Feeling it yet? It’s fall and we’ve got the gimmes – big time. Everything is so new, so fresh, so now, we can’t wait to get our hands on it all. The lure of fall mall shopping and a new season of entertainment has us in a rush to fill our closets and our schedules. Right now, the holidays – that winter season of giving – seems so far off. But giving shouldn’t be seasonal. In fact, these days, philanthropy should always be part of the party. Just ask Natasha Koifman, founder of NKPR, a PR agency that represents some of the best (and most philanthropic) Canadian brands – or better yet, we’ll ask for you. Via her celeb IT Lounge, Natasha has found a creative way to bring a fun, cool edge to philanthropy during the starry-eyed Toronto Film Festival. Need some giving inspiration? Read on.
HOW TO MAKE PHILANTHROPY COOL
Q: How did the idea of the IT Lounge come to you?
A: Nine years ago, I wanted to get great products into celebrities’ hands, so I started a gifting suite during TIFF called the IT Lounge. For 12 months, we curated products and brands, but it was important to me to add a charitable component so that in the gifting suite, we were also giving back. We do that by making a donation to charity on behalf of each star that walks into the lounge and has their portrait taken at our Portrait Studio.
Q: Portrait Studio? What Portrait Studio?
A: The IT Lounge launched the Portrait Studio in 2012 and this year, it returns from September 4 – 9 with famed photographer Caitlin Cronenberg, whose star portraits will be featured in W Magazine. Celebs coming to town include Robert Pattison, Cara Delevingne, Kate Beckinsale, Jake Gyllenhaal – just to name a few. Hopefully, they’ll all come ready for their Cronenberg-esque closeups.
Q: Is there a theme to the portraits?
A: This year’s Portrait Studio concept is The Era of Cool. We’re paying homage to celebs who are trendsetters, who aren’t afraid to show who they are, who have a sexy edge. Everyone defines cool differently. For women, it’s often Audrey Hepburn or Marilyn Monroe or Elizabeth Taylor. I always think of the transformation of Sandy (Olivia Newton-John’s character) in the movie Grease. We all have an uninhibited side, a glorious rebel – our Brazen Woman. It’s about letting it show and shine – and then capturing it on film.
Q: Which brands are on board this year?
A: This year, we’ve got some fantastic Canadian brands helping guests get cool for their IT Lounge closeups. Expect to get prepped at the Tweezerman brow and lash bar, and to check out Rudsak’s edgy leather pieces and skull-crystal jewellery with an attitude by Christian Rex while Goody showcases its 360-degree hairstyle glamcam. There will be lots of other surprises as well.
Q: Which causes are you most passionate about?
A: This year, we’re supporting Artists for Peace and Justice at the IT Lounge and I am co-host of the 2014 Festival Gala presented by Bovet 1822 on September 7 at Casa Loma. At the Best Buddies gala on September 10, we are raising funds and awareness for Best Buddies Canada, a non-profit that helps provide meaningful friendships for people with intellectual disabilities. I first got involved in Artists for Peace and Justice – a very special organization that promotes and funds youth education, health and dignity initiatives in Haiti – when I met Paul Haggis. He had just returned from a trip and was moved by the fact that Haitians were living on a dollar a day, eight inside a hut, and yet so close by, people in Miami were partying in clubs. Then the earthquake hit and Paul stuffed $50,000 into a duffel and flew over in Sean Penn’s private jet and on the ground, he helped victims any way he could. Paul was my inspiration to help change lives. Since then, our donations have built the first free high school in Haiti.
Q: How can we get inspired to give in our everyday lives?
A: The key is to find that authentic connection with a cause. Choose one you really want to get behind by thinking about what’s meaningful to you. Is it local? Is it global? Is it about kids? Charity isn’t always about donating money. You can also volunteer your time. Sometimes brain power is even more valuable than cutting a cheque. Dig deep and think about the impact you want to make five years from now, and then work backwards. We all have the ability to change the world. It starts with your vision.