“It was the beginning of summer and no one knew me at camp. I was just a big, random loser!” explains the precocious 11-year-old in the You Tube video/commercial for Hello Flo, a new mail-order tampon and pad service. “Then things changed. I got my period: the red badge of courage! I was the first one to get it, so I was like the expert. I became the camp gyno.”
The Camp Gyno, a hysterical two-minute video about a girl who lets her knowledge and power get to her head – handing out “swords” (tampons) and shields (hand mirrors) like a drug supplier, using a ketchup bottle to demonstrate menstrual flow, telling crampy bunkmates to “suck it up and deal with it….this is your life now!” – has gone viral, ratcheting up almost 5.5 million hits in its first two weeks, and set the blogosphere a-twitter, with articles on Jezebel.com, The Wall Street Journal and Adweek.
But Hello Flo founder Naama Bloom didn’t set out to be a revolutionary. The Jewish 40-year-old Brooklynite (raised to Israeli parents in New Jersey) wanted to start a subscription delivery service for women, the way Manpacks provided monthly underwear, socks, razors and other “manly” stuff to men. The answer came to her when she realized that she always got her period at work, in the middle of the day – and she never had the right product on her. Also, “I like to use a mix of products,” she says, enumerating the combination of tampons, panty liners, maxi and overnight pads that small apartment dwellers don’t quite have room for – but are available in different combinations at Hello Flo, depending on your cycle.
She started talking to a friend in advertising about her experience in summer camp (the Habonim Dror Camp Galil) about the one girl who taught the other girls “everything.”
“You mean like the camp gyno?” her friend said. And that’s how the idea began.
The smug little camp gyno/bully in the video is put out of business when the other girls start receiving Hello Flo packages—which also have instruction booklets and candy. “It’s like Santa Claus for your vagina!” she says, using a rarely heard word, especially in young adult marketing.
“For me it doesn’t seem that explicit to use the correct anatomical terms,” says Bloom, noting that they didn’t want to use any euphemisms. “My four-year-old doesn’t call it her ‘hoo-ha,’” says Bloom, who also has a two-year-old son with her tech entrepreneur husband. “She calls it her vagina, the right language. We didn’t know people thought of it as a bad word – it’s just what it’s called.”
She adds: “We were not trying to be shocking,”
But it’s not the language alone that’s so unlike the average commercial for “female products” (there are those euphemisms again) – it’s the point of view of a pre-teen.
“Once I started talking to moms of teenagers, I realized there’s this who other thing going on: These girls don’t want to talk to their moms about it and the moms are also nervous, so the explanations are not very deep,” Bloom says. “Also, at age 12-13, you want to be independent and you have to rely on your parents to get you pads - wouldn’t it be great to give them their own subscription?”
Since Bloom started talking to her other women, she heard so many horror stories about women who got their periods early at eight or nine, children who got scared and didn’t know what it was. And of course, every woman recalls the urban legend of the prom queen/cheerleader/popular girl/loser whose white dress turned red in the middle of a crowd. (Something that would ostensibly not happen with Hello Flo, because it’s also a monthly reminder service.)
Since the video went live, “I’ve gotten emails from people around the world, thanking me for changing he dialogue for moms to connect with their daughters, they wished something like this had been around for them,” says Bloom, who, as the younger of two daughters, “knew what it was and it wasn’t scary,” and is hoping to make it so for other young women.
In September, she’s launching the “Period Starter Kit” to “make sure your daughter is prepared for her first period,” that comes with an extra gift “to ease the transition.”
The products are not only for teens, but busy adults as well (Bloom won’t give out sales figures). In the future Bloom hopes to launch an organic line too. But she hopes this straightforward video and her products will change the conversation and give girls self-confidence.
“It’s well documented that there are many girls with self-image and body issues, and I think that being comfortable with your skin and your body would help that – that you don’t think you’re disgusting once a month,” she says. “I think many things can make girls feel better about themselves - for them to feel natural and normal helps.”