An interview with Scott Lannan, The Santa Movement visionary
Scott Lannan functions as what he terms, "a real- bearded "Santa in several communities, but it was not until he was on the job in Aruba, that he had an epiphany. " I received the Santa suit at my grandmother’s funeral from an aunt around Thanksgiving. I was homeless at the time, but when I dyed my beard white and put on the suit, I got to see something extraordinary.I saw smiles, from everyone, and it was that experience that helped shaped how I view Santa. Being an advocate for the sick, I knew money for charities was important. However, it was not until I was Santa in Aruba, my third year that I began to realize that Santa was an untapped resource for charities," he said.
During his tour in Aruba in 2007, Lannan walked the beaches, visited the schools, and community centers to show others that Santa means unlimited giving. "Every time the image is used, a portion must go to charity. This icon has been around for over 1000 years, and I think the public would respond positively to it being used correctly," he said.
Lannan asserts that when companies use the Santa icon in their marketing, a portion of the revenue should go to charity. Scott has a unique approach to his brand, The Santa Movement. "I believe as long as people are using Santa for charitable purposes, everything is okay. I would rather see sexy Santas in a campaign that is charity based, than a movie involving Santa that is all about the profit. Tim Allen’s The Christmas Clause was a fun movie, but it missed the boat because it was not charity based, " he said.
Lannan says he’s been an advocate for the sick these last five years with several organizations focused on issues related to Epilepsy. "The Santa Movement is not just about money, but something even better. Santa is all about "unlimited giving", and I think this would be a fun thing to teach children. By redefining the image of Santa, an icon that is loved world-wide, much good will occur. I also believe in redefining Mrs Claus into a woman, girls can look up to. Having studied Women Studies in college, and being a huge fan of Rosie the Riveter, I want Mrs. Claus to represent women of today," he said.
Lannan’s goal is to just get the message out to the public via his role as a Santa in the community. "Santa economics has the potential to be a great thing," he said.
1.What are you trying to achieve? Why is this important?
I am trying to set the precedent that since Santa means "unlimited giving", every time the image is used, a portion must go to charity. This icon has been around for over 1000 years, and I think the public would respond positively to it being used correctly. As far as its importance. This is my life, and its who I am, so obviously I think it is extremely important. However, as far as the public is concerned, this is extra money that could go towards feeding the poor, clothing the sick, curing the ill…This is something that should have been done a long time ago.
2.How long have you been operating as a Santa ? Who/how did your idea come about? Tell us something about a key person/founder behind your group/organization- what did they do before, what was their motivation, their other interests?
I have been a real-bearded Santa for five years. I received the Santa suit at my grandmothers funeral from an aunt around Thanksgiving…I was homeless at the time, but when I dyed my beard white and put on the suit, I got to see something extraordinary…I saw smiles, from everyone, and it was that experience that helped shaped how I view Santa. Being an advocate for the sick, I knew money for charities was important. However, it was not until I was Santa in Aruba my third year that I began to realize that Santa was an untapped resource for charities. I look at this as my duty to get this done.
3.Describe any highs and or lows doing- personally or the organization as a whole?
The highs are easy. Imagine walking out of your home, and people greeting you with nothing but genuine smiles. Being sick all of my life, it was intoxicating. Then, when I was invited to be Santa in Aruba, and got to walk the beaches, visit the schools, and be treated the way I was, it turned into a special experience. For those three weeks in December 2007, I was on top of the world, and there was not a luckier person than me. The lows are tougher to describe. Its tough making an important discovery that family and friends don’t understand. Though I have a better relationship with family then I ever had, its still difficult having them think you are a failure. I never made any money off of Santa, and that was a very difficult thing. However, these are some of the sacrifices I have had to make, and I accept it. However, I am tired and sick, and feel this is too important for me to have by myself.
4.If you could have anyone in to help, who would it be (famous, or someone you know?
This is a tough question to answer, mostly because I believe anyone can help. Santa is a public image, and that means anyone can do this. However, because of the scope of this project, I just want to work with people that care, and know what they are doing. Would having a celebrity on board help? Absolutely, but that is not necessarily good. TV and the Internet makes celebrities out of anyone, and though they are famous and could help endorse this campaign, it doesn’t mean they are the perfect fit for me. But this is not about me…Its about Santa, so I would like to think we would be open to having anyone involved. ( side note: There was only one person who I felt was perfect for this campaign, and still believe it to this day. She was a friend, and somebody I admired very much. However, my trouble in trying to start this campaign had some negative effects, and losing this person as a friend was one of them…My dream is to have her one day involved. I just never met anyone like her.
5.Is there anything unique to how you are doing things? What’s your approach?
When I made this discovery, I was not the first person to do so. Santa Economics has been around a long time, and many Santas are aware of this. Many do sell Santa merchandise where a portion goes to charity, and some of these guys are really great…However, for me being the type of advocate that I was, I can’t do anything else but to make sure the image is used the right way. I don’t want to accept the fact that society will continue to use Santa the wrong way, leaving all of this money on the table. Some Santas have told me they appreciate what I am doing, and know it should be done, but have also told me it is an impossible task…Maybe it is impossible for a guy like me, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done…I cannot get on with my life until I help turn Santa into a charity image. I am not a guy that will charge money to take pictures with me as Santa ( you can’t put a price on that smile you receive), and respect the image too much, both for what it represents and what it has done for me, to not do this campaign…I was an advocate first, so maybe that makes me a bit unique in how I am doing this…I just want to get this done, and give Santa back to the public. Or, if the public does not want this money, I want them to tell me so, instead of a few individuals. I am very passionate about this endeavor, and believe once it gets started, everyone will hop on board.
6. What is a key frustration in your endeavor?
There are two frustrations that I have in trying to kick-start the Santa Campaign. The first problem has to deal with me, and my definition of what "advocate" means. I am part of a minority group that gets treated worse than anyone in this country, mostly because the public doesn’t understand what it is to have epilepsy. We are fired from jobs, discriminated against in schools, and are laughed at on TV. People with seizures have it rough, and often times, we have to apologize for being sick. I used to read stories, both from people that had seizures, and the parents describing the hell their children would go through, and it would make me cry. Sure, I experienced seizures, and had it pretty bad growing up. But I was always told it was m fault, and I grew up kind of accepting this. Well, six years ago, I dedicated my life to helping the epilepsy community, and believed advocates should be willing to do what it takes to make sure there is peace within the epilepsy community. I mean, the fact that 75% of Americans still do not know proper seizure first aid ( we cannot swallow our tongues, and that is just a myth…You are not supposed to stick anything in our mouths during a seizure) is upsetting, but what is worse is the people in a position to help do nothing. These "advocates" get all of these awards, and are proud of themselves. The problem was not them, but I guess it was me. I was an unhealthy advocate, and cared too much. It was frustrating because I discovered this money, and felt the epilepsy community would be happy. It is why I no longer want to be an open advocate for the epilepsy community.
I have been an advocate for the sick these last five years, the same time I was given the Santa suit. The Santa Movement is not just about money, but something even better. Santa is all about "unlimited giving", and I think this would be a fun thing to teach children. By redefining the image of Santa, an icon that is loved world-wide, much good will occur. ( I also believe in redefining Mrs Claus into a woman girls could look up to. Having studied Women Studies in college, and being a huge fan of Rosie the Riveter, I want Mrs Claus to represent women of today)
My goal is to just get this information to the right people. I am not a businessperson, I am just a Santa. This might not mean much, but this discovery is something the public should know about, and hopefully I will be involved in this campaign. Santa Economics has the potential to be a great thing."