Capitol Communicator is running “Up Close and Personal” profiles of communicators in the mid-Atlantic.  In this profile we feature Michael Dumlao.  Photography for the series is by Cade Martinwardrobe styling by Pascale Lemaire and Sybil Street for THE Artist Agency; and hair and makeup by Patti D Nelson, Janice Kinigopoulos and Lori Pressman for THE Artist Agency.

Michael, please provide us a short bio.

I was born in Manila, raised in Sydney and attended high school in Santa Barbara. I started my career at a magazine in Australia where I attended the Sydney College of Art. Afterwards, I moved to California then New Jersey and eventually DC where I built a career applying digital strategy, design and marketing management at a Capitol Hill lobbying firm, then the United Nations Association and eventually Georgetown University. While in graduate school I started the DC-based ethical fashion non-profit Fashion Fights Poverty and subsequently founded the boutique agency Style & Image Network. After several years as an entrepreneur I found myself at Booz Allen Hamilton, a 104- year-old global technology firm with rich and complex ties to government and industry, where I served as a Creative Director and Digital Strategist. Here I managed digital transformations, communications and creative development for clients such as the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security and the Internal Revenue Service amongst others. I currently serve as Booz Allen’s Director of Brand. In leading brand research, strategy and activation, I oversee the firm’s current brand pivot which allows me to touch creative execution, messaging standards and communications infrastructure.

Are you involved in any other organizations?

Within Booz Allen, I serve as the Chair of GLOBE, our LGBT Forum. I’m particularly proud of the work we’ve done to make the firm and our industry a more inclusive place where people can thrive as their full, authentic selves. Similarly, I also serve as faculty and Advisory Board member of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s Institute for Federal Leadership in Diversity and Inclusion at Georgetown University where I teach strategic communications to leaders in government.  I’m also very proud to serve as both as a singing member (Baritones rock!) and a board member of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC which uses music and the arts to promote equality and dignity for all.

What are the things you are most proud of?

I am an effeminate, gender-non-conforming, queer, person of color who wears heels to work and has not considered the prescribed gender of my clothes for years simply because I believe fashion is too fabulous for such restrictive binaries. The fact that I can succeed in an environment perceived by many as conservative without once ever sacrificing my authentic expression makes me proud of both myself and the organizations that create cultures that permit it.

In that context, I’m proud that my team was able to gather talented people, start with rigorous market and employee research and build an infrastructure of policies and standards to not only clarify a large corporate brand – we also created a space where human stories built from empathy can thrive and drive business. As someone who owes my entire career to those who tore down walls of exclusion before me, I am proud to have built a brand that proudly elevates and celebrates diverse voices and perspectives.

Who are your personal role models?

I did not fully comprehend the magnitude of my Lola’s – Tagalog for “grandmother” – impact on the world until the end of her seven-day wake when she finally descended into the earth of my homeland. During the 168-hour event, I was immersed in stories told by the hundreds of people who traveled to her remote mountain village in the Philippines about how she masqueraded as a flower girl to spy against Japanese occupiers during World War 2, or how she ran political campaigns for powerful men who would one day rule nations, or how she built scholarships to allow impoverished students to pursue their dreams. Stories built upon stories shaped for me a legacy of building communities around the world, lifting people up and doing so with empathy and creativity. And it is a legacy that I am proud to continue.   Likely due to my Lola, I am also inclined to aspire towards the model of boldly living one’s truth that is personified by incomparable style icon Iris Apfel who gave me this wonderful motto to live by: “I don’t have any rules, because I’d only be breaking them.”

Did your role models offer professional advice that helped you in your career?

From my Lola to Iris, to Reggie Van Lee, the former ballet dancer who would eventually become the first black, gay Executive Vice President at Booz Allen and is known throughout the world for his philanthropy and support of the arts – and mentored me in my own activism – I’ve learned that success isn’t truly success if you don’t recognize yourself when you think you’ve attained it. I’ve hence learned to embrace what makes me different and to live my truest self because doing so gives others permission to live their truth. However, I’ve also learned that bucking norms means you have to work harder, smarter and more creatively to prove living your truth does win business and grow value.

What professional advice do you have for others?

I’ve come to believe that a place is only ever as conservative as you let it be. Particularly for my fellow creative professionals, let me suggest that the world would become a dismal place when its own artists and designers don’t work to challenge gender norms or toxic masculinity or micro-aggressions that exclude people from opportunities to grow. All of us owe our successes to someone who opened a door to us, so please: open doors to others. Particularly to those who don’t look like you or for whom doors have been historically shuttered. I have come to believe that especially in our industry that representation matters. The world, the challenges we face and the people we serve will only become more nuanced and complex and the only way to meet those challenges is to have workplaces, decision-makers and power-brokers who are as diverse and complex.

What advice do you have on what’s appropriate attire for Booz Allen Hamilton?

As Iris Apfel once said, “To me, the worst fashion faux pas is to look in the mirror, and not see yourself.” So don’t give into trends and never buy whatever everyone else is buying. However, do make an effort to present the best version of you – even when no one is looking. Also, I truly believe that men need to understand what it means to wear a pair of high heels for more than a few hours. I encourage everyone to challenge binary gender norms or dress codes or antiquated social dressing conventions that – especially in corporate culture – is rooted in a Euro-centric and patriarchal system that excludes the authentic expression of women and those that identify with the non-gender binary, communities of color, and queer culture.

Where do you buy most of the clothes you wear to work?

A useful byproduct of having produced the largest ethical fashion show in DC is that I now have great relationships with designers and stylists who introduce me to collections that yield pieces that are truly unique. So some of the pieces that I’m most known for come from emerging designers and artisans. Otherwise, I’m an avid collector of textiles and accessories from wherever I travel. I particularly love jewelry from Byblos, Lebanon and street wear from Harajuku, Manila and Rio de Janeiro. Currently, I am enamored by kente cloth prints from Ghana – I lived in Accra when I worked for the U.N.A – rendered in silhouettes inspired by matadors from Madrid. In Washington I shop almost exclusively from Buffalo Exchange, Crossroads and Legendary Beast on 14th Street because I’m guaranteed to discover wearable art with compelling back stories that no one else will have.

What’s on your Spotify and Pandora playlists?

The Black Panther album, the latest Stefflon Don EP, the Daddy Pence Dance Party playlist and “This Is Me” featuring Keala Settle – because the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington is about to perform it as part of our TransAmerica concert celebrating the transgender and non-binary community this June/ Pride month.

What’s your favorite restaurant?

As a Pilipino, I feel a great sense of pride whenever I see a line of mostly white Americans waiting to enjoy the delicacies of Bad Saint – which also happens to be my favorite DC restaurant when we’re able to get in it. Otherwise, my favorite dining experience was in Peruvian Gaston Acurio’s celebrated restaurant “Chicha” in Arequipa, Peru where I had cuy (guinea pig) served lechon-style.

Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?

I recently discovered that despite immigrant childhoods with parents who deemed pets to be a wasteful nuisance, my husband and I are dog people. After adopting our Chihuahua-Pomeranian mix rescue from the Humane Rescue Alliance on New York Avenue and naming him “America,” we both became “those people” who dress their fur baby in costumes and post every adorable photo we can on social media. America – both our dog and his namesake – have changed our lives for the better and we are proud and eager to keep him as great as he ever was.


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9 Responses

  1. Corey Petree

    One of the best “Up Close and Personal” profiles yet. Love the discussion of a non-conformist in the midst of an organization assumed to be so stuff-shirt. As is so often the case, once again, it’s a “creative” who is daring and self-confident enough to break the status quo for the benefit of all. Thanks Michael, and thanks Capitol Communicator.

  2. Andy

    For someone being so ‘authentic’ and ‘confident’ faking an Australian accent and producing a corporate LGBT Pride video about your wedding, seems pretty inauthentic and insecure to me.

  3. kieraberry

    Michael Dumlao is Truly the best in banding I really like his digital marketing strategies for branding Thanks capitol communicator for giving a review of his portfolio and his work in digital marketing path.

  4. Muneeb Qadar

    I have read many blogs on personal branding and digital marketing, but Michael Dumlao has a superb skill in marketing tactics. He is one of the best mentors in the history of digital marketing.

  5. Social Eye

    There are many blogs on personal branding but to be very honest I found this one the most interesting blog and I’ve learned how to give personal advise and suggestions in a proper manner.

  6. David

    Michael Dumlao has been an inspiration to my life for a long time, and reading about his experience about personal branding makes me more intrigued to new techniques. Thanks for sharing

  7. Muhammad Raheel  

    I have read many blogs on digital marketing and gain a lot of information. But Michael Dumlao blog on personal branding is most informative blog I have ever read. Michael Dumlao is one of the best mentor on digital marketing. Keep it up Michael Dumlao 🙂


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