When we launched Straightface we knew we were going to go up against the big boys of shaving. We did hope that Aotearoa was such a small market they may not notice us. I have never been that good at doing what I was told, I never really felt like a fit in.
I grew up playing basketball and volleyball, it is why I am unnecessarily tall. Or maybe the other way around. Volleyball was dominated by Pacific Islanders. I would always be the palagi that could jump and hit as hard as the island boys.
From there I went to the US on a basketball scholarship, and I was the white boy that could ball with the brothers. It wasn't until I dunked on someone or crossed someone up that I got the respect that my talent should have got, but I was the minority in those worlds, and that is the rule of the game.
One of the benefits of joining these different worlds is to get another perspective on life, values, what's important. You know, all the good stuff about being human. One of the people I learned about while in the US was civil rights activist John Lewis who recently passed away.
Growing up in Aotearoa, I heard about Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X as people that pushed civil rights forward in the US. John Lewis was beside King Jr in many of the famous photos and marches.
At 21, Lewis was one of the original Freedom Riders, where he was beaten and arrested, At 23, he organised and spoke at a march in Washington. At 25, he was again beaten while leading a march over Pettus Bridge which was part of the famous Selma to Montgomery March.
He did a great many things throughout his life but the thing that resonated with me the most was the idea of good trouble.
Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.
I know shaving is nothing like civil rights, but the philosophy remains, life is tough but you have to try things. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't but have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Be brave, use your voice, stand up for what you believe in, get into some good necessary trouble.
In 2009, during Barack Obama's inauguration, Lewis asked Obama to sign a photograph of the event for him. Obama took the photograph and signed it, then handed it back. He wrote, "because of you, John".
Be that "you" for someone else.
Be awesome, shave well,