Annie Leibovitz Presents Women of Distinction in Non-Babes 2016 Pirelli Calendar

The Pirelli Calendar is noted for its annual issue of female bodies eye candy and also sensual beauty. With few exceptions -- Terry Richardson's calendar, for example -- Pirelli takes the high road in photographing women. 

Pirelli's 2016 calendar #43 mines new ground in female imagery, tapping female photographer Annie Leibovitz to shoot 13 inspiring women -- artists, athletes, models, philanthropists and bloggers of every age and skin color.  The ommission of a Latina woman is noteworthy, unless I have my ethnicities mixed up. This is Leibovitz's second Pirelli calendar, as she shot the 2000 edition.

Leibovitz explains her vision behind this year's calendar, saying:

“I started to think about the roles that women play, women who have achieved something. I wanted to make a classic set of portraits. I thought that the women should look strong but natural, and I decided to keep it a very simple exercise of shooting in the studio,” Leibovitz said in a release. “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.” Needless to say, those looking for tropically set nude photos are in for a surprise.

This decision replaces sex symbols like Isabeli Fontana and Joan Smalls with women like Serena Williams, Amy Shumer and Chinese actress now UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Yao Chen. Each of the women is noted for "outstanding professional, social, cultural, sporting and artistic accomplishment" says Pirelli.

Top model Natalia Vodianova is included as founder of the charity Naked Heart Russia. Producer and chairperson of Lucas Film Kathleen Kennedy; art collector, patroness and president emita of MOMA in New York Agnes Gund -- with her granddaughter Sadie Hope-Gund; and culture critic Fran Leibowitz

Mellody Hobson, who supports charity projects in Chicago is the President of Ariel Investments, and film director Ava DuVernay, whose films include Selma, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture in 2015, also grace the pages of Pirelli 2016..

Tavi Gavison, child blogger now grown up and 19-year-old founder of Style Rookie; Iranian visual artist Shirin Neshat; artist, musician and performer Yoko Ono; and singer Patti Smith round out the list of outstanding women lensed by Annie Leibovitz, a legend herself. 

We share more images from the 2016 Pirelli Calendar, along with their Pirelli bios. 

Forward - YAO CHEN

Yao Chen has over seventy million social-media followers in China, which puts her in the very top tier of global pop-culture stars. She may be the most famous person on the planet. Yao is a film and TV actress whose first postings appeared in 2009, when Weibo, the Chinese micro-blogging website, was launched. It turned out, as Yao explained to an audience at the World Economic Forum, she had a knack for it. She was already popular for her appearances in romantic comedies, but by 2013 she had become so influential that she was named the first Chinese Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Her fans admire her for her humility and sincerity. She has spoken of the 'social responsibility of being a celebrity.' This means meeting refugees from Myanmar, Somalia, and Syria and reporting on their plight as well as drawing attention to local victims of injustice.


Natalia Vodianova founded an ambitious philanthropic organization when she was relatively young, only twenty-two. She had begun working as a model when she was eighteen and she was soon on countless runways and magazine covers and billboards. She signed a multi-year, multi-million-dollar contract with Calvin Klein, got married, and had her first child, all before she was twenty. She now has four children, design and endorsement contracts, more magazine covers, and many awards. 
There is a grim background to her success, however. Natalia was born into poverty in an industrial city in the Soviet Union. Both her father and then her stepfather abandoned the family. Her mother was left alone to raise Natalia and her younger half sister, who has cerebral palsy. From the time she was seven, Natalia took care of her sister and helped her mother sell fruit on the black market. A scout visiting Russia for a French modeling agency changed the course of her life. The Naked Heart Foundation, which Natalia set up in 2004, is a product of her early experiences. 
The foundation builds playgrounds in poor neighborhoods in Russia and provides access to them for children with disabilities. It also helps children with special needs stay with their families, lobbies the Russian government for legislation that will protect disabled children, and supports other projects that provide care for them. Natalia is involved in the foundation in a hands-on way that includes day-to-day decisions as well as attending openings of playgrounds, speaking at foundation-sponsored forums, and hosting fund-raising events that reflect her formidable talents and connections.


Kathleen Kennedy is the president of Lucasfilm, which was founded by George Lucas in 1971. Lucasfilm is the home of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. Kennedy was chosen by Lucas to replace him as the leader of the company in the spring of 2012. One of the most successful producers in Hollywood, her career is closely associated with the director Steven Spielberg. Her first production credit was for Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial in 1982. She and her future husband, Frank Marshall, and Spielberg had formed a production company the previous year. In 1992 she and Marshall founded the Kennedy/Marshall Company. She has been the producer or executive producer of over sixty films, including The Color Purple, the Jurassic Park series, the Back to the Future trilogy, Schindler's List, and Lincoln. Lucasfilm was sold to the Walt Disney Company shortly after Kennedy joined it. Her first project as president was the seventh Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens. She is a member of the board of governors and the board of trustees of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.


Agnes Gund and Sadie Rain Hope-Gund share an interest in the arts. Agnes Gund is Sadie's grandmother and a pre-eminent art collector and patron. Sadie is a student at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, where she studies photography and media. The Gund family has supported the arts for four generations. Agnes's father, George Gund II, was a banker and businessman who expanded the family fortune in Cleveland, Ohio, and created the George Gund Foundation for philanthropic projects. Agnes was president of the board of the Museum of Modern Art in New York from 1991 until 2002 and is now president emerita and the chairman of MoMA's international council. She is also chairman of MoMA PS1. She has served on the boards of many other arts organizations, including the J. Paul Getty Trust, the Frick Collection, and the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. Her AG Foundation gives several million dollars a year to cultural institutions and women's organizations. In 1977, she founded Studio in a School, which brings professional artists into public schools in New York City to teach the visual arts. Gund is one of the most important collectors of modern and contemporary art. She has given, or promised, much of her collection to museums. In 1997 she was awarded the National Medal of Arts.


Serena Williams embodies style, power, beauty and courage. Currently ranked the number-one women's tennis player, Serena has overcome insurmountable odds to win 21 career Grand Slams. She and her sister, Venus, changed the way women's tennis was played. Before she entered the sport, a woman's serve was used to get the game going, now it is an exercise in aggressive power. Serena is fast, athletic and a mentally tough player. She comes from an unconventional background for tennis, to say the least. The Williams sisters grew up in Compton, a community just south of downtown Los Angeles that is infamously known as the home of gangsta rap. 
They learned to play tennis on the public courts in Compton, where they were coached by their parents, who had no previous tennis experience. In February 2002, Venus Williams became the first African-American woman in tennis to be ranked number one. That same year, Serena defeated Venus at Wimbledon and assumed the number-one position at just twenty years old. She has won a title in all four Grand Slam tournaments including 66 singles championships, 22 doubles championships, and was also Gold-Medalist at the 2000 (doubles), 2008 (doubles), and 2012 (singles and doubles) Olympics. It is safe to say that Serena Williams has been a force in tennis for almost two decades. Outside of tennis, fashion is one of her passions. You can find Serena on HSN where her Serena Williams Signature Statement collection is featured. Serena is also an International Goodwill Ambassador to UNICEF, with a special interest in global education and community violence prevention. In addition, Serena created the Serena Williams Fund to help carry out her philanthropic efforts in the United States.


Fran Lebowitz is a master of social commentary, although she doesn't practice it in the usual way. She doesn't have a TV show or a newspaper column or a regular forum of any kind. Three books of her essays have been published: Metropolitan Life (1978), Social Studies (1981), and The Fran Lebowitz Reader (1994). Most of her observations for the last thirty years have been disseminated through interviews with her conducted by others and in lectures to college students. Her commentary takes the form of witty remarks—often devastating one-liners, although she has no problem talking for long periods of time. In 2010, Martin Scorsese made a feature-length documentary about her, Public Speaking, in which she discourses at length. Her point of view is that of a willfully parochial, contrarian, thoughtful New Yorker with a disdain for no-smoking rules and most contemporary technology. She is actually from New Jersey, but she has lived in Manhattan since she was seventeen. She skipped college and drove a taxi and had a job as a chauffeur for rock musicians. Then she began writing a column, 'I Cover the Waterfront,' for Andy Warhol's Interview magazine and essays for Mademoiselle. That is the work in her collections.
Lebowitz is a familiar figure in Manhattan. She is almost always dressed in a custom-made man's black jacket, a white shirt with cuff links, and jeans. She would be considered a cult figure except for the fact that her books were bestsellers and that she is well known to a wide audience, in part through appearances as a guest on late-night television. She has for many years been said to be writing a novel, even though, as she acknowledges, she suffers from a monumental writer's block. In any case, it is likely that she is her most interesting creation.


Mellody Hobson is the president of Ariel Investments, a Chicago money-management firm. She has been with Ariel since 1991, when she graduated from the Woodrow Wilson School of International Relations and Public Policy at Princeton. Hobson grew up in Chicago, the youngest of six children who were raised by a single mother in constrained financial circumstances. One of her many philanthropic interests is financial literacy and investor education. In 1996, Ariel Investments became the corporate sponsor of the Ariel Community Academy, a public school on the south side of Chicago that offers courses in finance along with the standard academic subjects. Hobson and her husband, the filmmaker George Lucas, have made significant contributions to the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and to After School Matters, an organization that provides Chicago high-school students with extracurricular programs in the arts, sciences, sports, technology, and communication. Hobson is the Chairman of the Board of DreamWorks Animation and a member of the boards of Estée Lauder and Starbucks. She contributes regularly to CBS News on the subjects of finance and economic trends. She was an early supporter of Barack Obama and an important fundraiser during his election campaigns.


Ava DuVernay is an African-American woman who directs movies made in Hollywood. There are very few African Americans or women among Hollywood directors, and DuVernay started out on another side of the business. She grew up in Los Angeles, went to school at UCLA, worked as a movie publicist, and formed her own marketing agency and a distribution company. She had briefly performed in a rap duo when she was in college, and her first film was a documentary about the hip-hop community she was part of. She made it for $10,000. She wrote and directed her first full-length narrative film, I Will Follow, based on her experience caring for her dying aunt. In 2012 she received the Sundance Film Festival award for Best Director of a drama made in the United States for her second feature, Middle of Nowhere, about a woman whose husband is in prison. Selma, which she directed and co-wrote, was distributed in 2014 by a mainstream studio, Paramount.
Selma is about Martin Luther King's campaign for voting rights for black Americans. The turning point was Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965, when white police and state troopers attacked a group of protesters attempting to march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital in Montgomery. Two weeks later, protected by federal troops and the National Guard, King led a march from Selma to Montgomery that swelled to 25,000 people. Later that year, the U.S. Congress passed a voting rights act. DuVernay's father had grown up near Selma and watched marchers go by his family's farm. With her account of the events, which she filmed where they happened, DuVernay became the first black woman to direct a film that was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture.


Tavi Gevinson wouldn't have surfaced in the popular consciousness in the pre-social-media era. Or rather, since she is brilliant and articulate and witty and original, she would probably have surfaced eventually, just not when she was twelve years old. In the pre-social-media era, she wouldn't have been able to sit in her bedroom in her parent's house in a suburb of Chicago, trolling on her computer through archives of decades of advertising campaigns and runway photographs and magazine fashion spreads. She wouldn't have accumulated the deep knowledge of fashion history that she put to use on her blog, Style Rookie, where she posted portraits of herself in her back yard wearing experimental outfits she had assembled from thrift-shop purchases. Her ideas about fashion were shared with hundreds of thousands of teens and pre-teens and their mothers, and with the fashion cognoscenti. Rei Kawakubo flew her to Tokyo for the Commes des Garçons holiday party. She chatted with Karl Lagerfeld in Paris and had a public conversation with Iris Apfel at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. She shot a video for the Rodarte label. When she was fifteen, she founded Rookie, an on-line magazine for teenage girls. When she was eighteen, she went off-line and gave an acclaimed performance in Kenneth Lonergan's play This Is Our Youth, which opened in Chicago and moved to Broadway. As to what happens next, stay tuned. Or logged in.


Shirin Neshat grew up in Iran before the Islamic Revolution. By the time Ayatollah Khomeini replaced the Shah, she was living in the United States, where her parents had sent her to study. She graduated from the University of California in Berkeley in 1983 and moved to New York. When she went back to Iran to visit her family in the 1990s, the changes in her country affected her deeply. She began making photographs, videos, and films about women living in an Islamic theocracy. Neshat considers herself a secular Muslim.
Between 1993 and 1997 she made a series of stark, conceptualized, black-and-white portraits that she called Women of Allah. In the series, which includes self-portraits, the subjects wear chadors and their faces, hands, and feet are covered with calligraphic text in Farsi—excerpts from poems written by Iranian women on the subject of martyrdom and the role of women in the revolution. A gun is a key element in the images. Neshat's later work is less apparently political and more philosophical. In Rapture (1999), a thirteen-minute, 16mm-film-and-sound installation, a screen showing men in white shirts in a stone fortress is juxtaposed with a screen on which a group of veiled women move in a mysterious, lyrically abstract way across a bare landscape and then into the sea. Neshat's first feature film, Women Without Men (2009), which is set in 1953, when Iran's democratically elected government was overthrown in a coup backed by the CIA, won the Silver Lion for best director at the Venice Film Festival. In 2015, the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., mounted a retrospective of her work, Facing History.


Yoko Ono is a visual artist, a conceptual artist, a performance artist, a filmmaker, a musician, a composer, and a political activist. She is also the widow of John Lennon, with whom she was working in a recording studio on the day of his death, December 8, 1980. The connection to her husband has made Ono perhaps the most well-known living avant-garde artist, although she was an influential figure well before she met him, in 1966. The 'events' she presented in her loft on Chambers Street in New York in the very early 1960s were important to the development of experimental music, art, and dance. Ono had her first solo exhibition of paintings and drawings in 1961, in a gallery directed by George Maciunas, the founder of the Fluxus movement. Her first solo concert took place in the Carnegie Recital Hall in New York later that year. In 1964, she self-published Grapefruit, a book of 'instructions' for the implementation or conceptualization of her work, in an edition of 500 copies. Grapefruit has been expanded and reprinted many times and translated into several languages. Ono's most well-known performance pieces are probably 'Cut Piece' (1964), in which she knelt on a stage and invited the audience to cut off her clothes with a pair of tailor's shears, and the 'Bed-In for Peace' (1969) that she and Lennon first held in a hotel in Amsterdam in lieu of a honeymoon. After Lennon's death, Ono devoted herself increasingly to music, integrating an improvisational technique and distinct vocal style (shrieks, groans, and whispers as well as melodious phrasing) into popular music. In 2009, she and her son, Sean Lennon, revived the Plastic Ono Band, which had been formed originally in the late Sixties. Ono was awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale that year. In 2015, a retrospective of her early work, Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960-1971, was presented by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Her many philanthropic activities include the biennial LennonOno Grant for Peace, support for organizations such as Amnesty International and UNICEF, and funding for schools in impoverished countries.


Patti Smith is a woman on a mission. She's been on it for over forty years, although there was a decade-long public hiatus when she retired to Detroit to raise a family. In the early 1970s, the mission was to save rock and roll from pop drivel. Smith's ecstatic, charismatic, poetic performances inspired a generation of musicians. She was a seminal figure in New York clubs of the time, particularly Max's Kansas City and CBGB. Her first album, Horses (1975), with the haunting black-and-white cover photograph by Robert Mapplethorpe, is one of the most influential records of the rock era. The image of Smith, insolent in her man's white shirt and skinny tie, a black jacket draped over one shoulder, still inspires men, women, and fashion designers. She herself was inspired by Rimbaud, William Burroughs, Jimi Hendrix, William Blake, and an extensive pantheon of visionaries and romantics—not to mention Johnny Carson. 
She had a Top Forty hit, 'Because the Night', on her third album, Easter (1978), but her emblematic work is more along the lines of 'Birdland,' a lengthy poem/song about Wilhelm Reich's son waiting at his father's funeral for a UFO to take him away. And then there is her enduring 'People Have the Power,' which has become the anthem of populist movements in several countries. Smith's passion, commitment, and utter lack of cynicism have been lent in support of environmentalists, progressive politicians, Tibetans, artists, and radicals of many stripes. In the summer of 2015, when she was making her way through an annual tour of European music festivals, she galvanized audiences of thousands of people. Smith has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and she won the National Book Award for Just Kids (2010), a memoir of her relationship with Mapplethorpe, but her mission is not a nostalgia trip.


Amy Schumer is a stand-up comic and actress whose signature is really, really off-color language and jokes and skits having to do with sex—graphically described and often more or less grotesque sex. She arrives at a feminist position—the place where self-worth is proclaimed and men's posturing and arrogance are deflated—by exposing herself in a way that would be considered cruel if someone else did it to her. One of the most lauded episodes of Inside Amy Schumer, her award-winning series on the television cable channel Comedy Central, is a parody of the classic film Twelve Angry Men. In 'Twelve Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer,' an all-male jury heatedly debates if Schumer is 'hot enough' to have her own TV show. Her perceived physical and temperamental shortcomings are ruthlessly dissected. Schumer turns jokes that could be too broad into deftly subversive, and very funny, commentary. In 2015 she took on long-form comedy with a feature film, Trainwreck, which she wrote and stars in.