The morning of the 2018 Pirelli Calendar’s big reveal, a dozen cyclists took to the streets of New York, to celebrate Tim Walker’s theme of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The famed Walker and Pirelli recast -- literally -- the popular Louis Carroll fairytale with an all-black, global heritages cast
Joined by 2018 Pirelli Calendar protagonists Alpha Dia, a Senegalese-German model who played the 5 of Hearts playing card and gardener; British model King Owusu, who played Tweedledum and a 2 of Hearts playing card, and fellow British model Wilson Oryema who was the 7 of Hearts playing card and gardener, the ride marked not only the anticipated reveal of Tim Walker’s official calendar photos, but also the end of a six-month journey since the shoot took place over a week in London in June.
It's noteworthy that Pirelli featured an all-black cast in 1987, when a then 16-year-old Naomi Campbell was shot by Terence Donovan, in the company of Waris Dirie and Colette Brown.
For the 45th Calendar edition, the British photographer Tim Walker applied his unmistakable style of extravagant sets, helped by set designer Shona Heath with styling by Edward Enninful, now Editor-in-Chief of British Vogue.
Whoopi Goldberg joined the Pirelli cast for a 28-image calendar that significantly expanded the recent-years redefinition of the annual calendar beyond a vision of sexy, naked women eating bananas Terry Richardson style.
Enninful explains the mission of Pierelli's 2018 all-black cast: “To see a black Alice today means children of all races can embrace the idea of diversity from a very young age and also acknowledge that beauty comes in all colours. Culturally, we are living in a diverse world. Projects like this remarkable Pirelli Calendar demonstrate that there is still hope in what sometimes feels like an increasingly cynical reality.”
Walker's post as chief photographer said that the idea of a black Alice has been with him "for a long time". In fact the story has been a big influence throughout his career of captivating, extravagant fashionable storytelling.
“I see the fashion world as wonderland,” he said. “Alice in Wonderland is a story that I have drawn upon for a long time. It has always been in my work. Alice for me is always there. I didn’t want to tell Alice as she had been told before. I didn’t want to be influenced by Disney’s interpretation or Tim Burton’s interpretation, I wanted to go back to the core of the imagination.”
“I know I’m not a fashion model. They knew I’m not a fashion model. So I went in and did me,” the comedic icon and Whoopi Goldberg, host of The View told Vanity Fair. Walker admitted working with author and comedian Goldberg, 61, was a highlight for him: “You grow up with someone like Whoopi Goldberg. And then you meet her. She knows why she is there, she is an experienced performer. I think it’s those moments of meeting people you have looked up to that are very special.”
Fear not, fashionistas. Models are in the house. South Sudanese-Australian model Duckie Thot plays Alice. Model Adwoa Aboah, who also covers the December 2017 debut issue of Enninful's British Vogue plays Tweedledee.
Walker, whose portfolio includes multiple Vogues, Love and W Magazine, said his favorite image from the 2018 Pirelli calendar was one of the first in the calendar - of Australian model Duckie Thot’s Alice.
Walker said: “Duckie had to carry so much. She hadn’t done a lot of modelling before we cast her as Alice. I think she carried that lead role with so much strength.”
Thot, 22, who is of Sudanese heritage and raised in Australia, said the role was her "dream job". “I thought it would be something I would do in five years, six years. I can’t believe I have done this within a year of living in this city. To have done it with Tim was such an amazing experience. He let me in to his world, which really hit home for me. To be able to be lensed by him and for Pirelli - those two together is my dream job. It happened, and I am still very much like: ‘wow’.”
Sean Combs, who did another name change in time for the launch, leaving Puff Daddy and 'Diddy' behind for good for his new identity as Sean 'Brother Love' Combs said at the launch: “For me the message is a little late, but it’s come right on time. Pirelli was smart enough to see the future. This is the future - black excellence.”
Blood Diamond star Djmon Hounsou, who is King of Hearts, said working with drag artist RuPaul, Queen of Hearts, had been an experience. “She sure owns the stage, loud and clear.”
To recap, the Full Cast of the 2018 Pirelli Calendar includes:
Adut Akech: The Queen of Diamonds
Adwoa Aboah: Tweedledee
Alpha Dia: 5 of Hearts playing card and Gardener
Djimon Hounsou: The King of Hearts
Duckie Thot: Alice
King Owusu: Tweedledum, 2 of Hearts playing card and Gardener
Lil Yachty: The Queen’s Guard
Lupita Nyong'o: The dormouse
Naomi Campbell: The Royal Beheader
RuPaul: The Queen of Hearts
Sasha Lane: The Mad March Hare
Sean “Diddy” Combs: The Royal Beheader
Slick Woods: The Mad Hatter
Thank Hopa: The Princess of Hearts
Whoopi Goldberg: The Royal Duchess
Wilson Oryema: 7 of Hearts Playing Card and gardener
Zoe Bedeaux: The Caterpillar
Jaha Dukureh: Wonderland Princess