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Cleo Wade

Talking From the Heart: Cleo Wade Loves Unconventionally

Eliza Jordan

23 February 2018

The immutable and powerfully optimistic poet and author Cleo Wade is an unwavering source of support. She encourages women, youth, the LGBTQ community, minorities, and everyone between to unite and celebrate each other and love. She’s an amplifier for the importance of activism—and not just the political kind, but the deep, real fight for a true emotional journey. Her honesty is spotlighted through simple yet profound poetry, seen on social media, in the creative community, and in her new book Heart Talk: Poetic Wisdom for a Better World. Last year, she gave a TEDTalk at TEDWomen on changing the world a day (and a responsible gesture) at a time, and we recently heard her read an excerpt from her new book at Roland Mouret’s flagship in New York. Now, she is partnering with Moët & Chandon to extend her positive poetry—seen on the brand’s new bottle, and in a Snapchat game.

To hear more about the partnership, her new book, and being a part of world change, we spoke with Wade.

WHITEWALL: Tell us a bit about your collaboration with Moët & Chandon.

CLEO WADE: Moët & Chandon’s “Love Unconventional Poem Generator” on Snapchat was created in celebration of the champagne’s limited-edition “Love Unconventional” rosé bottles. The entire campaign is inspired by the different types of loves that exist in addition to a romantic relationship, such as my love for poetry, a friendship, a mother/daughter bond, and so on. The Moët Poem Generator launched on Snapchat as a fun way that friends can interact with one another through a game experience. They shoot champagne corks at a tower of glasses, and instead of being awarded with points for precision, receive various words which create a unique poem in the end. Everyone can download and save their personalized poems as Valentines and continue to share the love.

Moët & Chandon

Courtesy of Moët & Chandon.

WW: What was the inspiration behind your poems for the generator? 

CW: I wanted to write simple, affirmative, and freeing. One way to love unconventionally is to allow love to be light and bright rather than complicated, heavy, and confusing.

Courtesy of Moët & Chandon.

WW: How would you describe “loving unconventionally” for which the Moët campaign is inspired by? 

CW: The campaign celebrates all types of love whether it be self-love, romantic, a pet, your career, or whatever it may be. The Love Poem Generator reflects this in its words, and also celebrates the different quirks and eccentricities that make individuals who they are. The Poem Generator, bottle availability, and entire campaign will carry all the way through Mother’s Day, embracing this idea that love shouldn’t be confined to just one day.

Courtesy of Moët & Chandon.

WW: Tell us a bit about your book Heart Talk: Poetic Wisdom for a Better World. You said you wanted to call it a friend rather than a book, and that 1/3 is traditional poetry, 1/3 are your notes, and 1/3 is “kitchen table conversation.” Do you have a favorite offering? 

CW: I don’t think I could pick a favorite! Everything in the book is great for different moments in your life or in your day. What I love most about it is that the book is very practical and useful.

Courtesy of Moët & Chandon.

I am really just so excited about the book going on my book tour. I so love getting to spend time with my audience and creating loving, healing spaces for us to get to know each other in.

WW: You’re also a board member of National Black Theatre (NBT). Can you tell us a bit about NBT’s mission?

Courtesy of Moët & Chandon.

CW: NBT is one of the longest running theatres in the country that is owned and operated by a woman of color. The owner, Sade Lythcott, is a longtime friend and muse. The opening of my TedTalk is actually about her baby. NBT’s core mission remains the same today as it was at the time of its founding, to produce transformational theatrical experiences that enhance African American cultural identity by telling authentic stories of the Black experience.

WW: During your TedTalk, you said you wanted people to walk away not thinking “I want to be a better person,” but rather, “I am going to be a better person, and here’s how.” What were some highlights that allowed people to walk away thinking that?

Cleo Wade.
Courtesy of Roland Mouret.

CW: Our micro actions are often what create our macro impact. My talk is about recognizing that trying being a better person may feel too overwhelming, but some of the easy way too start is by being a better listener, or a better neighbor, or a better friend. I wanted to create a talk about the many different entry points that exists to being a part of world change.

WW: You also hosted a project called “Are You Okay?”—a booth modeled after Lucy from The Peanuts—and you said a takeaway from that booth was the psychological trauma that not being seen has on people. How can people help others, and themselves, feel and be more seen?

CW: I think we must gently remind ourselves that there is always enough time in the day to acknowledge someone’s dignity and humanity. We are on this planet together at the same time or a reason. We all do better and feel better when we are more connected, supportive, and inclusive.



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