The 43rd Pirelli Calendar, shot by Annie Leibovitz, has been launched and, well, it’s different. Instead of the usual array of supermodels in states of undress as conceived by famous photographers, 2016 features 13 women of outstanding accomplishment; of a variety of ages and ethnic origin – and, for the most part, clothed.
That the platform best known for the objectification of the female form has become a celebration of women’s ability is the expression of a profound cultural shift. The question is, will 2016 set the tone for all future calendars? According to the NY times, the company itself has been careful to say the idea was Ms Leibovitz’s – although it did request ‘a departure from the past’. Pirelli chairman Marco Tronchetti Provera added the calendar is just another way in which the company ‘reflects contemporary society’ – which could mean that nudes may come back. But, honestly, contemporary society will have had to change again for that not to look pretty backward.
From Yoko Ono to Patti Smith, all models were chosen by Liebovitz herself. Focus has landed especially on Amy Schumer – and not simply because she is one of three who appear partially nude in the calendar (the others are Serena Williams and Natalia Vodianova) but for the fresh, gutsy way she celebrates being a larger woman. I’m listing here all 13 personalities because a) I have the space and b) it’s been cool finding out about the lesser high profile characters.
FOREWORD: With over seventy million social media followers in China, Yao Chen is probably the most famous person on the planet but chances are, you’ve never heard of her. She is also the first ever Chinese Goodwill Ambassador to the UNHCR. She has spoken of the “social responsibility of being a celebrity.” Listen up, Paris.
JANUARY: Natalia Vodianova founded The Naked Heart Foundation, which builds playgrounds in poor neighbourhoods in Russia, when she was just 22. Born into poverty in the Soviet Union, she is a supermodel of international status but the charity remains her main focus.
FEBRUARY: Kathleen Kennedy is the president of Lucasfilm, which was founded by George Lucas in 1971 and produced both the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises.
MARCH: Agnes Gund is a prominent art collector and patron, serving on the boards of many other arts organizations and currently chairman of MoMA’s international council. Her granddaughter Sadie, pictured with her, is a student of photography and media at Brown University.
APRIL: Currently the number-one women’s tennis player, Serena Williams and her sister, Venus, learned to play tennis on the public courts in Compton and, with their sheer power and determination, have since revolutionised the sport.
MAY: Most of Fran Lebowitz’s social commentary – usually devastating one-liners – has been disseminated through interviews with her. Lebowitz is a familiar figure in Manhattan, almost always dressed in a custom-made man’s black jacket.
JUNE: Mellody Hobson is the president of Ariel Investments, a Chicago money-management firm. Hobson grew up in Chicago, the youngest of six raised by a single mother. One of her many philanthropic interests is financial literacy and investor education.
JULY: Ava DuVernay is one of the few African-American woman who direct movies in Hollywood. She directed and co-wrote Selma, the 2014 film about Martin Luther King’s campaign for voting rights for black Americans and became the first black woman to direct a film nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture.
AUGUST: Tavi Gevinson started her career as a precocious 12-year-old blogger. She is now a bona fide fashion celebrity, publisher of Rookie on-line magazine for teenage girls and a voice for young people everywhere.
SEPTEMBER: In the 1990s, Iranian artist Shirin Neshat made a series of stark portraits called Women of Allah in which subjects wear chadors and their faces, hands, and feet are covered with excerpts from poems by Iranian women on martyrdom.
OCTOBER: Yoko Ono is a visual artist, a conceptual artist, a filmmaker, musician and political activist. She is also the widow of John Lennon, with whom she was working in a recording studio on the day of his death.
NOVEMBER: Patti Smith’s ecstatic, charismatic performances inspired a generation of musicians. Her passion and commitment have been lent in support of environmentalists, progressive politicians, Tibetans, artists, and radicals.
DECEMBER: The dissection of relationships, of popular culture and its icons, of American society, from the perspective of an apparent insider: Amy Schumer becomes feminist by exposing herself in a way that would be considered cruel if anyone else did it to her.