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Behind the scenes of Polished Man 2018

Now in its fifth year, ygap’s Polished Man campaign calls on the community to paint a nail blue to raise awareness and funds for children who have suffered from or are at risk of violence. After profiling ygap Campaign Manager Kylie Wallace as a #LeadingLady last year, we caught up with her again to find out what’s new in this year’s campaign, her career progression and her tips on staying motivated at work. 

How has Polished Man progressed since your #LeadingLadies interview last year? How is this year’s campaign different?

Polished Man’s brand, profile and awareness has really grown over the last 12 months. We are now a brand that one in five Australians recognise. Not too bad for a small charity campaign that runs on the love, passion and power of suppliers, partners, agencies and volunteers who commit millions of dollars in pro bono support each year.

Interestingly, we discovered that there were a lot of people who knew about Polished Man and the painted nail, but didn’t know where the money was going. So that’s been a huge focus of this year’s campaign – the cause and reason behind it; ending violence against children.

This year we also involved kids in the TV commercial, and encourage them to become the nail artists. We’ve also moved away from the famous faces to famous hands! We’re emphasising the painted nail, rather than just the famous celebrities behind it. So far, it’s been really well received. To date we’ve had 15,392 Polished Men and Women, 716 teams signed up and have raised $1,349,463.  

How do you secure your high profile ambassadors for the campaign?

We are very lucky to have so many famous faces get behind the campaign. This year we have over 40 celebrity ambassadors including Vance Joy, Michael Klim, Gyton Grantley, Tommy Little and all the contestants and judges on the Block!

We secure our ambassadors through our networks. It’s generally mates of mates, we’ve never had much luck going through general channels or talent agents.

How do you involve female ambassadors or women in general in the campaign? Is there any vision to support adult females facing violence in future?

Last year was the first year we involved female ambassadors in the campaign. It was fantastic to have amazing women like Georgia Love, Kate Peck and Olympia Valance lend a feature nail to get behind the campaign. Originally the movement was inspired by our ambassadors’ partners who painted their feature nail blue, got a picture with their man and posted it online with the hashtag #IPreferAPolishedMan. It was a simple and effective way to get women involved with a voice on the issue.

Last year one in four who signed up were women and this year it’s sitting at one in three, it’s great to see so many women inspired by the cause.

There isn’t currently a vision to support adult females facing violence, our campaign has always been solely focused on violence against children. We saw the great work other organisations were having in the area of violence against women and a need to put a spotlight on the issue of violence against children. I think spreading yourself too thin and trying to tackle a range of issues with one campaign isn’t the best way to have maximum impact.

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Where do the donations go to? What impact have you seen since you joined the organisation?

Funds raised are channelled into trauma prevention and recovery programs for children who are at risk of or have suffered violence.

This includes ygap accelerator programs and entrepreneurs running ventures that focus on ending violence against children. ygap believes in the power of social entrepreneurship, and that local leaders have the best solutions to problems in their community. This is why we back local leaders who have innovative approaches to the complex issues of trauma prevention and recovery.  

Funds are also channelled into some of the best trauma recovery agencies in the world, including the Australian Childhood Foundation, SAMSN, Hagar Australia and the New York Center for Children.

I’ve been involved with ygap for the last nine years and Polished Man for the past five (since inception). The results have been immense and hugely beneficial for children who have been abused or at risk of violence. To date we’ve raised $3.2 million dollars! We put together an amazing Impact Video Series that shows just how powerful the campaign is.

What are your favourite aspects of launching and working on the Polished Man campaign? What has been your career highlight?

My favourite part is hearing the impact we are having on our beneficiaries and getting emails from survivors of violence talking about how grateful they are for our work.

I also love being out at a bar or brunch spot in October and spotting people with painted nails, that really makes me so happy.

My personal career highlight was in 2016 when we got the Hemsworth brothers, Zac Efron, Kelly Slater and many others on board. That was a surreal experience.  

On the flip side, what is the most challenging part of running Polished Man? What happens behinds the scenes?

Many people don’t see the blood, sweat and tears we put into this campaign. Working in a charity is tough. There’s never any money and you’re fighting hard to stand out in a busy, oversaturated market.

From July to November the team and I usually pull 60+ hour weeks and it does get exhausting.

95% of our pro bono suppliers are incredible. They may be giving their time for free but they treat us like any other paying client and it’s truly humbling. However, there have been quite a few times when people have let us down and left us scrambling. As you’re not paying, you can’t really get angry or upset, but it adds a lot of work and pressure.

Behind the scenes we try and maintain a fun, relaxed and upbeat environment. We know how to work hard and play hard, and gel really well as a team. I respect and admire them all!

Kylie Picture

How have you developed (personally and professionally) since you started? Have you had the opportunity to visit the children and/or places you fundraise for?

I’ve learnt so much about campaigning, marketing, charity, philanthropy and people in general. It’s been an incredible journey of self-discovery.

I’ve pushed myself to the limits, and realised I have so much more courage, strength and determination than I knew. There were days where I didn’t think I could keep going, but when I made it out the other side I felt so grateful for the experience. It’s made me the person I am today.

Sadly I haven’t had the chance to spend much time visiting the children I support, that’s more the focus of our impact team and beneficiary partners. Last year however I did get to visit a project in South Africa as well as the New York Centre for Children where we produced a virtual reality content piece. This helped our fundraisers and donors see where the money is going and how it’s making a real impact.

How do you keep yourself motivated? Do you have any strategies or tips for our readers?

Keeping motivated is easy when you love what you do. I’ve always found it so easy to be passionate about this cause and that’s given me a huge amount of strength and energy in the tough times. I always like to get out to events and talk about what we do, hear stories from survivors of violence and the impact Polished Man has had on them.

My tips to anyone struggling with feeling motivated at work are:

– Find something you love doing and pursue it

– Find a workplace environment and team culture you enjoy

– Set goals and have a clear vision for where you’re going

I’m a people person and gain a lot of motivation from having people around me. If you’re doing a side hustle, start up or even full time gig, get a co-founder, mate, intern or people to help you and be part of the vision and journey. I love the quote: ‘if you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together’.


Read Kylie’s #LeadingLadies interview.

Connect with Kylie Wallace.

Photography by Les Hallack.