“Art’s always that much more special when it’s made by someone in the community.”
This summer, when you pick up your morning coffee or join Pride celebrations in communities across Canada, there’s a good chance you’ll see Starbucks partners (what we call employees) wearing the vibrant tees designed by Toronto partner Jenelle Lewis. Her design was chosen from nearly 50 submissions from partners around the country through a contest coordinated by the Canada Pride Alliance Network, one of Starbucks’ oldest and largest partner networks made up of hundreds of members of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies. More than 2,500 partners will be wearing their pride on their sleeves throughout the summer.
For Jenelle, the contest was the perfect opportunity to share her love of design, passion for Starbucks and her pride in her identity. “As a queer woman of colour, I needed to contribute to the community. Starbucks contributes to the LGBTQ community so much, so I wanted [my design] to be really special.”
Canada Pride Alliance Network Co-Chairs Steven Snyder and Jeremy Jones had the contest idea two years ago to foster a uniquely Canadian celebration of Pride and the inclusivity it represents. This spring they made it happen. Jeremy was amazed by the enthusiasm. “The response was incredible to see. We had partners from the Prairies, partners from the Maritimes, every market was represented by at least one entry. The designs were totally eclectic and different from each other and had their own creativity behind it.”
As soon as her manager let her know about the competition, Jenelle got to work. “I literally pulled out some receipt paper and started sketching when I was on the floor. My team thought it was really funny. They were like ‘Of course you would start sketching ideas now…you wouldn’t even wait.’ I was so excited to just start and finish. My heart and soul and everything went into it.”
As her designs moved from receipt paper to sketch pad, a concept began to come to life: Jenelle wanted to combine elements of the Pride Flag, the Transgender Flag, and browns representing queer people of colour with the iconic bloom of latte art. The phrase “A splash of pride in every cup” that’s proudly displayed on the back of each Pride shirt was taken from an alternate design Jenelle submitted, but she felt it fit the winning concept perfectly.
Members of the Canada Pride Alliance Network considered each entry over three rounds of voting. They had a range of criteria, including creativity, originality and how it embodied Pride at Starbucks. Jenelle’s entry captured each. Steven Snyder summed up the judges’ reaction: “The design, the colours, everything stands out. This shirt is unapologetically Pride.”
Jenelle found her way to this winning approach organically. “Working at Starbucks for so many years, I already felt I had a connection to the company when I started designing. The ideology of the design is intuitive to me because I’ve been doing this for such a long time. A lifetime of learning and experimentation.”
The meaning of Pride is unique to everyone. For Jenelle, it’s about “being comfortable in who you are at a time when people feel the need to be different or have a different persona, especially on the internet, to get likes. Just being confident and just loving life.”
When Jenelle discovered her art had been chosen, she was overcome with emotion.
“I had to leave the floor. I couldn’t believe it. Honestly, I almost cried. I was shaking.” But this is just the beginning. “Now I’m more inspired than ever.”
Join Jenelle and other partners in your community in celebrating inclusion this Pride Month.