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Why Marc Jacobs’ new ad is a demonstration of LGBT defiance

One of the campaign stars – New York-based artist and model Carlos Santolalla – shares the story behind the ad, and what it means to him in the wake of the Orlando shooting

Yesterday, Marc Jacobs unveiled the first images AW16 campaign which, alongside Genesis P-Orridge, features former couple Carlos Santolalla and John Tuite. Together known as ‘Jarlos’, the pair received a lot of attention last year for becoming the ‘first gay couple’ to sign to a modelling agency. Photographed by David Sims, the pair pose in the designer’s AW16 womenswear collection (Santolalla in a dress trimmed with maribou, Tuite in a jeans, a leather jacket and a pair of sky-high platform boots).

“After randomly reading a direct message via Instagram from @jarlos420, I was immediately reminded of when John was cast for a Marc by Marc men’s fashion show some years ago,” Jacobs said on Instagram, explaining why he featured them in the campaign. “Given the timing of the message and the upcoming ad shoot, it felt instinctively right to ask if they (the, then couple) would consider being a part of our Fall ’16 ad campaign.”

For Santolalla, this is more that an advertisement – particularly in light of the Orlando shooting on Saturday. Here, speaking in his own words, the model, artist and now-Marc Jacobs campaign star explains what this image means to him and how it represents an demonstration of LGBT defiance.

I am a queer latino man living in America named Carlos Santolalla. I’ve also been granted some great fortune that’s allowed me to live my life as an artist and model in NYC. Five years ago I met a man at a casting who I fell in love with, and just yesterday, our second campaign together for none other than Marc Jacobs was released.

When we first started dating everything was fresh, new and exciting. We set hopes and goals for ourselves and our relationship. We fell deeply in love. We moved in together. We did everything as one. So naturally, in the world we live in, we started a singular Instagram page instead of getting our own separate ones. Every post on our page was an act of defiance – every kiss was a ‘Fuck You’ to homophobes. Every showcase of affection was meant to inspire younger versions of ourselves who never really had anyone to look up to. And it worked. Being in and around the fashion world, the Instagram quickly caught on and, just as swift, written about in many of our favourite magazines and forms of media. We were getting attention because of our genuine love for each other. And this is what I want to talk about: love. 

“I hope that this inspires people to bring love back into the higher psyche, because that simple four letter word is what we need to disarm all hostility” – Carlos Santolalla

Love is a strange and inexplicably powerful force that I think our generation has chosen to put aside in favour of the self. Songs, articles, blogposts – they tell you the same thing, to do it on your own and refuse to rely on anyone to achieve whatever it is you want. But equally, I believe that as a whole, the younger generation is experiencing a lot more mental suffering than usual, and I can’t help but make the connection. We are erasing love and it’s hurting us in return. In lieu of the attack in Orlando, I want to dedicate the campaign to whoever is looking for love, one way or another, during such trying times. Love is love is love, and if we start to actually digest that, I believe that all the anxiety and fear we live in can eventually dissipate and help us create a more united and strong community than ever before. Don’t let fear of love isolate us, because that space is exactly where oppression lies. Kiss and hug. Keep dancing at your local gay bars; if love is present then fear can't get to you. The more we practice it, I am sure the better we feel as a whole.

One of the few things my ex said to me when we first started doing this Instagram/modeling thing was, “I want to do a Marc Jacobs campaign,” and I simply smiled, looked him dead in the eyes and said, “Done!” I knew that with the power of love, anything was possible – as cheesy as it may sound. Like many other relationships, things don’t always work out. The culmination to everything we had worked for was actually the last day of shooting the campaign, which was a nice bookend to our five years together. Yet, I hope that this inspires people to bring love back into the higher psyche, because that simple four letter word is what we need to disarm all hostility. It is our only viable weapon in a world wherein people are scratching their heads wondering how we can feasibly combat guns and bombs. Love is the reason we were attacked, and simultaneously, our only true hope for survival.