Today we are pleased to present an exclusive Over My Shoulder Foundation interview with the two talented ladies from the UK who run the L Project, an anti-LGBT bullying campaign. This interview touches on a hot topic. Bullying. There is too much of it and not enough mentors speaking out against it.

Georgey Payne and Sofia Antonia Milone are currently promoting the release of the hit single “It Does Get Better” to raise awareness about the effects of LGBT bullying, to give hope to those suffering from it, and to raise money to help combat it.

We love the slogan on the L Project Facebook Page, “Because you don’t have to be a minority to support equality and reject discrimination.”

-Dawn Carroll, Over My Shoulder Foundation Co-Founder

Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. At Over My Shoulder Foundation (OMSF), our mentoring organization uses the Jimi Hendrix quote “If there is something to be changed in this world…then it can only be done through music”. “It Does Get Better” is proof that music CAN change the world – its impact is much more than you’d anticipated, and you got Seventeen of the UK’s leading lesbian music artists appear on the track. How did you do it?

Sofia – Put simply, a lot of hard work and determination, coupled with passion and talent. Essentially the kernel of the first project all came from Georgey and the song she penned. The artists were approached, a recording studio was found at a great special rate, and then we had to convince some sponsors to fund it.

The creative part was the easiest in many ways, because every participant was a consummate professional. No time was wasted, and within a weekend the music and vocals were recorded.

By far the hardest part was marketing the project pre-release. What really helped with that was having a professional campaign and a great product, but what actually propelled us was the resulting backing from the gay press and some amazing online social media pages.

As people became aware of us they passed on the message, and trust was built with those big online pages like Wipeout Homophobia on Facebook. Nothing beats a personal recommendation. Once the press and related people became interested we secretly let them hear the song, and they too knew we had a great product, and so the sharing continued.

We also had exclusive pre-release listening days for all those who had joined the L Project Facebook page, it made them feel a real part of the project – and I’m confident that it was hearing the song that drove them all to share us like mad. Social Media has truly been the method of this campaign.

Sofia Antonia Milone
Sofia Antonia Milone, Photography by Katie Lamb

Can you talk a little about how you’ve noticed your music become a change-making catalyst? Is there fan feedback that really made an impact, or a time when you had your a-ha moment of realization that what you created was making the world a better place?

Sofia – We knew the message of the song would unite people, but it was only after its release when people came pouring to the page, that we started seeing just how personally affecting the song, and the supportive project page environment, was to people.

We started receiving fanmail, and each and every person had a significant story to tell. Some are very hard to read, but all of them end well in that they tell us that the song has renewed their strength, and given them the boost they needed when times were hard.

Music and words are certainly powerful, but I think it’s giving people a place to come and feel included after they’ve heard our message, a place where they can share things, even if that is just a page on Facebook, that has become just as important. And that place is molded by those who frequent it.

Georgey, you wrote “It Does Get Better” in an attempt to cheer up a young friend who had confided in you that he had been the subject of homophobic bullying in school. The attempt has cheered up many, and inspired us all. How did the idea for the song come to you? What was your inspiration?

Georgey – The idea for the song was born simply because I wanted to cheer my friend up, make him feel happy about being gay and not feel like it was something he needed to fear. Because when you’re being beaten up all the time as he was, I can imagine that being gay quickly becomes something you learn to dislike about yourself.

The tune for the song was buzzing around in my head, and when I write it’s always the music and feel of the song that comes first. So when I got in from work that day I started on it straight away. It took me about an hour from start to finish. Whilst I was writing I changed the second verse to appeal to the whole LGBT community, hoping to empower them to feel good about being LGBT as well.
 

Georgey Payne
Georgey Payne

 

And how about the L Project. That grew out of the song? Can you tell us about that process?

Sofia – It quickly became clear that the attention we had garnered for the song was greater than we thought possible, and we had a choice: Either The L Project was just about this song, or it was something bigger.

Georgey and I are highly driven people, and this caught us at a time when we both really wanted to get our teeth into something. Georgey did that by getting the ball rolling, I did it by joining it full force, and together we decided that we make a great team.

We barely see one another, but the internet has allowed us to create a campaign bigger and better than anything either of us could have dreamed. Why leave it there? So many people were asking ‘what next?’ that we had ask ourselves the same thing. The answer to that question is as boundless as this project hopes to be.

Another project, new charities to donate to, more artists to gather, and fantastically supportive community to help us move forward. That’s what this project is, the community that has stood behind it. The fact that they’re not merely fans, they have somehow been empowered, they have taken our song and shared it with the world, shouted about it everywhere. The L Project stopped being about just one song almost as soon as the song came out.

Instead it started being about a community filled with like-minded individuals, from all over the globe. It started inspiring people. And in turn, we too have been inspired.

 

At OMSF, we stake our foundations on our concept of Mentorology (the art and science of mentoring). Mentoring can move us all toward a society of greater inclusion, integrity and value. Mentoring also helps us get across messages that might otherwise go unheard. Can you tell us what mentoring is to you? And how it has affected your life?

Sofia – This idea, or concept, of mentoring is new to me. Obviously I understand what a mentor is, but it is not something I have consciously taken note of before. I have had many inspiring people in my life, people I have looked up to, who have undoubtedly guided my moral compass. Most of those people have been family members, most notably my mother who is sadly no longer with us.

I can’t honestly say as an adult I have anyone I would term a ‘mentor’ specifically, I am driven and supported by my peers and colleagues. I think in this respect we are all mentors to one another.


Are you currently a mentor? If not, do you have plans in the future to become a mentor yourself?

 Sofia – I suppose the idea of a ‘mentor’ is not dissimilar to that of a ‘role model’ (a term I’m more familiar with personally) and if it means to be a good person, doing good things, to give advice, information and support when it is requested, and maybe instill hope or inspiration in others, then I’d say that’s exactly what I try to do and be on a daily basis.

I would also say that being a ‘mentor’ to an individual is not something you can decide to become, rather individuals decide to treat you as their mentor. I merely hope that what I do, and what I achieve in life is something people can aspire to. If I can help them, of course I will. And I think on a larger scale, that’s what The L Project is about – setting a good example, and encouraging others to do the same.

 

Thank you, again, Georgey and Sofia for the time you took to talk with us about the L Project, your music, and your experiences of Mentorology.

You’re welcome, we wish you lots of luck!

Sofia Antonia Milone (L) and Georgey Payne (R)
Sofia Antonia Milone (L) and Georgey Payne (R). Photography by Katie Lamb.

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