Beauty is on the inside. Today's narcissism, sexist advertising and quest for perfection, has rendered this message a faint whisper. How can a society that prioritises external beauty to such a high level, relearn to value this ideal?
The Pirelli Calendar, or "The Cal"™ as it was once called, is famed for its portraits of beautiful models, snapped by the world's best photographers. Since its beginning, the Pirelli Calendar has been considered a global confirmation of beauty for the women that grace it; the prestige launching supermodels into the fashion stratosphere. If you're not familiar, they are usually photographed nude. The brand says the calendar "anticipate[s] trends and test[s] new provocative communication strategies." Which, to the naked eye, is a hard to see through the peachy bottoms and pert nipples. However, this isn't your typical oil-smeared garage calendar - there are only 2,000 copies printed each year, reserved for celebrities and the company's key clientele.
What's different this year? 2017 sees a dramatic step away from Pirelli's trademark nudity. Photographer Peter Lindberg said he captured the images in "'a cry for beauty today against the terror of perfection and youth". Titled 'Emotional', the photographs feature Hollywood actresses including Dame Helen Mirren, Julianne Moore, Robin Wright and Léa Seydoux. No Terry Richardson-style innuendo - just beautiful portraits of women bearing all without undressing. Emotionally naked.
While this kind of naked might disappoint those who Google "sexiest women in the world" or the "sexiest poker players", here are the top three takeaways from the 2017 Pirelli calendar to say f**k you to perfection.
1. Cover Up
Forget Free The Nipple, the focal point of this year's edition is its lack of nudity. The catalogue features soft black and white images of these often fully-clothed stars. We hear the adage 'less is more' less and less. Remember when butt-slit jeans were a thing? Thank you again, Kardashian clan.
While nudity - be it advertising or films - increases, so do the impossible standards of beauty. Campaigns targeted at more realistic forms of beauty have created a buzz online, but so far it has remained just that. Here, in one of the most well-known demonstrations of otherworldly beauty and nudity, Lindberg keeping his models clothed signifies a step down a long road.
2. Ageing Should Be Celebrated, Not Feared
Our forever-young society, where the answer to ageing is found in bee venom and blistering surgical peels, blinds from the fact that ageing is a natural and normal process. In one image in the calendar, Kate Winslet asked specifically for her hands to be shot because she loved the way they've aged over the years.
The media wants women cryogenically frozen - just five minutes watching television advertising will tell you that. Caution: wrinkles may result in loss of husband, job and place in society. Even Hollywood's brightest stars are not exempt from this sexism: watch Amy Schumer's 'Last F**kable Day' for a comic take on double standards for female actors.
The more women who are seen looking really 40, 50, or 60, will make ageing less 'unfathomable' or 'scary' for future generations.
3. Real is Sexy
Photographer Annie Leibovitz took the lead in choosing "strong but natural" women including Serena Williams and Amy Schumer for Pirelli 2016. These photos were not retouched and Peter Lindberg continued this statement. Speaking to Huffington Post UK, the photographer said "the goal [...] is to show the real women [...] not the stretched and manipulated, emptied women you see in the magazines today."
Women's magazines aren't a friend to women. Being told 'five easy ways to get abs', while knowing that most images within the publication will have been retouched smarts with hypocrisy. The double standard of lectured self-improvement crossed with idolised perfection is the advertising industry's most dangerous and effective mind control weapon. At this point, who is on our side?
Women's treatment in the media won't change overnight, nor do I see Pirelli acting as a huge catalyst. But I hope, as they say, it "anticipates trends" that change the idea that beauty isn't just scantily clad, or youthful, or fake. Perfection is the mission we've been assigned, but how about we go AWOL on this one?