March 20, 2024
Nat Geo Rolls Out Royal Campaign for ‘Queens’
Natural history series focuses on females in front of and behind the camera.

The word ‘queen’ carries a lot of meaning, conjuring images of royalty, respect, elegance, fierceness, matriarchy, power and more. National Geographic’s new natural history series, Queens, is imbued with all of that and more. Queens premiered March 4 on Nat Geo and is now available to be streamed on Hulu and Disney Plus.

“A new hero is rising: resilient, fierce and female,” Angela Bassett narrates in the above official trailer, accompanied by Billie Eilish’s “You Should See Me in a Crown.”

Janet Han Vissering, Nat Geo’s senior vice president of program production and development, and Wildstar Films’ Vanessa Berlowitz first had the idea to produce a series about female animals from the perspective of women. The pair went on to executive produce the series, and as much as possible they hired women for all of the key roles. They also sought to hire women locally in the areas in which they were filming.

“It’s no secret that natural history has largely been dominated in front of and behind the camera by white men,” said Chris Albert, Nat Geo’s executive vice president, marketing and communications. “This series was four years in the making and even four years ago, this was revolutionary. This series was almost entirely led by women from the production crew, to the editors, cinematographers and music.”

Queens is narrated and executive produced by Bassett with an original score composed by former M83 member Morgan Kibby as well as commercial tracks from such artists as MIA, Santigold, Sia and more. The original main title track is composed and performed by rising star Alewya.

Alewya’s song, “Uni,” and its accompanying music video premiered at Nat Geo’s Los Angeles premiere party, “The Queen’s Ball,” held at the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles. Former Senator and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton opened the premiere with a video message, while composer Kibby performed prior to a showing of the “African Queens” episode. After the screening, attendees were treated to a reception with animal topiaries decorating the buffet tables.

Queens also screened February 10 in London and at Savannah’s College of Art and Design (SCAD), and episode “Tiny Jungle Queens” debuted at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., on March 3.

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The series’ female-first perspective carried over into Nat Geo’s immersive “Fit for a Queen” event, held February 10 during New York Fashion Week.

When Pop’N Creative co-founders Jessica Lane and Lori Hall pitched Nat Geo on the idea for “Fit for a Queen,” they knew they were swinging for the fences.

“This was not a safe idea, this was a wild card,” said Lane. But when Lane and Hall looked at the proposed date of the event, they realized it was during Fashion Week, bookended by Black History Month and Women’s History Month. The idea clicked into place and Pop’N Creative went for it. To their surprise, Nat Geo loved it.

“We wanted to do something different that we’d never done before,” Albert said. “It was so inspiring and unexpected from Nat Geo. People were really blown away by how unique and different it was.”  

The event took place at Moonlight Studios in Soho with nearly 400 New York fashionistas, influencers and press in attendance. Accompanied by life-like holograms of an elephant, lion and bear, models walked, danced and strutted down the runway in clothes inspired by the animals.

Model in crushed tawny velvet dances during a lioness-inspired segment of "Fit for a Queen."

“We really hung our hats on this hologram experience,” Lane said, working with The Eisley Company to produce the holograms. “We wanted to stand out amid everything going on at Fashion Week. We thought the holograms would be big for people to capture on social.”

Life-size hologram of a lioness on-stage during "Fit for a Queen."

Holograms don’t photograph well, however, so the Atlanta-based multicultural marketing agency partnered with production company PRG to create a filter that allowed attendees to include the holograms in their photos and videos and share those across social platforms.

Using dried florals and grasses, the room was styled to look like an African savanna, but it also kept the focus on Nat Geo, making sure the channel’s yellow rectangle was prominently displayed. Video from the series’ beautiful cinematography also played on screens throughout the event while animal noises and natural sounds came from the speakers.

“It really became an immersive event with the soundscape design, hologram design, dancers and so forth – all of it really created an incredible mood,” said Hall.

Just as Nat Geo did with Queens, Pop’N Creative kept it female-focused as well as multicultural, working with stylist Sakinah Bashir on the runway outfits and creative director Kettelie Dubuisson on the overall look and feel of the event. Designers invited to show at “Fit for a Queen” included Sergio Hudson; AnOnlyChild; Jéblanc; Black-owned resort wear line Bohn Jsell; Head of State, led by Nigerian-born Taofeek Abijako; and Theophilio. The show was hosted by Brooklyn-based influencer Plant Kween, who dressed in verdant green. Sophie Darlington, a cinematographer on the series and a former model, took a spin on the runway.

“Nat Geo actually achieved disruption with this event,” Hall said. “People think the channel is only for animal lovers and nature lovers, but this event created parallels between the animal kingdom and the fashion world. The press showed it, the influencers highlighted it. This is the kind of show we’ve always wanted to go to.”

Nat Geo finished up its marketing tour with a stop at Austin’s South by Southwest, where it worked with Black- and female-led agency Idlewild and artist Erin Yoshi to paint a colorful Queens mural on the East Austin Hotel.

While at SXSW, Nat Geo took part in two panels – one in concert with The Female Quotient called “Leaders of the Pack: Celebrating the Power and Leadership of Alpha Women.” That panel featured Vissering and Berlowitz as well as producer and director Faith Musembi, composer Kibby and photographer Jen Guyton. Nat Geo produced another SXSW panel titled “Women Who Run the Storytelling World,” which again featured Berlowitz along with Nat Geo executives director Lisa Cortes, marine biologist and lead storyteller Dr. Alex Schnell and photographer Krystle Wright.

Nat Geo ended up accruing almost 150 million impressions against social, print and digital for its Queens campaign. It also promoted the show on its own social handles, which themselves boast some 750 million followers.

“What this series can do for the industry is game-changing. It’s redefining the power dynamics in natural-history production,” said Albert. “We wanted to do that idea justice in the marketing as well.”

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