Alicia Keys must be stoked! Ever since she started her awesome no makeup movement in 2016, it has heightened the wave of natural beauty trends that buck the traditional norms placed on women, which teach us to avoid our natural selves at all costs and spend insane amounts of money and energy trying to conform.
One of those norm-bearers has previously been the iconic Pirelli calendar. In the past, the Italian tire company has only shot supermodels of a certain size completely nude. We say this every year, and it still holds true: we have no idea of the connection between nude women and tires other than “sex sells”, and to us that is no way to empower a woman or give her agency over the way she chooses to celebrate her body.
And let’s be clear, this is not about nudity itself, it is about the way the calendar was just another item that used women’s naked bodies as a tool for promoting something other than her worth. Thankfully, because of the rise in democratic voices which are demanding change and diversity in beauty and fashion, we can see this is having an effect on Pirelli. Over the past few years they have moved away from their previous aesthetics and decided to send a more inclusive message about women.
Whether it was the Annie Leibovitz-helmed 2016 edition featuring Serena Williams, Ava DuVernay and Amy Schumer, or the 2013 edition shot by famed anthropological photographer Steve McCurry who captured a group of Supermodels, fully clothed, in their respective countries promoting the various charities and organizations they are involved with.
This year’s calendar was shot by German photographer Peter Lindberg, and featured an array of well-known actresses who had one thing in common – they all went virtually make-up free. The Associated Press reports how each image boasted wrinkles, lines and imperfections in an unapologetic way. It is one small step (in a very well-known fashion and beauty project) to normalize the humanity of women.
The women came from all over the globe, literally, to take part in such a strong statement. Australian Nicole Kidman, British women Dame Helen Mirren Charlotte Rampling OBE, and Kate Winslet, Swede Alicia Vikander, Spaniard Penelope Cruz, Kenyan Lupita Nyong’o, Chinese model and actress Zhang Ziyi, French Bond girl Lea Seydoux, and Americans Robin Wright, Jessica Chastain, Uma Thurman, Rooney Mara and Julianne Moore. Russian political theory professor, Anastasia Ignatova, was also included in the lineup.
The fact that the calendar is choosing to include older women (Charlotte Rampling is 70 years old, Helen Mirren is 71, Julianne Moore is 55, Robin Wright is 50 and Nicole Kidman is 49) sends an important message at a time when knowledge of women’s invisibilty simply due to the biological process of aging is becoming more prevalent, especially in major Hollywood films. It also emphasizes that youth shouldn’t be the sole aspiration forced upon women.
“In a time when women are represented in the media and everywhere else, as ambassadors of perfection and youth, I thought it was important to remind everyone that there is a different beauty, more real and truthful and not manipulated by commercial or any other interests, a beauty which speaks about individuality, courage to be yourself and your own private sensibility,” photographer Peter Lindbergh said in a statement about the calendar.
“Beauty that speaks about individuality, courage to be yourself, and your very own sensibility. That’s my definition of a woman today. That is the goal of the calendar, to show that woman and not the stretched and manipulated [woman often shown in the media].”
Some of the women featured had positive things to say about their involvement and the fact that they were able to present a more natural version of themselves to the public.
Nicole Kidman said “the courage to be yourself is the epitome of confidence and power”.
Helen Mirren approved of the calendar’s highly sexualized imagery of women, saying it shows “undoubtedly a cultural shift, a real opening up and a big change”.
“I think Peter’s mission with everyone involved wanting to free women from oppressive and false standards is fantastic,” said Uma Thurman.
The title of this year’s calendar is “Emotional”, and the photographer said it was not “a calendar about perfect bodies but to capture sensitivity and emotion, laying bare the souls of the women in the images, rendering them more naked than a nude.”
Aside from the women being captured in their natural state, without any elaborate outfits or ballgowns, the images were not digitally altered or enhanced.
“I wanted to use the 2017 Calendar to convey a different kind of beauty. Since it’s based on consumption, the present system offers a single kind of beauty, which is essentially one of youth and perfection, since its objective is to get people to consume,” Peter Lindbergh told Eonline.com.
He also shot the 1996 and 2002 calendars which were undoubtedly different to this current version. Pointing directly to one of the messages of making diverse women more visible than ever, Peter says his medium can illuminate aspects of the world and people similar to the power of film.
“I think photography is as interesting as cinema because you can use just the slightest thing to make a whole lot of things visible,” he said.
Honestly, it doesn’t take a lot for brands, designers and companies to diversify, it simply means paying attention to what is happening in the world and making conscious decisions to make changes where necessary. For fashion and beauty, to ignore the loud and ever-growing wave of activists and voices who are demanding a shift in norms would be the height of stupidity. Thankfully, we can celebrate the small wins, and hope for continual improvement.
“Through the Pirelli Calendar I’ve tried to convey a different message, which is that beauty is far more than what advertising offers us today,” said Peter. Amen to that! Watch a behind-the-scenes “Making Of” short film of the 2017 Pirelli Calendar shoot below: