt like I’ve been lied to all my life. When Olay approached me about this commercial, it literally was a no-brainer for me.”

How have you empowered young girls and women to take control of their careers in STEM and beyond?

“I stand behind fighting for young girls and women in the entertainment industry. Certainly, women who are underrepresented in the industry, that’s always been my mission because representation is very important. Just like women of color didn’t have representation within the STEM fields and I thought I couldn’t excel, years later, we did Hidden Figures, and now there’s the rise of young women in STEM.”

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How did your role in Hidden Figures shift and deepen your awareness of the impact that black women have made in STEM?

“All of the STEM-based programs that was born after Hidden Figures and the awareness of women and girls coding was amazing! I definitely saw an increase in the interest of STEM for women all over the nation. It was so invigorating and it made me feel good to know that the movie was so powerful. I know art, I know how powerful and life-changing the arts can be. We learn a lot through the arts and Hidden Figures was certainly one of those movies that we learned so much from. It made me feel good that the world was so receptive to these women’s stories. I never have seen such an influx of women interested in math and science. I’m sure it existed but it wasn’t at the forefront.”

Why is gender party important to you given your many experiences working in a male-dominated industry in Hollywood?

Representation is so important. Young women wouldn’t know to dream big if they didn’t see others doing it before them. So that’s why I’ve made it my mission to work hard to be the change and fight to be the voice for young girls who are coming up behind me. Lord knows where I would be if I didn’t have any representation and someone to look up to, to allow me to dream.”

Were there any notable behind the scene moments during the #MakeSpaceforWomen commercial?

“The thing that made me really excited and happy was seeing all the little hungry faces. In the commercial, I was “Mission Controller” so I was in the room with many young women who actually code. Their excitement to just be in the room, made me realize, this why I do what I do.”

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Do you have an experience when you felt empowered enough to be able to ‘Face Anything’?

“Every time I fight for myself for a future job or role, I’m standing up for those coming behind me, and I do that a lot. I fight more times than you know because I’m not on Twitter talking about it. I know with each fight and each win, it’s not just a win for me, it’s a win for the generations of young women coming after me so it’s worth it. “

Make sure you check out the entire Olay commercial during the Super Bowl on February 2, 2020.


Photo Source: Taraji P. Henson

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