The 2018 Pirelli Calendar Focuses On Race & Pushing Boundaries With An All-Black Cast

Over the past few years we have written articles about the iconic Pirelli calendar, and the way it has pivoted away from its typical imagery – supermodels or a certain size and shape photographed in the nude in artistic ways. We’re still unsure what fashion has to do with selling a brand of Italian tires, but at this point the calendar has become a cultural icon of its own that has been able to bring up important discussions with its new recent focus.

Whether it was choosing to photograph clothed supermodels and highlighting the philanthropic work they are doing around the world, or featuring non-models such as Ava DuVernay and Amy Schumer to promote female empowerment and diversity, the calendar is clearly wanting to reach a bigger audience.

The 2018 version shows they are not afraid to get a little political, while balancing the playful and artistic notions of fashion photography. Shot by photographer Tim Walker and styled by British Vogue’s new editor-in-chief Edward Enninful, they chose a cast of all-black celebrities and public figures, not just women, and styled the shoot like an avant garde Alice in Wonderland spectacle.

Notable names include Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o, music mogul P Diddy, supermodel Naomi Campbell, actress Whoopi Goldberg, TV personality Ru Paul, actor Djimon Hounsou, South Sudanese-Australian model Duckie Thot, Ghanaian-British model Adwoa Aboah, albino lawyer and model Thando Hopa, ‘American Honey’ actress Sasha Lane, and more. Each personality was assigned an Alice in Wonderland character to portray.

The idea of focusing on an all-black cast and making a social and political statement against a fictional story is not necessarily a juxtaposition, as Edward told the New York Times. In fact, it was a rather intentional move as a way to more effectively communicate the underlying message of the calendar.

“Inclusivity is more part of the conversation than it has ever been before, but it goes far beyond black and white. It is about all creeds, all colors, all sizes and people just living their truths. A lot of this is about digital giving people voices, and a new generation who refuse to compromise and want answers to the questions that matter to them. Given the state of the world we live in, sometimes I think we all feel like we’ve fallen down the rabbit hole. For me, a retelling of ‘Alice’ for the modern world was a perfect project, particularly once the cast fell into place,” he said.

In this re-telling of the classic children’s story, the only thing getting “beheaded” is stereotypes. In the wake of global political upheaval due to the Brexit results of 2016, as well as the US presidential election which has seen Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled congress attack women’s reproductive rights, immigration, civil rights and LGBTQ rights, there has never been a better time for art to reflect and disrupt an increasingly divisive global landscape.

For his own part, P Diddy, aka Sean Combs, said he relished the opportunity to be part of something that unapologetically promoted black pride.

“It is a chance to push social consciousness and break down barriers. For so many years, something like this would not have happened in the fashion world, so it feels like being part of history and playing an active role. I want to lead by example,” he said.

Photographer Tim added that there is also a strong element of challenging the fashion industry’s beauty norms with this version of the calendar.

“The story of Alice has been told so many times and in so many ways, but always with a white cast. There has never been a black Alice, so I wanted to push how fictional fantasy figures can be represented and explore evolving ideas of beauty,” he said.

Thando Hopa expanded on this, recalling her own experiences growing up in a world where she felt severely underrepresented simply for having albinism. Today we are seeing a few names such as model Shaun Ross who also has albinism, and Winnie Harlow who was born with the vitiligo skin disease, being chosen as the face of major brands and campaigns, but they are still on the minority side.

“When I was young, I didn’t have a single role model who looked like me, who could have been a source of inspiration or motivation. I wanted to expand other people’s imaginations by not letting them be restricted to specific stories or narratives. Any girl, whether she is black, white, Asian or Indian, should be able to have a sense that they, too, can be a heroine in their own fairy tale,” said Thando about her role in the calendar shoot.

“If Alice looks differently here, then Alice can be anybody. Your value comes from far more than the narrative that someone else gives you. I hope that when the calendar goes live, people are able to see the intention behind this. It was a unifying effort,” she added.

Sadly, the calendar is not available for public purchase, instead it is given as a gift by Pirelli to celebrities and industry insiders. You can see all the images on the Pirelli website, and go behind-the-scenes in the video below:

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