What part do Gigi and Bella Hadid, along with caviar—also known as the ‘food of the gods’—play in the fight against AIDS? It may sound pretty far-fetched right now, but let me explain. In October 2020, Mohamed Hadid, the father of two of the world’s most famous supermodels, Gigi and Bella, announced the launch of his latest venture, HADID Caviar.
Quickly proclaimed as “the world’s most desirable caviar” by some, the luxury caviar company recently made waves for a different reason—its participation in the fight against AIDS. In May 2021, HADID Caviar announced its collaboration with amfAR, a world-famous nonprofit organisation dedicated to the support of AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and the advocacy of AIDS-related public policy. Since 1985, amfAR has invested nearly $600 million in its programmes and has awarded more than 3,500 grants to research teams worldwide.
From now on, HADID Caviar will be donating 5 per cent of the profits from the sale of its products to amfAR. “Part of our mission statement is to give something back to the global community. One way we are doing this is by supporting amfAR and its innovative research aimed at making AIDS history and bringing an end to the COVID-19 pandemic,” reads the company’s website.
We spoke to HADID Caviar’s CEO Edward Gant about the launch of the company and its contribution to amfAR. “The company was founded in the midst of the pandemic in 2020 after two years of extensive market research. I have been personally involved in the seafood industry for more than 15 years alongside my family being in this industry for over 30 years. Since the beginning of the brand, Mohamed has been very enthusiastic about HADID Caviar and he is involved on a daily basis in the strategic decisions of the company.”
As the first celebrity-owned caviar brand, Gant told us it shouldn’t (and couldn’t) be considered as just another caviar brand. “We bring a different approach to the caviar market, educating our clients on what good caviar should taste like and combining it with a more minimal design modernising the whole industry.” Many celebrities including Kris Jenner, Martha Stewart, Lindsey Lohan, Elizabeth Hurley, Alexander Ludwig, Omari Hardwick and many others have already endorsed it. “But the first and most important step for us is to make people understand that the best quality caviar is not salty and hasn’t got a fishy taste to start with,” Gant added.
HADID Caviar offers a wide range of products, taking form in different editions representing separate species. “Each of the editions/species is completely different to the others in terms of colour, texture, roe size and taste,” explained Gant. When asked which one he would recommend for someone who’s never tasted caviar before, Gant told us, “Taste is something personal but for someone who hasn’t tasted it before, it’s better to start with our Silver Edition and Gold Edition as both have a more balanced taste that suits most people. Then experimenting with the other editions is part of the whole experience.”
When it comes to caviar connoisseurs—anyone here?—Gant advised them to go for “Beluga caviar, so our Black Diamond Edition.” As the conversation moved on to HADID Caviar’s pledge to donate 5 per cent of its profits to support amfAR’s AIDS research, we had to ask Gant, “why this organisation in particular?” He answered, “Mohamed and I both donate to several charities but not many charities want to be associated with brands. amfAR was very interested from the beginning and since we already had a good relationship with the team, it was our first option.”
HADID Caviar clearly states on its website that it strongly intends to give something back to the global community. Gant further stressed this point, “Every single donation matters and we endeavour to help in any way we can so that amfAR can achieve its targets. We are also looking into sponsoring their events and promoting them through our social media channels to increase awareness surrounding AIDS research.”
As a fairly new brand, HADID Caviar has already achieved a lot, especially during a year where most of the world was under strict lockdown restrictions. “Growing globally is our first target for the following months,” Gant added. “We are also working on the development of a wider range of products around caviar-like smoked Sturgeon, caviar crackers, caviar butter and caviar flavoured potato crisps.”
And if, like most of us, you can’t afford to spend a couple hundred bucks on quality caviar, why don’t you follow HADID Caviar’s lead and support amfAR‘s innovative research with whatever method is most convenient for you?
It’s A Sin—Russel T. Davies’ recent record-breaking miniseries for Channel 4—is the first major British drama to deal explicitly with the AIDS crisis. But there is a wealth of fiction, film and drama that has explored HIV among gay men and queer communities, both at the time and, like It’s A Sin, looking back from a time when HIV is no longer the diagnosis it once was.
The Prettiest Star by Carter Sickels is a revelation: after a diagnosis of AIDS, a young man returns to rural America from New York, where he reconnects with his family and faces up to small-town homophobia. It is difficult and startling, like most of these works, but has a wondrous heart. The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai and Tim Murphy’s Christadora both explore a network of friends and families in Chicago and New York, respectively, as lives are ravaged and ruined by HIV. They both deal simultaneously with 80s and 21st century storylines, too, examining the legacy of AIDS on their communities.
David France produced a documentary and accompanying book, both called How To Survive A Plague, which does a brilliant and thorough job recounting the history of AIDS and associated activism, primarily in America. The first history of AIDS in America, And The Band Played On by Randy Shilts, is an interesting historical text, but problematic in many ways, not least its reliance on a patient zero narrative, attempting to trace the arrival of HIV in America to a single individual. Richard A. McKay has tackled this issue head-on in Patient Zero and the Making of the AIDS Epidemic, described as “myth-smashing revisionist history at its best.”
In terms of contemporaneous writing from the late-80s and early-90s, I can’t not recommend Close to the Knives by David Wojnarowicz, his “memoir of disintegration,” that beautifully marries mourning, rage, and poetry; it was rereleased by Canongate in 2017 with a new introduction by critic Olivia Laing. Sarah Schulman’s incredible memoir, The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination brings to life the Lower East Side and how it changed during the AIDS crisis, roughly from 1981 to 1996. Later this year, Schulman is releasing a political history of ACT UP—the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power—one of the most important and impactful international AIDS activist groups, which Schulman was personally involved with.
The best British writing from the AIDS crisis that I’ve come across is by filmmaker and artist Derek Jarman: At Your Own Risk is part memoir, part polemic, which savages Thatcherite policy and institutional homophobia. His diaries from 1989 until his death have also been published in two volumes, Modern Nature and Smiling in Slow Motion, both offering meditations on art, recording the development of his peculiar and exquisite garden in Dungeness, and documenting his deterioration from AIDS. Blue, his final film, a single static shot of a vivid blue with a voiceover documenting his illness, is essential viewing for anyone interested in this period of history. Jarman also directed the Pet Shop Boys’ music video for their single, It’s A Sin, from which the show takes its name, which is well worth a watch and demonstrates Jarman’s exceptionally creative talent.
For anyone who was particularly enchanted by Jill’s story in It’s A Sin—#BeMoreJill trended on Twitter after the show aired—this year saw the publication of Ruth Coker Burks’ memoir, All the Young Men. A young mother in the conservative South of the US, she looked after dozens of men infected with HIV and dying of AIDS, at a time when they were often abandoned by their families and even by the medical community. She kept her story secret for years, out of fear of repercussions to this day within her deeply conservative community—but it’s a powerful and necessary piece of memoir.
There are many important and celebrated plays about HIV/AIDS: Angels in America, for example, or The Inheritance. HBO made a miniseries of Angels in America back in 2003 and the National Theatre’s 2017 production, which won multiple awards in London and on Broadway, is available to stream now via National Theatre At Home. The National has also programmed Larry Kramer’s A Normal Heart for later this year—the first major play that dealt with AIDS—which will hopefully come to fruition.
120 Beats Per Minute is a phenomenal French film about the work of ACT UP in Paris: it’s deeply moving and true to life, having been developed in collaboration with activists involved at the time. It’s also incredibly sexy—one of my criticisms of It’s A Sin was the lack of safe sex depicted, the erasure of eroticism after the characters were diagnosed with HIV. Philadelphia was the first major film to deal with AIDS and is an interesting historical work, but is not without its problems. Dallas Buyers Club, a similarly big-budget, Oscar-winning movie, tells the true story of Ron Woodroof and touches upon some of the specific issues faced by those living with HIV with brutal realism.
We lost a generation of artists and creatives to AIDS: Robert Mapplethorpe, Keith Haring, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, David Wojnarowicz, Peter Hujar, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Leigh Bowery, David Robilliard, David McDiarmid—the list, sadly, goes on and on. For more information and resources, check out Visual AIDS, an American charity that originated the red ribbon as a symbol of AIDS awareness and runs an annual programme of events for World AIDS Day, entitled Day With(out) Art: “Visual AIDS utilizes art to fight AIDS by provoking dialogue, supporting HIV+ artists, and preserving a legacy, because AIDS is not over.”
The Terrence Higgins Trust do brilliant work providing education and support for HIV and sexual health around the UK. “Don’t let the ‘AIDS’ of It’s A Sin be your view of HIV today,” writes Fraser Wilson from the Terrence Higgins Trust. “Because we’ve come a long way in the fight against HIV since then and worked too hard, with too much still to do, to be taking even one step backwards now.”
There are some wonderful HIV-positive writers and poets working today: I want to mention Danez Smith and Jericho Brown, both incredible and award-winning poets. Brown won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his collection The Tradition, which includes the stunning little poem ‘Cakewalk’—it starts, “My man swears his HIV is better than mine, that his has in it a little gold, something he can spend if he ever gets old…”