The LEGO Group has collaborated with award-winning actor and producer Samira Wiley to celebrate the power of creative self-expression within the LGBTQIA+ community during this year’s Pride. Working closely with LEGO Certified Professional Builders, community member and advocate Samira co-created an epic 41,000 brick self-portrait that brings to life her personality and life experiences in a playful, creative way.
“Celebrating who we are and all the pieces that make you, you, is so important, and as part of the LGBTQIA+ community, I know the value of embracing the opportunity to be proud. It was a joy to create this portrait because I had the chance to do that in a creative and playful way,” commented Samira Wiley. “As an actor, I’m always sitting down and analysing other people’s identities to work out how I make them my own in a role, but I don’t always do that for myself. The process of creating this portrait allowed me to see myself through other people’s eyes and that felt really inspiring and rewarding. Play is an such an important part of creative self-expression – it allows us to explore and share who we are, and to be proud of who we are.”
The giant five-foot-high portrait took 200 hours to build and included three hour-long creative sessions with Samira where she openly shared her stories and anecdotes. The finished work of art combines the pieces of Samira’s life that have helped form who she is today and include personal references to her family, the importance of creative experimentation and two Adinkra symbols that Samira has as tattoos to honour her West African heritage.
The first, Nsoromma, means ‘Child of the heavens’ and marks her deep gratitude to her ancestors. The second, Okodee Mmowere, is the Adinkra symbol for courage and bravery, and has been placed over her heart in the portrait to represent living authentically and being a role model to help others do the same. The rainbow glow surrounding Samira’s face symbolises her personal mission to bring visibility to the marginalised groups she identifies as being part of.
The radiant portrait has been unveiled in the June edition of Rolling Stone magazine to launch Pieces of Me, an open invitation for members and allies of the LGBTQIA+ community to build a self-portrait that captures the pieces of themselves they are most proud of.
Build a picture of you
Pieces of Me is the latest from the LEGO Group as it seeks to create LEGO play experiences that make everyone feel welcome. As well as building Pieces of Me portraits at home, building tables and minifigure personalisation stations can be found in select LEGO stores globally.
The LEGO Group will also be at local Pride events this summer including Munich, Berlin, London and Copenhagen. This year’s activity builds on previous attendance at Pride events in London in 2019, Copenhagen in 2021, and Munich in 2022.
Julia Goldin, Chief Product and Marketing Officer at the LEGO Group said of the campaign: “Pieces of Me is an open invitation for creators to take a moment to celebrate themselves in a playful way. Play and creative self-expression go hand-in-hand and the process of building a self-portrait gives us an opportunity to show the world who we are and celebrate the pieces of ourselves we are most proud of. At the LEGO Group we believe that Everyone is Awesome and are committed to building a more diverse and inclusive world where everyone gets to be themselves and reach their potential.”
Samira’s Pieces of Me portrait will be on display from June 8 to August 23 in the LEGO Masterpiece Gallery at LEGO House in Billund, Denmark – the Home of the Brick.
Read the full Rolling Stone article to learn more about the stories behind this fantastic build via the Rolling Stone website.
Notes to Editors
About Samira Wiley’s LEGO portrait
Over 41,000 LEGO elements.
200 hours to create.
1.6 metres/5 feet in height.
Samira’s hair and blouse were created using a special 3D LEGO building technique called “greebling” that adds the appearance of texture and depth.
Transparent LEGO elements form the rainbow to allow light to shine through so the bricks glow when lit from behind.
The build team included: Samira Wiley, award winning actor and producer and LGBTQIA+ advocate, Caspar Bennedsen, LEGO Certified Professional, Brick Works, Abdallah Kobeissi, Project Coordinator LEGO Idea House & Specialist Builder.
Alongside Samira’s image, the following visual symbols can be found in the portrait (see ‘A LEGO Guide to Samira’s Portrait):
Okodee Mmowere: Adinkra symbol for courage and bravery, and one of Samira’s tattoos, placed over her heart to represent her courage to live her life authentically, and be a role model for others to do the same.
Nsoromma: Adinkra symbol, and one of Samira’s tattoos, meaning ‘Child of the heavens’. With this symbol, Samira highlights “My presence on earth is not a mistake.”
Sankofa: Adinkra symbol meaning ‘We must remember our past in order to build a better future’. The Sankofa bird is perched on Samira’s shoulder looking back at the details behind.
Sunglasses, NYC: Summer 2008 was a defining time for Samira’s identity – living in an apartment on Bleeker Street, NYC, whilst cat-sitting for a friend, meeting new people, getting her first mohawk, and evolving her personal style.
Mathematical symbol for equality: Meaning ‘variables are equal by definition’, this reflects Samira’s passion for math and equal representation.
Glowing heart: This symbolizes the joy-centric way Samira was raised and the ‘yes-first’ approach Samira takes to raising her own daughter. The outline of the heart has been created from transparent so it has a glow effect.
Crown: Recognising the ground-breaking actors Samira saw on screen as a child.
Dark background with dust particles: The darkness of the background represents the depths of a theatre with dust particles glowing as if illuminated in stage lights. Samira talks about how she is often most inspired when on stage.
Cap, heart and #2: Hats are a defining identity item for Samira and these images reflect an important Instagram post announcing the birth of her daughter – https://bit.ly/40Hh1ls.
Rainbow glow: Samira believes her purpose is to bring visibility to the marginalised groups she identifies as being part of and represents the joy she chooses to lead with every day. The rainbow glow reflects how this emanates from her with joy, inspiring those around her.