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The Pirelli calendar gets a makeover: 13 world-changing women

The Pirelli calendar gets a makeover: 13 world-changing women

The 2016 Pirelli calendar, with the recruitment of Annie Leibovitz, is going to be very different from all of its previous incarnations. Leibovitz is ditching the half-naked women, and bringing some special people on board.

Normally released in November, the Pirelli calendar has long been an anticipated and coveted item in the cultural calendar. Photographed by the top photographers of the day and given only to selected clients and celebrities, it has earned a reputation as a special item.

Published every year since 1964, with a long break between 1975 and 1983, the calendar is known to feature what are considered the most attractive women in the world photographed by the best photographers. Alumni include Kate Moss, Karen Elson, Sophia Loren and Lily Cole.

Last year’s calendar made headlines for including in its 13 models Candice Huffine, the gorgeous plus-size model. This was seen as a sign of progress towards diversity. Well, this year is going to be a whole lot more diverse.

Annie Leibovitz has been one of the most sought-after photographers since the 1970’s. She has photographed the Rolling Stones, John Lennon and the Obama family. There are some who think that you haven’t truly made it until you’ve been photographed by her.

In 1999 she produced a book and exhibition called Women. In it she photograph inspiring women from all walks of life, from astronauts to senators to rappers. Both the book and exhibition were a major success. Recently it was announced that she was going to update this collection with images of contemporary women and tour an exhibition around the world.

Shortly after this, it was announced that Leibovitz was also shooting the Pirelli calendar, and that Serena Williams was going to be in it. There was a lot of speculation around. The involvement of Leibovitz and Williams didn’t smack of what the Pirelli calendar is normally about.

Annie Leibovitz wanted to move it away from its “barely dressed models in exotic locations” to something a bit more about the achievements of the individuals. Leibovitz is photographing women. Women who have contributed to the world, who have forged their own lives, women who are being celebrated for more than their looks.

As Leibovitz said, “I started to think about the roles that women play, women who have achieved something … This calendar is so completely different. It is a departure. The idea was not to have any pretense in these pictures and be very straightforward.”

We don’t have the photos yet, but here’s a look at who’s going to be in the Pirelli calendar:

Patti Smith

The legendary “poet laureate of punk”, Patti Smith has been hugely influential as a songwriter for over 40 years. She has often used her fame and considerable gifts as a musician to be a voice of hope and compassion. Since the release of her book Just Kids Patti Smith is also a respected bestselling author.


Serena Williams

Serena Williams is widely regarded as the greatest female tennis player of all time and is, quite simply, one of the greatest athletes alive. As well as this, Williams speaks four languages, is a regular in tv and movies, and does a huge amount of charity work.


Amy Schumer

Amy Schumer shot to fame in the past couple of years for her comedy shows. Known for what some have called “subversive feminist” standup, as well as writing and starring in her own show Inside Amy Schumer, she has been a voice for body-postivity, made a very successful movie called Trainwreck and has managed to become best friends with Jennifer Lawrence.


Yoko Ono

The legendary artist Yoko Ono has had a great impact on the worlds of art, music and filmmaking, all while being a vocal activist for a number of causes. She has drawn critical acclaim as well as controversy, and has fought to bring feminism to the forefront of her art.


Tavi Gevinson

Writer, magazine editor, feminist activist, actress and singer who’s been profiled by the New York Times, all by the time she’d turned 19. Tavi Gevinson started the blog Style Rookie when she was 11 and had gained respect and fame throughout the fashion world by the age of 13. At 15 she decided to move on from that and started a magazine called Rookie Magazine. A platform that would connect teens with strong teenage role models. It’s primarily aimed at and written by teenage girls, but also has guest contributors such as Lena Dunham and Joss Whedon.


Yao Chen

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Known for being China’s most famous actor, as well as having the most “fans” on China’s largest social media site, Yao Chen has devoted much of her time to activism and challenging her government’s human rights record. Peculiarly, Yao Chen is one of the most famous people in the world, and most of us have never heard of her.


Ava DuVernay

Director of Selma, the criminally under appreciated film about Martin Luther King Jr.’s march on Selma, DuVernay is less known for her other achievements like founding and building a powerful marketing and PR agencies, DVA Media + Marketing, which has worked with enormous clients. She is truly a force to be reckoned with.


Natalia Vodianova

Raised in a poor part of a poor city in Russia, Vodianova sold fruit on the street as a child to help feed her family. At 15 she enrolled in a modelling agency, and at 17 she was already getting major work. Vodianova has appeared in a dizzying litany of magazines and fronted many ad campaigns, but she is also known for her philanthropic work, including setting up the Naked Heart Foundation which works to give poor children in Russia a better chance at life.


Fran Lebowitz

An automobile enthusiast, heavy smoker, wearer of Savile Row suits, Fran Lebowitz has been called a “modern-day Dorothy Parker”. Her sardonic social commentary and acerbic New York wit have charmed many, and she has even had a documentary made about her by none othe than Martin Scorcese.


Agnes Gund

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Less a celebrity than the other women in the calendar, Agnes Gund is a tireless campaigner for arts education, women’s rights, environmental issues and generally bringing culture into the American classroom. She’s even received the National Medal of Arts, which puts her in the same territory as the likes of Bob Dylan. A real force for good in the world.


Kathleen Kennedy

Kathleen Kennedy is one of the most important Hollywood film producers of all time. Her achievements are staggering. Her work, overall, includes more than 60 films, 120 Oscar nominations and over $11 billion worldwide, including three of the highest grossing films of all time. She is also currently brand manager of Star Wars. It’s nuts.


Mellody Hobson

One of the most successful African American businesspeople, Hobson joined her first firm Ariel Investments as an intern and rose to become the firm’s senior vice president and director of marketing. This year Time magazine named her among their list of the 100 most influential people in the world. Oh, and she married George Lucas in 2013.


Shirin Neshat

Shirin Neshat is a New York-based Iranian artist. She works primarily with photography and film, and was one of the pioneers of using video in contemporary art. She has also won awards for her feature-length film Women Without Men. Neshat is a fearless campaigner for democracy and human rights and was named Artist of the Decade by the Huffington Post.

Well. What a list.

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