Pirelli Models Candice Huffine and Carolyn Murphy on the Power of Curves and the Tyranny of Instagramby
The 2015 Pirelli Calendar debuted this week amid much festivity in Milan. Models like Joan Smalls, Isabeli Fontana, Adriana Lima, and Gigi Hadid attended the party, dressed in ball gowns and diamonds for the occasion.
The Italian tire maker has produced the calendar since 1964. It's not for sale but given to VIP customers and friends of the brand. While unabashedly sexy, the images are pegged as art and always make a big splash in the fashion world. It’s a headliner event for high-brow pin-ups.
Steven Meisel photographed. Carine Roitfeld styled what little is required when you're dealing in nudes and latex; Pat McGrath did makeup. The effect was minimal and, uh, dewy, to say the least.
The most interesting thing about this year's art piece, though, is that it includes the first-ever curvy model (the raven-haired beauty Candice Huffine) and the first 40-something (the blonde supermodel Carolyn Murphy) among its pages.
I spoke at length with Adriana and Gigi. They were fascinating. But I especially liked talking with Caroline and Candice because they offered a particular perspective about working in a medium that often values one type of beauty -- super svelte youth -- above all else.
"I knew this shoot was going to be big," Huffine told me last month in Midtown New York hotel room. "If it were with any other curvy model it would have been groundbreaking and exciting. But the fact that it got to be me was actually something I didn't even think about before. My mind just didn't go that distance."
The crucial thing about doing the shoot, she said, is that it it's showing something completely new -- and will help open "the eyes and minds of casting agencies and photographers and companies to see things a different way."
"I don't want to say that plus-sized models are fighting to be seen, to be heard -- that's probably the wrong word. But to just know that you're not in a totally separate category any more is so exciting," she said.
Huffine is 30 and has modeled in New York since she was 15 -- four years younger than, say, Hadid. But Carolyn Murphy, who is 40 now, has stayed strong in her career for even longer.
"I've been in this business for 20 years," Murphy told me in a separate interview. "The story stays the same: To get my break, I really had to work work work. I was doing my time, and it took a while to hit. These younger girls -- Gigi and Kendall Jenner -- I really don't identify with their persona since it's created by social media, which is also their generation, so for them it's second nature. For me it feels like a chore."
Murphy came of age working with such icons as Amber Valetta and Shalom Harlow. She said that it's ‘fantastic’ that Gigi and Kendall represent ‘something different’ but also noted that if she were starting out now, there's no way she would have become a model. Which is especially ironic considering she frequently appears on Forbes' annual list of top-earning models.
"There's no way -- even now I'm barely hanging on after 20-plus years in the industry because I'm being told that I have to self-promote through selfies and through branding, through Instagram and, 'Why aren't you on Twitter, why aren't you on Facebook?'" she said. "I cannot comprehend it."
It's an immense amount of pressure that, in her own words, she would not survive: "It wouldn't have been worth it to me, to self-promote in that way," she said. "When I started I had to self-promote by carrying my portfolio around in my backpack, by walking into a room and having them flip through pages of a very clunky book, and then by being rejected and turned away. That was just par for the course."
Now, she says, she's ‘bewildered’ by what she calls an over-saturated market of young wealthy girls on Instagram.
Not that it's bad, necessarily, just different.
"I'm sure -- I'm sure -- these young ladies will find a way to capitalize," Murphy said, smiling. "I just have a different work ethic because I have to work to earn my money. I have to work. I don't know if they'll grasp that."