Renowned the world over for its celebration of the sexiest female forms, the annual Pirelli calendar takes a turn for the unexpected this year
After launching over 50 years ago, there's a certain sort of woman one expects to see featured in the yearly Pirelli calendar. Half-naked models and society beauties are kind of the go-to, so when it came to viewing this year's line up of female talent - we were pleasantly surprised, to say the very least.
Shot by legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz, the 2016 calendar features 13 women of all ages, sizes, ethnicities and industries and - prepare yourself - most of them are clothed. While there is one fashion model (Natalia Vodianova, who has posed for the calendar many times before), there's also tennis champ Serena Williams, comedian Amy Schumer, author Fran Lebowitz, Yoko Ono, Patti Smith, Tavi Gevinson, UNHCR Goodwill ambassador Yao Chen; producer Kathleen Kennedy; art patron Agnes Gund and granddaughter Sadie Rain Hope-Gund; Ariel Investments president Mellody Hobson; director Ava DuVernay and artist Shirin Neshat.
Shot in black and white portrait style, Amy Schumer and Serena Williams are the only two power players in the bunch who appear topless - tastefully done, of course. It signals a seismic shift in the way the Italian tyre company has been willing to present women. "I'm very very proud of it, and I'm proud of Pirelli for taking that step, too - it's such a big step. It shouldn't be - but it is," says Leibovitz. Considering that last year's Pirelli calendar featured models like Adriana Lima, Joan Smalls and Gigi Hadid provocatively posing topless and in latex - it's a rather big shift indeed.
"I think that Pirelli has been wanting to do this for a few years," says Leibovitz, who says that the 13 women were "cleaned up" but not overly retouched. Describing the shoot as "straightforward" she admits that her role in the restyled Pirelli calendar was a thrill. "I love to take something that you wouldn't expect and make something out of it. I'm not afraid of that." Interestingly, Leibovitz also shot the 2000 Pirelli calendar - but it was entirely made up of nude models.
While Fran Lebowitz quipped that "naked girls are not going out of fashion" anytime soon, she says "it was interesting that people are interested in different ways of looking at women." For Amy Schumer, who says she was encouraged to slump over and show her stomach, it was a liberating experience. "I felt I looked more beautiful than I've ever felt in my life," she says. "And I felt like it looked like me."
You can check out the calendar and its long illustrious history at pirelli.com.
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