Working towards gender equality and inclusion, Diesel continues its progressive storytelling with a striking short film that brings to light the possibility of pride and faith existing in the same human breath.
“Hey girl, hey girl, don’t lie to me,” may sound like a pointed threat in its simple syntax, but when orchestrated with elements of blues-y strumming and a folk-like warble akin to a lingering country ballad in the cavernous dead of the night, it becomes spine-chillingly eerie and even lonely. There is a lot to make of this phrase, especially when taken in the context of the external, but as it is sung to essay a gaping void filled with misery and suffering, it becomes ironically poignant and steadfast in a confident defiance. One would expect a moody mix of visuals painted in a gloomy fixation of shadows, but in the short film that plays out before our very eyes, it is anything but. Instead, it is tinged in nostalgic warmth that draws you in its narrative, which seems mundane at first, a quick sight of a cross necklace, followed by the trails of eyebrow plucking, a fastening of a curtain of long blond hair in a ponytail, and a popping of a white pill. Finally, we catch sight of cinematic protagonist, a vision of androgyny staring squarely in the mirror.
And so begins the story of Francesca, the compelling short film that slowly unravels like a mystery of memory. Realized by Diesel with the advice of Diversity, the Italian association committed to promoting social inclusion, the story transitions from slices of life that are typically outlined on the margins of a page to a stark reality that many living soul straddle on a daily basis—sticking to pretense amidst a status quo before finally letting it all go for the barest of truths and pride in its most essential. A delicate chronicle of a transwoman’s journey to successful living in her true identity, the sepia-toned vignette vividly visualizes the internalized struggles being broken down by Francesca, who in the length of the story embraces who she is. “I truly responded to the story of Francesca, because, like me, she has always been a believer. I’ve always known my true identity, and I’ve never stopped believing in my ability to live the life I wanted,” says Harlow Monroe, the model and activist who breathes an incandescent life to the story of Francesca. “It takes personal bravery, and family support, but we both made our truths a reality, and now we can tell the world our story and how we reached our version of successful living.”
Carefully crafted for the celebration of pride, Francesca shines a nuanced light on the life of a woman coming into her own. From hiding in bundles of oversized clothes to more form-fitting and skin-baring separates, the signature Diesel jeans of course bookends this focus with the baggy pair being traded for a high-waisted, figure-flattering choice that makes her hit a confident stride and relishes a reckless abandon, dancing in a club with shocks of colors streaking her eyelids. There is a growing exhale synonymous to unbridled liberation as she seeks relief in a comfort room marked for women, when she earlier found herself in the men’s stalls. This sense of freedom would become a significant turning point as in the seconds that progressed, there was little to no pretense, just an assured embracing of the self.
Wiping the mist that settled on the mirror off, Francesca sees herself clearly now, no longer bound by the rules and expectations that society has assumed for her. Letting her hair down, dressing the way she wants to express herself, and smiling without inhibitions, this is her successful living as who she was meant to be—or so we think.
In this gem of storytelling, we are confronted by yet another experience often so unspoken that it was long believed to be at odds with each other. As long and lingering as the arduous struggle of the LGBTQIA+ community has been towards equality and acceptance, religion has always been stubborn at the opposite end, sticking to age-old dictates in the highly-contested gospel and denying the very existence of people who are more than what the dichotomies of the world tries to force as an unshakeable truth. However, Francesca exposes a facet where faith and pride co-exist harmoniously in a human being who is resolute on her decision, as well as of the landscapes she will traverse.
“Our thought was the same then as it is today,” explains Diesel founder, Renzo Rosso. “Individuality, pride, and the power to live as one wants is the ultimate success in life.” And for Francesca, this means disrobing her Diesel denim ensemble and slipping on a nun’s habit, eventually running towards her own definition and vision of happiness, a bible held close to her chest. It is certainly shocking, but not as controversial as conservatives would obviously comprehend, as it is in this personal victory that best exhibits the all-encompassing, non-judgmental, and overflowing love that runneth over from the Lord and savior as written in the pages of tome of truth. Here, religion and pride are not exclusive from each other, but rather part of one’s story that is very well someone’s life as we speak, and why dare deny that intention and pursuit of faith? After all, as in the case of Francesca, she was only fulfilling something that is paramount to living: being true to oneself.
For Diesel, the responsibility to start this necessary conversation in the world we live in today was something important to the brand, which their partner, Diversity, couldn’t be in any more agreement with. “To determine true social change towards gender equality and inclusion, it is essential to speak to young people, and not only, in the right way, offering them stories of breaking and overcoming stereotypes, and the short story Francesca by Diesel fully responds to this need,” details Francesca Vecchioni, founder and president of Diversity. It isn’t just a unique integration of its pride capsule collection, but rather it is an embodiment of the ideals that Diesel has long identified with and championed. Celebrating bravery in identity, Diesel and OTB Foundation are committed to supporting two international projects dealing with gender identity and integration into the work market: the SF LGBT Center (San Francisco Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center) and the TGEU (Transgender Europe), proving that progress in the name of pride is best achieved through community.
In the end, Francesca is a bastion of hope, especially in a space that has often been portrayed as unkind to the LGBTQIA+ community. Surrounded by a sea of black and white, we catch one last sight of our heroine, still smiling, but this time with a peace pervading through the picture as it pans out from our vision. “Where the sun don’t ever shine, I will shiver the whole night through,” the song fades, striking a daring resolute, casting strength so ingrained and intrinsic to who we are. No lie, this is the gospel truth.