Unlike previous years, the 45th edition of the Pirelli Calendar won’t feature scantily clad Victoria Secret models. The 2018 calendar’s theme is Alice in Wonderland, but the twist is that the cast is entirely made up of black models, artists and influencers. The result is a vibrant and refreshing take on a beloved children’s classic that opens up an important discussion about black visibility in mainstream media.
Photographer Tim Walker joined forces with newBritish Vogue editor Edward Enninful, who styled the shoot for the calendar. The calendar will feature many familiar faces and has an all-star cast. Lupita Nyong’o couldn’t be any more adorable as the Dormouse.
Yes, that is Djimon Hounsou as the King of hearts (wait till you see who is the queen). Too bad that the "King of Diamonds" didn’t have a place in Lewis Carroll’s fairytale. (Yes, that was a reference to Blood Diamond.)
Model Duckie Thot was cast as Alice and she’s an amazing fit for the role. You may have heard about the South Sudanese-Australian beauty after she recently made headlines. She said that she felt bullied about her dark complexion in the modeling industry.
After she posted this photo, social media exploded calling her a living Barbie doll. Despite her stunning looks, Thot opened up about how she experienced bullying in the modeling industry over her natural hair and dark complexion. She criticized the industry for not investing in its dark-skinned models.
Enninful added to Walker’s sentiment about cultural development. He said that the purpose of the 2018 calendar is to promote diversity. Enninful himself is the first ever black editor of British Vogue.
“Inclusivity is more part of the conversation than it has ever been before, but it goes far beyond black and white, “Enninful said. “It is about all creeds, all colors, all sizes and people just living their truths. A lot of this is about digital giving people voices, and a new generation who refuse to compromise and want answers to the questions that matter to them.”
“Given the state of the world we live in, sometimes I think we all feel like we've fallen down the rabbit hole. For me, a retelling of ‘Alice' for the modern world was a perfect project, particularly once the cast fell into place,” Enninful continued.
Although the calendar’s cast boasts a lot of A-list names, the photo series also includes individuals who are not so easily recognizable. Human rights activist and anti-female genital mutilation campaigner Jaha Dukureh (pictured) also participated in the shoot.
One of the more captivating individuals from the calendar shoot is model and lawyer, Thando Hopa, who is cast as the Princess of Hearts. Hopa is a prosecutor specializing in sexual abuse cases in her home country of South Africa. Hopa hopes that the calendar will open people’s eyes to a different way of looking at the world.
Here Hopa is alongside Whoopi Goldberg, who is cast as the Royal Duchess. Hopa said that when she was growing up she didn’t have any role models she could look to for inspiration. Hopefully this calendar is representative of a paradigm shift in our culture.
“I wanted to expand other people’s imaginations by not letting them be restricted to specific stories or narratives,” Hopa said. “ Any girl, whether she is black, white, Asian or Indian, should be able to have a sense that they, too, can be a heroine in their own fairy tale. If Alice looks differently here, then Alice can be anybody. Your value comes from far more than the narrative that someone else gives you. I hope that when the calendar goes live, people are able to see the intention behind this. It was a unifying effort.”
Walker noted that this calendar isn’t just a fun spin on an old story. It’s has a deeper meaning.
“I think we are living in a fantastically exciting time, particularly when a story like that of Alice, that has held such resonance with so many people and been told in a certain way for so long, can now be told compellingly in another,” he said.
Even rapper Sean Combs got in on the action. In fact, he said, “I moved mountains to be part of this. He and Naomi Campbell are “royal beheaders” in the shoot. This also isn’t Campbell’s first rodeo. She’s appeared in the Pirelli Calendar before. In 1987, the Pirelli Calendar also featured an all-black lineup, where Campbell first appeared when she was just 16-years-old. But this is the first time that an all-black cast carries great social significance. Combs believes that this calendar is the mark of change in the fashion world.
“It is a chance to push social consciousness and break down barriers. For so many years, something like this would not have happened in the fashion world, so it feels like being part of history and playing an active role. I want to lead by example,” he said.
The calendar is set to be a stunning collection of images, and if you’re a millionaire or extremely well-connected, you’ll be lucky enough to get your hands on one. The rest of us will have to gawk at the images when they’re leaked on the Internet.