Celebrating our people at the 2019 Virgin Stars Awards

People on stage performing
Image from Owen Billcliffe
Holly Branson
Holly Branson's writing
Published on 22 November 2019

It’s so important to recognise and celebrate the people who make your business great. At Virgin, we firmly believe that if you look after your people, everything will follow from there.

One of my favourite nights of the year is the Virgin Stars Awards. Every year, we celebrate the achievements of some of the most incredible people from all across the Virgin Group - from Australia to Abu Dhabi and Singapore to San Francisco. It was such a pleasure to host the party this year and meet our Stars, with Dad and Sam by my side.

Holly Branson speaking to people at the Virgin Stars event. It is dark, with two large sparklers shooting from the floor
Image from Owen Billcliffe

The Virgin group is full of over 70,000 heroes who bring our values to life every day so it’s never an easy task to pick stand out Stars from so many incredible people. This year, to highlight those who have gone above and beyond to promote our values, we introduced three specific awards to acknowledge people who use their passion to drive inclusion, champion sustainability and create extraordinary experiences. 

Standing on stage and sharing their stories with Virgin CEO’s and Stars from across the world was an unbelievably proud moment for Dad, Sam and I. Here’s a little bit more about our three 2019 Star Award winners!

Holly Branson, Richard Branson and Sam Branson standing in front of the Virgin Stars logo
Image from Owen Billcliffe

Megan Shortland took home the Inclusion Award and had a very inspiring story to tell. As a Virgin Atlantic cabin crew member of 15 years, Megan decided to challenge the industry status quo and address the airline’s mandatory make-up policy. In a letter to the CEO, Megan wrote:

“As a mother of two girls, I feel I should be doing a bit more to challenge hidden, or accepted, sexism and discrimination in our world. Surely there should be the option for women to be natural and choose not to wear make-up – to, in fact, #BeYourself.”

Megan’s determination was so admirable and it’s great to see Virgin Atlantic foster a culture where anyone can directly approach the CEO, speak up and create lasting change.

Holly Branson stood with others at the Star Awards
Image from Owen Billcliffe

Elias Maalouf from Virgin Mobile in the Middle East and Africa won the Sustainability Award but sadly couldn’t make it on the night. His story is so inspiring, as he is working in a space I’m passionate about – eliminating plastic. In less than six months, Elias and his team removed single-use plastics from all SIM packs and recharge cards - eliminating around 20 tonnes of plastic each year. 

The winner of the Extraordinary Experience Award was Virgin Trains’ own superman, Damian Metcalfe - from the station team at Wigan. Damien is the kind of person who instantly brightens the room – or even a train station on a cold winter’s day. I was heartened to hear how Damien’s friendly face and endless empathy has prevented multiple suicides at the station. He makes an effort to sit down with people who look vulnerable and gets them the help they need. Damien truly personifies Virgin’s people-first approach to work and reminds us all that a little bit of kindness can go a really long way.

Richard Branson giving an award
Image from Owen Billcliffe

After the speeches, the event turned into quite the party with trapeze artists, a Sink the Pink cabaret show, an immersive feast including micro fish fillets served on edible newspaper and vinegar mist and drinks such as ‘Toast Ale’ – beer brewed using surplus fresh bread! I didn’t get around to tasting it but by all accounts it was delicious.

It was such an honour to celebrate with so many amazing Virgin people from all over the world. Congratulations to all of the 2019 Stars and thank you to everyone in the Virgin Family who’s passion and people-first beliefs has made our brand what it is today.

We couldn’t be Virgin without you!