The advertisement, launched under the hashtag #ItStartsWithYourName, shows estranged parents reuniting with their adult daughter as they accept her new identity of a trans woman.
The commercial, starring trans actor Siya, opens with a tense elderly couple waiting at a Starbucks cafe.
The father begins dialling a number with the display picture of young man named Arpit. As the phone goes unanswered, the woman sitting beside him requests: “Listen… don’t get angry this time please…” As she completes the sentence, the scene cues to a young woman entering the cafe with poignant music in the background.
While the mother hugs her daughter warmly, the father seems hesistant. The young woman takes a seat at the table and looks at her father saying: “Thank you for meeting me dad.”
“I know a lot of years have passed,” she says, visibly overwhelmed. “But you still mean the world to me.” He nods with a reluctant smile and gets up to ask whether she wants coffee.
They wait while silence fills the air, only to be broken by the barista calling out: “Three cold coffees for Arpita!”
Astounded, the girl looks from the counter to her father sitting in front of her. “For me, you are still my kid. Only a letter has been added to your name,” he says in a calm voice, implying that he accepts his daughter Arpita’s decision to undergo a gender reassignment surgery and embrace her new identity as a trans woman.
They hold hands across the table and the ad faded out the jingle and hashtag #ItStartsWithYourName.
Posted on Twitter on 10 May, the video went viral. It has been viewed over 5.1 million times and retweeted by over 3,800 users. The ad has also garnered praise for its casting, which stars 25-year-old trans model Siya.
Born as Sourav, she felt trapped in her body and “felt like a woman”, she told the Indian Express, about her personal journey of coming to terms with her identity.
“My father passed away when I was six, so I grew with my mother and two sisters. Everybody thought I was confused because I was growing up around women,” she told the outlet and also shared her experience of being bullied at school.
“I would hold my pee for several hours to avoid being bullied inside the washroom,” she told the outlet adding that she attempted to die by suicide at the age of 15.
It was with the support of her mother and two sisters, that she started making frequent trips to Delhi from nearby Dehradun city for hormone therapy and psychiatric help.
At 19, she took a job as a beautician before finding footing in the hospitality industry. By 2019, she saved enough to undergo sex reassignment surgery, while by 2020, she legally changed her name to Siya from Sourav. She soon moved to Mumbai city and landed gigs and advertisements, before playing the part of a trans make up artist in the Netflix show Rana Naidu, an official adaptation of Ray Donovan.
Speaking of the campaign by Starbucks, she said: “When I got the brief about this advertisement, I wanted to be the one doing it, so I auditioned in three different styles.”
The campaign aims to look at personal connections and relationships with “a renewed lens”, said Starbucks in a press release after The Independent reached out to the coffee chain for comment on ad’s ideation and execution.
“The riveting brand film and communication aims to further the company’s positioning as being people first and creating cherished interpersonal interactions and brings alive how each experience is inclusive and feels like a homecoming,” it said.
“Starbucks has always been a warm, welcoming space for its customers where relationships are fostered, and personal connections are celebrated over a cup of coffee,” said Deepa Krishnan, Tata Starbucks Pvt Ltd’s chief marketing officer.
“The unique Starbucks experience where everyone feels welcome is what drives our growth. At Starbucks, we are not in the coffee business serving people, but in the people business serving coffee, nurturing the limitless possibilities of human connection every day.”
With the #ItStartsWithYourName campaign, the coffeehouse chain “hopes to further drive the message of being a welcoming, inclusive brand where nothing matters to us more than our customers’ comfort,” she said. “We understand that our customers enjoy and cherish their individuality and we are always ready to celebrate it with them.”
Social media users heaped praise on the ad campaign.
“It’s about time to move past transphobia”, wrote one user.
“One of the best and most touching ads I’ve seen in my life! A parent’s love and acceptance to their trans kid is truly everything. Thank you, [Starbucks India]. What a beautiful way to commemorate International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexphobia, and Transphobia!” wrote another user.
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