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Yum! In The News

At Yum! Brands, LGBTQ+ Pride Month marches on

Pride Month June 2020

Published on June 07, 2020

Editor's Note: Recent U.S. protests against continued injustice serve as ever-present reminders that we must do more in the fight for equality for all under-represented groups. This June, we continue to honor and stand with the LGBTQ+ and black communities. We see you. We hear you. We must do more.

Since its inception over 50 years ago, LGBTQ+ Pride Month has been a time when people can come together in large groups for parades, parties, festivals and more to celebrate the community and reflect on the history and future of equality. Pride celebrations around the world seem to be bigger and better every year; however, the summer of 2020 feels like an abrupt interruption.    

Despite the limitations that COVID-19 has imposed upon large gatherings, the spirit of Pride remains strong, and at Yum! Brands, we’re celebrating by sharing perspectives from several of our LGBTQ+ employees throughout June. Join us as we live out one of our company values, belief in ALL people, by honoring the diverse backgrounds and experiences that everyone brings to the table. 

Happy LGBTQ+ Pride Month! 

Check back weekly for new stories. Jump to a particular interview by clicking on a name below:

Staci Rawls 

Roberto Barraza 

Robert Fisher 

Javier Contreras 

Lori Thompson 

Robbie Binion 

Yadiel Melendez 

Staci Rawls, Chief Communications Officer, KFC U.S.

Staci Rawls

Why is it important to be your authentic self?

Earlier in my career, I found myself in a situation where I felt (justifiably so) that living out of the closet would jeopardize my career. So I made the decision to do everything I could to keep that part of myself hidden, which meant pulling all the stops to show up as the person I thought others expected me to be – at work and even in my personal life. Living this way slowly chipped away at the very core of my authenticity. I created such barriers in almost every facet of my life that no one – coworkers, friends, even family – could see my true authentic self. Masking such a big, important part of my life meant I had trouble connecting with people in a real way, and they never really had a chance to know me.

Eventually, I started a new career path and made a commitment to openness and transparency that has been a strong compass for me ever since. Letting go of who I thought people wanted me to be and embracing who I really am was a game changer. My relationships flourished, I was more successful in life and in my career, and I learned a kind of empathy for other people and their unique journeys that has paid off professionally. Being my authentic self has allowed me to openly share not only my strengths, but my vulnerabilities and opportunities – and I believe that helps make it safe for my teams to be themselves at work, too. And that fosters more productivity, more trust and less fear. Isn’t that the environment we all hope to work in?

What qualities make for a strong LGBTQ+ ally?

While “support” is a critical quality for a strong LGBTQ+ ally, I think it’s important for an ally to be open-minded, to be informed, to ask questions and most important of all – to speak up. A true ally who isn’t afraid to speak up and advocate can be an incredibly powerful voice for the LGBTQ+ community.

Do you have a particular LGBTQ+ artist who people should follow? 

I think I’m pretty out of touch with pop culture, and I’ll probably really show my age here, but I’m a longtime fan of the Indigo Girls, who helped pave the way for many of us. Since this COVID-19 quarantine began, they’ve been livestreaming a Facebook Live (and Instagram) concert and Q&A on Thursday evenings. Not only have they been a welcome escape from the crisis and self-isolation, they’ve also given me a nice little trip down memory lane. You should tune into one and check it out!

Roberto Barraza, Franchise Business Manager, The Habit Burger Grill 

Roberto Barraza

What does “Pride” mean to you?

It's accepting who you are, being proud of everything you stand for and saying to the world, “This is who I am, and I’m proud of it.” Nobody should be able to make you feel ashamed of who you are or what you stand for.

Why is Pride Month so important?

It’s more important than ever for people to feel a sense of support and community. Although 2020 Pride activities will not be celebrated in person, this year is an opportunity to innovate and still demonstrate support and celebration. Virtual activities such as celebration on Zoom and wearing the Pride colors are how I will be celebrating.

What qualities make for a strong LGBTQ+ ally?

An LGBTQ+ ally must have strong leadership skills, patience when educating others, the desire to understand and support inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community and the ability to address barriers to equal justice for everyone.

Robert Fisher, Senior Production Designer, Taco Bell 

Robert Fisher

Why is it important to be your authentic self?

When I applied at Taco Bell, I knew about the company’s incredible culture and that I wouldn’t need to hide or pretend, which allowed me to build strong, authentic, long-lasting connections and friendships with my team. These relationships enable us to be a productive, art agency powerhouse that is also a true family.

I’ve also had opportunities to share my life with them (as well as some unexpected, glitter-fueled drag moments at team offsite meetings!), and I hope that I can be an example of how good life can be and break down some stigmas and misconceptions.

With Pride Month festivals and parades being postponed due to COVID-19, do you have any special plans to celebrate?

We have plenty of reasons to celebrate, one of which being that Taco Bell is proudly launching our first LGBTQ+ employee resource group (ERG)! We’ve been working closely with our Leadership Team and with our fellow ERG in Louisville, Kentucky, to bring a new level of ¡Diversidád! to our Irvine, California, campus. We’re excited to share more about this wonderful organization we’re developing and will be celebrating Pride Month with virtual trivia challenges, movie nights, guest speakers and much more.  


Do you have a particular LGBTQ+ movie that people should watch?

A really wonderful film was released earlier this year called The Thing About Harry; I wish this romantic comedy was around when I was a teen. As young LGBTQ+ people, we’re taught early on a very cisgender, heteronormative formula: “boy meets girl,” comedic chaos ensues, typically followed with a happily ever after. Unfortunately, many of the film references that I had growing up often left the LGBTQ+ protagonists to tragically deal with depression, loss, disease and physical violence. Examples include Soldier’s Girl and Boys Don’t Cry. Both important pieces of LGBTQ+ cinema based on actual events that unfortunately ended in the deaths of the queer characters. It is such a breath of fresh air to watch a film with two LGBTQ+ protagonists with whom I can relate and are representative of a world where there is empathy, compassion, love and some hijinks tossed in for good fun!

Javier Contreras, Senior Manager, Marketing, Pizza Hut U.S. 

Javier Contreras

How are you celebrating Pride this year?

My husband and I are both introverted homebodies, so rather than participating in big Pride Month celebrations, we take the moment as an opportunity to gain perspective on what we’ve achieved and how we can use every day as a chance to make the world better for future generations by sharing our true selves with the world.

Javier Contreras and Husband

What qualities make for a strong LGBTQ+ ally?  

Try not to label people or how they live their lives based on your own expectations. Rather than create more labels or stereotypes, it’s better to practice tolerance and acceptance for everyone as they are.

Do you have a particular LGBTQ+ icon who people should follow?

Everyone must check out Cody Rigsby, the Peloton instructor! He has the funniest, hardest workouts and, most importantly, the BEST PLAYLISTS. His constant motivation, like, “Don’t give up on me” and “Be the best of yourself” keeps you focused, cheers you up and really helps you give it your all.

Lori Thompson, Region Operations Leader, Taco Bell 

Lori Thompson

What role does authenticity play in leadership?

Early in my career, I was afraid to live as my authentic self and struggled to feel accepted. As I have gained more confidence personally and professionally, I know that what truly matters is how I lead and share love. In order to inspire excellence, I must be authentic, establish credibility and connect with people on a personal and professional level. My team needs to know my character, feel my passion and trust my heart in order for us to be successful as a brand.

What does “Pride” mean to you?

It’s a reminder of how important it is to be comfortable with who you are and to give love freely and unconditionally to everyone. Every day, I ask myself, “How can I make a difference today?” This inspires me to adopt a positive mindset and focus on my blessings. It also enables me to be a light for myself, my family and my teams. 

How are you celebrating Pride Month this year?

I don’t limit it to Pride Month. I celebrate who I am every day by being my best self. For me, that means embracing all the different parts of my life. I have a wife of almost 14 years, I’m a passionate, spirited kind woman who loves all people and I want to lead others by example. When I wake up, I celebrate and express gratitude of being given an opportunity to impact others. If we could all share love or simply just treat everyone the way we all want to be treated, the world would be such a different place.

Lori Thompson and Wife

Robbie Binion, Financial Analyst and CPA, Yum! Corporate 

Robbie Binion

What does “Pride” mean to you?

It means that I am living my life without shame of the way I was born, and I can live openly and honestly with everyone around me. It’s also a time to reflect and honor the people who started the fight for equality many years ago, like the people who protested and rose up against police brutality at the Stonewall Inn in June of 1969. I think a lot of people, including young LGBTQ+ people, do not understand the origins of Pride Month, and it’s important to keep that in the conversation.

What qualities make for a strong LGBTQ+ ally?

A good ally is someone who is not afraid to call out bias or negativity when they see or hear it. It’s also someone who uses those instances as teachable moments backed by rational dialogue. The best example from my own life is my friend Kelly. She’s so supportive of everything that goes on in the community of Louisville, and she’s always educating people in her life about LGBTQ+ issues. She’s also raised her three kids to become incredible examples of what allies should strive to become.

Do you have a particular LGBTQ+ show that people should watch?

I’m currently watching the show We’re Here on HBO, in which a trio of drag queens goes to very small towns throughout America and teams up with local LGBTQ+ people and allies to put on a one-night drag show. It’s been incredibly powerful to hear the stories of some of the marginalized people on the show, and it has made me very grateful to live in such an accepting city like Louisville, Kentucky. I very much identify with some of their lives as I grew up in an extremely small town. Even though there are usually tears, the show ends on a very uplifting note, and the drag shows are always awesome!

Yadiel Melendez, Senior Analyst, Global Food Safety and Quality Assurance, KFC Yum! Corporate Yadiel Melendez

Why is authenticity important to you as a member of the LGBTQ+ community?

Today in almost half of the states in the U.S., LGBTQ+ individuals have no statewide employment protections and could be fired just for who they love. It’s always good to know that I work for a company with a culture of authenticity and acceptance. Hopefully by being myself, I’m able to encourage others who feel like they aren’t yet able to do so.

NOTE: Days after this article was published, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination are prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, meaning that LGBTQ+ employees nationwide now have protection from discrimination, including termination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, in the workplace. 

What does “Pride” mean to you?

It’s the celebration of the LGBTQ+ community and the ability to live and do the small, “normal” things like hold my fiancé’s hand in public without fear of hostility and judgment. It’s about being able to have a conversation where people see me for my sarcasm and horrible jokes, not for who I love. It’s being known as the boring couple who watches documentaries on the weekends instead of “the gay couple.” That’s what Pride is in my book. At the end of the day, we all just want to be happy, and for me, Pride is a celebration of being able to exist.

How are you celebrating Pride this year?

I’m looking at different ways of spending time with the people I love most. I’ve found Microsoft Teams to be a great way to communicate virtually, so I’ll be participating in many Teams trivia, game and movie nights. Maybe even a virtual party here and there. Even if it’s a bit hard not being able to see people in person, at least there’s no dietary restrictions to be concerned about!

What LGBTQ+ media should we be consuming?

I’d love to highlight two commercials that always get to me. Hopefully they get to someone out there who is either struggling to understand why we celebrate Pride or someone who simply doesn’t think we deserve the rights we continue to fight for.

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