Apologies for the radio silence.
Since Easter my life has consisted of revision, revision and more revision, but with exams over I can once again turn my attention to blogging.
Some of you may be aware of the Vogue Talent Contest. It is an annual writing competition open to anyone under the age of 25 who have a passion for fashion and journalism.
I entered it last year and again this year. Sadly I haven't made it into the final 10 on either occasion, but this year rather than let the pieces I wrote go to waste I thought I would publish them on here instead. The plan is to publish one a day (there are 3)
The first is called Calendar Girl, and it is an interview with my Sister's Godmother, Juliet, who posed for the Pirelli Calendar in 1986.
A small café hidden away on a backstreet in Edinburgh was not the setting I had envisaged for an interview with a former Pirelli calendar girl. But then Juliet, softly spoken with her bobbed hair slightly dishevelled from the gale blowing outside, doesn’t fit with my predetermined image. Yet there is a subtle elegance to her appearance. Tall and slim, with long limbs and mesmerising eyes she is undeniably beautiful; something which is only enhanced by the fact she is wearing no make up (“it’s such a hassle”). She may be stunning but there is nothing pretentious about Juliet’s character. Instead she is considerate, polite and at times shy. The embodiment of a demure beauty.
We choose a couple of armchairs with a view, albeit somewhat obscured, out to Edinburgh Castle and chat about her recent move to Scotland from the south of England, discussing, as any Brits would, the difference in weather between the two regions. After the waiter takes our order (two earl grey teas) the conversation moves onto the reason I’m here. The Pirelli Calendar. “Just to warn you my memory of the whole thing is a bit hazy” she apologises, fingers gently tapping a rhythm on the arm of the chair. It’s understandable. Nearly 30 years have passed since Juliet was photographed by Bert Stern in an abandoned mill near Stroud. “It wasn’t as glamorous as everyone expected” she says with a quick smile, her eyes flashing with a playful youthfulness that disguises her age. It’s the same carefree, happy-go-lucky attitude which comes across so clearly in ‘that’ photo. Aged 22, with her blonde hair in a boyish pixie-cut, doing a straddle jump in the air, Juliet was the perfect June girl; epitomising the excited anticipation for the start of summer. Her eyes roll at the reminder. “Nobody warned me about the trampoline. I was fine with the nudity but if I had known about the trampoline I’m not sure I would’ve done it.” Incidentally her four children have never had a trampoline - “I can’t stand them anymore” she quietly admits.
When I ask about the reaction she received from family and friends, she laughs. “They were so laid-back. I think they made more of a fuss when I was flown to Florida to shoot an ad for Ski Yoghurt.” I find it surprising that the woman sitting in front of me, intermittently sipping her tea, could have been so at ease with the prospect of posing nude for such an iconic brand. “To me it was just another job. If I’m honest I think I am more uncomfortable looking back at it now than I was at the time”. She blames modelling for making her the shy and reserved person she is today. “I was too naive and modelling left me with little self-confidence” she confides. The constant pressure to remain a sample size affected many aspects of her life. She became a vegan, something which her friends struggled to comprehend. “I had to bring my own food to dinner parties because they couldn’t cope with trying to cook a meal for me”. Being a vegan may have kept her weight down but it led to a number of health problems. It was only after her GP highlighted the severity of her situation that she started eating meat again. She confesses that the modelling world can be ruthless. “I look at the girls on ANTM and BINTM crying hysterically every episode and I know they are going to struggle with the harsh attitude of the industry” she shrugs, gazing out the window to the grey clouds accumulating behind the gothic skyline of the Scottish capital.
In a bid to ensure that the interview doesn’t end on a low note I ask if she had any intention of showing the picture to her daughters - “God no! To be honest I don’t think they’d want to see it”. I suppose she has a point. Seeing a photo of your mother in a nude calendar isn’t top of anyone’s bucket list. Her daughters may never see it but Juliet reveals that the photo has a habit of resurfacing in some very unexpected places. “Once while my husband was in Kiev he came across [the photo] in a photography magazine. He showed it to a work colleague who I think probably struggled to believe it was me. After all, he’d last seen me heavily pregnant, standing in departures at Gatwick airport completely incapable of doing a straddle.” And like that her mischievous humour returns.