Pirelli 2016 calendar opts for brains over beauty

In what the Milan-based tyre manufacturer described as a radical break from tradition, the famed Pirelli calendar for 2016 will feature some of the world’s most accomplished women as opposed to models and actresses.

Pirelli 2016 calendar opts for brains over beauty
Yao Chen, a Chinese actress and UN goodwill ambassador. Photo: Annie Leibovitz/Pirelli

Some have hailed it as “a new dawn for feminism”, while others have asked if this is the end of the Pirelli calendar as it’s been known for over 50 years – that is, a racy line-up of actresses and supermodels posing mostly in the nude.

Launched in 1964 as an annual giveaway for garages that sold Pirelli tyres, the calender, which is produced by the Pirelli's UK subsidiary and is sent to a select group of people, has evolved from the cheesy to the arty end of the erotica spectrum.

Over the years, the calendar has featured models including Cindy Crawford, Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell, to name but a few.

But the 13 women snapped by the American photographer Annie Leibovitz for the 2016 line-up include author and critic Fran Lebowitz; Yao Chen, a Chinese actress and UN goodwill ambassador and Kathleen Kennedy, a film producer.

The calendar, unveiled in London on Monday night, also includes tennis player Serena Williams, singer Patti Smith and Yoko Ono, the widow of John Lennon who is also an artist and musician.

The calendar features “13 women of outstanding professional, social, cultural, sporting and artistic accomplishment”, the company said in a statement.

Leibovitz also created the 2000 Pirelli calendar, which marked the first set of nude photos of her career.

“The 2000 calendar was an exercise in photographing nudes. It was a simple concept,” Leibovitz said in the Pirelli statment.

“For 2016, we did something completely different, but it is still simple. It is a classic set of black-and-white portraits made in the studio.”

Although nudity was not omitted entirely, the photo of Serena Williams' back is intended to reflect “her physical prowess through sport”.

Tennis player Serena Williams in the Pirelli 2016 calendar. Photo: Annie Leibovitz/Pirelli

When ChemChina announced it was taking over Pirelli in March, CEO Marco Tronchetti reassured fans of the calendar that it would remain an annual feature of the company. 

“It is the one thing Chinese, Italians and Russians can all agree on – we'll never give it up,” Tronchetti said at the time.

The company’s headquarters and “know-how” have remained in Italy.

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Pope appoints French woman to senior synod post

Pope Francis has broken with Catholic tradition to appoint a woman as an undersecretary of the synod of bishops, the first to hold the post with voting rights in a body that studies major questions of doctrine.

Pope appoints French woman to senior synod post
Pope Francis has appointed Nathalie Becquart as undersecretary of the synod of bishops. She is the first woman to hold the post. Photo: AFP

Frenchwoman Nathalie Becquart is one of the two new undersecretaries named on Saturday to the synod, where she has been a consultant since 2019.

The appointment signals the pontiff's desire “for a greater participation of women in the process of discernment and decision-making in the church”, said Cardinal Mario Grech, the secretary-general of the synod.

“During the previous synods, the number of women participating as experts and listeners has increased,” he said.

“With the nomination of Sister Nathalie Becquart and her possibility of participating in voting, a door has opened.”

The synod is led by bishops and cardinals who have voting rights and also comprises experts who cannot vote, with the next gathering scheduled for autumn 2022.

A special synod on the Amazon in 2019 saw 35 female “auditors” invited to the assembly, but none could vote.

The Argentinian-born pope has signalled his wish to reform the synod and have women and laypeople play a greater role in the church.

He named Spaniard Luis Marin de San Martin as the other under undersecretary in the synod of bishops.

Becquart, 52, a member of the France-based Xaviere Sisters, has a master's degree in management from the prestigious HEC business school in Paris and studied in Boston before joining the order.