Exclusive: Maggie Q makes an excellent case for a fur-free holiday shopping list

Suzy Byrne
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment & Lifestyle
Maggie Q’s bold new ad campaign for PETA. (Photo: PETA)

If there are any fur products on your holiday shopping list — even the tiniest bit of trim — this photo of Maggie Q should make you rethink them.

The Designated Survivor star and Nikita alum appears in a bold new campaign for PETA — the kind that leaves a lasting impression as she clutches a bloody dead rabbit in one hand. The point of the ad — which reads “Here’s the rest of your fur trim” — is to serve as a reminder this Black Friday and holiday gift-giving season that animals are electrocuted, drowned, beaten, and often skinned alive to have their fur removed. And, yes, that includes the tiny bits of fur trim on clothes and accessories. The campaign launched in Asia, and this is your first look at the English version.

PETA is known for its shocking images, but Maggie — a passionate animal-rights advocate who also works with WildAid and Best Friends Animal Society in Los Angeles — tells Yahoo Entertainment that she came up with the concept for the shoot, a collaboration with fashion photographer Greg Kadel, after being fed up with all the fur she had been seeing.

“I was inspired by a PETA campaign they had done years ago with Sophie Ellis-Bextor,” she says, referring to the 2002 ad featuring the British singer and model. “She is a very pale-skinned woman, [the background] was all black — her face and the animal popped. I remember thinking how much it affected me and my psyche around fur and the cruelty around it. Also, how in-your-face it was without overselling it because the truth is these are not animals people eat. These are animals people discard completely and are just used for their skin.”

While Maggie doesn’t wear fur and that’s known to the people she works with, she says people still try to get her to wear it when it’s an accent on an article of clothing. Needless to say, it’s exasperating.

“I can’t tell you the times someone has said, ‘I know you don’t wear fur, but there’s just a little bit on it — on the bottom’ or ‘on the collar.’ Are you friggin’ kidding me?!” she says incredulously. “So I wanted to send a message about trim. We’re really not in an age anymore — well, unless you’re certain people that I won’t name — of wearing floor-length fur coats. That’s … kind of died out. Instead, what’s even worse, the masses are able to afford cheaper fur and things that have just a little bit of trim, and maybe that makes them feel like it’s luxurious, and so that’s desired. I wanted to create something that would affect people emotionally, but also visually, and let them know where that stuff is coming from.”

Just to be clear: Animal prints are OK for Maggie Q. Fur is not. Even “a little bit on the collar.” (Photo: Greg Doherty/Getty Images)

Where exactly is that stuff coming from? “I don’t know if you’ve seen footage of the fur farms in China, but they’re unfathomable,” says the actress, who was born in Hawaii and is half Vietnamese. “The cruelty is immense. It’s one of the saddest things you’ll witness. Not only are they breeding exotic animals and taking animals from the wild, but there’s also a very big problem with the dog fur trade in China. Whenever you’re buying fur that’s not as expensive as a mink or a fox or whatever, it’s probably dog. Some people don’t care about wild animals, but they care about dogs.”

For the record, that isn’t a real dead rabbit hanging across Maggie’s body — as realistic as it may look. She had just a few hours to procure the unusual prop — she decided to shoot the ad for PETA at the end of a photo shoot she already had scheduled for WildAid — but nothing was going to stop her.

“The night before the shoot, it was about 11 p.m. and my call time was 8 a.m., I had a concept meeting with the photographer and the stylist and I said, ‘Hey guys, do you mind tacking on this ad at the end? In my bones, I need to do this.'” They both said they were behind her 100 percent, but they quietly had doubts she’d be able to obtain the prop animal in a few hours. “They both told me later in confidence: ‘We thought you were a little bit crazy.’ I mean — it’s kind of a big ask: ‘Hey, can I get this very real looking fake dead animal?'”

By morning, however, she showed up to the studio with not one but two options, which her friends at PETA helped with. “I walk up with a fake dead fox and fake dead rabbit and said, ‘Which one do you like better?’ They were like, ‘What?! How did you do this?’ Nothing is going to stop me if I feel strongly.”

And to squash any rumors before they get started, yes, you’re right — Maggie, isn’t wearing her engagement ring from her Stalker co-star Dylan McDermott in the ad, but no, there’s no drama there. “Oh, I always take it off for work,” she laughs. “Totally still engaged — and still happy. 100 percent.” If you’ve seen the ring (and you can below), it’s kind of hard to miss and it would detract from the statement she’s trying to get across. “I would rather all the attention be on what it’s supposed to be on,” she says.

Maggie Q and Dylan McDermott at a WildAid event held in Beverly Hills on Nov. 11. (Photo: Michael Tran/FilmMagic)

In 2015, Maggie, who also appeared in the Divergent movie series, was awarded WildAid’s Wildlife Champion Award for her work on the group’s elephant, rhino, shark, and pangolin campaigns, so of course also she has some thoughts on the Trump’s administration discussing the reversal of an Obama-era ban on importing legally hunted elephant remains from Africa.

“In that specific situation, you’re trying to lift a ban for personal reasons,” she says with a sigh. “That’s not leadership. It’s not leadership when you don’t look at the greater good and say: This is a highly endangered species, and regardless of whether my children like to shoot them — or my friends — I’m going to protect them because I’m in a leadership position.”

She continues, “It’s not that we haven’t seen a lack of leadership before on other issues, but on this specific issue what I think people are missing — and I go to Africa almost every year and I’m in the field with elephants and groups that are on the ground literally saving animals lives — when you’re in Africa experiencing these ecosystems, you realize that without these giant mammals, you would lose the ecosystem as a whole. There’s a reason elephants exist in these areas and nowhere else. Losing these giant animals would create a trickle-down effect of many species beneath them dying off. There are long periods of dry season in Africa, as you know, and elephants, especially in Tsavo, are responsible for making paths for smaller animals. They crunch trees and move things. They poke holes in dry lake beds. They allow water, which is life, come to smaller animals. They’re almost like the grandmother of whether those ecosystems survive, and taking them out for trophy for so-called sport because this is something you have enough money to do — and let’s be very, very clear: This is a wealthy privilege — [is unacceptable].”

Maggie bonding with an elephant:

And, to be clear, she’s not just blaming Trump. The administration’s consideration of lifting the ban is just one part of it.

“Somebody on my social media wrote: ‘You blame Trump for everything. What about the Africans that are letting this happen?’ I’m thinking: Because I’m upset Trump [may] lift a ban, I’m absolving Africa of its responsibility?! Listen, poor people are only going to be exploited by those who can pay them. So I don’t want to hear any excuse like: ‘They’re corrupt in Africa.’ No s*** they’re corrupt in Africa. Are you kidding me? But their corruptions only lies in that money is being funneled to them by people who will allow this corruption to exist. And that’s us. That’s first world. That’s what we do.”

With Thanksgiving just days away, Maggie is looking forward to a restful holiday — she has the day off — with her furry friends. “I’ll be home with my dogs, so I’ll be happy,” she says. The “more vegan than vegetarian” eater will be feasting on a “delicious” meatless roast from the British food company Quorn as well as “a bunch of vegan sides.” And while millions of people will start their holiday shopping the day after, she actually hadn’t heard of Black Friday (“Oh, it’s where people fight. Right!”) so don’t look for among the masses at Best Buy come midnight on Friday morning. Besides, she has a different strategy for her gift-giving.

Maggie’s holidays plans include cuddling with her rescue:

“I’m not going to pretend that I’m not a consumer. I love things,” she says. “When it comes to holiday gifts, it’s usually supporting nonprofits. Everyone in my life kind of has what they need. There are certain people, yes, and the kids, my nieces and nephews. But last year even the kids got a donation to City of Joy, which is my my future mother-in-law’s safe house in the Congo,” she says, referring to McDermott’s adopted mother, Eve Ensler, the feminist playwright and activist behind The Vagina Monologues  “In Africa, if you are a rape victim, your family throws you out and essentially your life is over — they even take your kids away. So she created a safe house in the middle of a war zone for women who are in a bad way physically and mentally and have no place to go after an assault.”

Maggie finds this type of giving more rewarding. Along with the donations, “I sent out a beautiful flyer that Eve helped me design and I explained why this mattered to me. I have to tell you: People were really happy. They were really thankful because they were like: Do I need another sweater? They also get educated [about the cause].” She calls it the “gift that keeps on giving” because “a lot of people wrote me back and said, ‘I had no idea that [Eve] did this. I had no idea this safe house existed.’ Thank God for some of my richer friends,” she says with a laugh. “Some of my richer friends who I sent it to said, ‘I want to make a further donation.’ So the society was actually able to get more than what I donated.”

Between her conscientious gift giving and the bold reminder about the horrors of fur farming, Maggie gives us a lot of (vegan) food for thought as the holiday season kicks off.

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