Inside the Meeting That Started the Grammys' White Rose Protest
Rita Ora, Kelly Clarkson, Halsey, Dua Lipa, Bebe Rexha, Gary Clark Jr., and Khalid are among the growing list of musicians who will wear white roses to the 60th Annual Grammy Awards on Sunday in support of the Hollywood-led Time’s Up movement, working to end sexual harassment.
“For me, the white rose represents solidarity and a peaceful, beautiful show of support,” Ora told InStyle of this weekend's unofficial dress code, which began picking up steam on Wednesday. “Music has always brought people together and has been an outlet for individuals to express all kinds of emotions. It is important that our art form continue to create safe spaces for people to explore these issues.”
Taking cues from Hollywood—which, earlier this month, transformed the Golden Globes red carpet into a nearly unanimous protest of stars dressed in head-to-toe black—the white rose demonstration is the music industry’s effort to rally behind Time’s Up’s mission and raise money for its $15 million legal defense fund.
But while the screen industry’s resistance was led by a coalition of 300 highly visible power women, including Reese Witherspoon, Meryl Streep, and Shonda Rhimes, music’s was initiated behind the scenes—at an eleventh-hour meeting of 12 industry executives Monday night, organized by Karen Rait, Rhythmic Promotion at Interscope/Geffen/A&M Records, and Meg Harkins, SVP of Marketing at Roc Nation, at a Dos Caminos restaurant in Manhattan.
“I'm watching the Golden Globes, I'm totally inspired by these incredible women, I'm standing up in my apartment when Oprah's giving her speech, cheering—but I started thinking about the Grammys, and I wasn't hearing that anything was going on,” Rait told InStyle yesterday of how it all started. “So I decided to call my friend Meg at Roc Nation. I said, ‘You know, we really do something for the Grammys,’ and she said ‘You’re right.’”
Rait and Harkins reached out to their friends, and, this week, “over margaritas and Fajitas, we came up with this concept," she Rait, adding, "Maybe the margaritas had something to do with the energy and passion."
VIDEO: The Grammys in NYC
It was Harkins who proposed white roses, inspired by a variety of historical demonstrators, including the suffragette protestors who wore white; the non-violent anti-Nazi resistance group White Rose; and Hillary Clinton, who donned white to Trump’s inauguration. As importantly, it's a visual both men and women can participate in—and fast. “I was trying to figure out what could be easily executed and have some meaning behind it,” Harkins told us. “We didn’t have to make a pin or ask someone to wear a color in the two days we had this idea. It could be spontaneous: You could put it in your hair. You could do the classic Beyoncé rose crown. That’s what really appealed to me, and, clearly, it’s been spreading like wild fire.”
The dinner squad and two additional women who joined their organizing effort—which includes managers, publicists, booking agents, executives, and other industry employees—decided to call themselves Voices in Entertainment and outlined the game plan in an email blast sent out to their professional networks on Wednesday. Record labels were supportive, with both RCA and Atlantic Records circulating the email company-wide, said Harkins. The group also reached out to Time’s Up to make sure their mission statements aligned. Voices in Entertainment's ambition, Rait said, is “to get as many people aware of what Time’s Up is and make sure they go to the Go Fund Me page and contribute."
After that, passing the torch to artists was easy—they were all excited to take part. “I happened to be texting with Dua [Lipa] the night before this went out, and she was like, ‘I'm with you, sister,’ and that was it—I didn't even have to explain it. Rita [Ora] was my next one, and she was like, ‘Absolutely,’” said Rait, who counts Lipa and Ora as clients.
Harkins hopes that the white rose initiative will mobilize the music world behind the anti-harassment work Voices in Entertainment is just beginning to do—and intents to continue after the Grammy Awards. At Dos Caminos on Monday, the discussed a three-pillar plan to fight sex discrimination in the music industry year-round. “It’s easy to work towards an activation and then get distracted,” Harkins said. “But it was really important that we meet again and talk about how we mentor younger women in the industry. We also talked about how we need to aim to have more access to the C-Suite and get [women] into more executive levels. The other thing was having more education on parity … I wish I knew my worth earlier in my career, for sure.”
Rita Ora, for her part, is onboard. “My hope is that the #whiterose movement is just the beginning,” she told us.
For the moment, though, Rait and Harkins are focusing on making Sunday night’s floral tribute a success. “People are really excited,” said Rait. “Now, we just have to try to find a couple thousand white roses.”