PS Picks: The Radical Evolution of the Pirelli Calendar - Pacific Standard

PS Picks: The Radical Evolution of the Pirelli Calendar

PS Picks is a selection of the best things that the magazine's staff and contributors are reading, watching, or otherwise paying attention to in the worlds of art, politics, and culture.
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Participants attend the 2018 Pirelli Calendar launch press conference at the Pierre Hotel on November 10th, 2017, in New York City.

Participants attend the 2018 Pirelli Calendar launch press conference at the Pierre Hotel on November 10th, 2017, in New York City.

The Pirelli calendar was once known for exhibiting scantily clad, generally Caucasian supermodels cavorting on a bicycle in underwear, for instance, or posing topless in a wrestling ring. Recently, however, the calendar has been making headlines for entirely different reasons. In 2016 it celebrated accomplished female artists, athletes, and entrepreneurs like Fran Lebowitz, Serena Williams, and Patti Smith; in 2017, it featured black-and-white portraits of nearly make-up-free actresses over 40, such as Helen Mirren, Charlotte Rampling, and Nicole Kidman.

Now, in 2018, Pirelli is featuring an all-black cast in a visual retelling of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Inside, Whoopi Goldberg, RuPaul, and Lupita Nyong'o, among others, pose in fantastical images shot by high-fashion photographer Tim Walker and styled by British Vogue editor Edward Enninful. The posh spreads form a rejoinder to the whiteness that still pervades fashion runways and advertisements. In last winter's fall 2017 fashion shows for women, only 27.9 percent of women who walked the runway were women of color—which nonetheless represented a 2.5 percent increase from spring 2016 and a 3.2 percent increase from fall 2016. "I moved mountains to be a part of this," hip-hop mogul Sean Combs told the New York Times in July. "It is a chance to push social consciousness and break down barriers."

A version of this story originally appeared in the December/January 2018 issue of Pacific Standard.

The Pirelli calendar was once known for exhibiting scantily clad, generally Caucasian supermodels cavorting on a bicycle in underwear, for instance, or posing topless in a wrestling ring. Recently, however, the calendar has been making headlines for entirely different reasons. In 2016 it celebrated accomplished female artists, athletes, and entrepreneurs like Fran Lebowitz, Serena Williams, and Patti Smith; in 2017, it featured black-and-white portraits of nearly make-up-free actresses over 40, such as Helen Mirren, Charlotte Rampling, and Nicole Kidman.

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