December 7, 2023

Clicks & Likes

News, Arts, and Entertainment

When the Chicks posed nude for Leisure Weekly in 2003

It was March 2003, and the Dixie Chicks (now recognised as the Chicks) experienced kicked off their new tour. Throughout the opening night in London, on the eve of the Iraq War, direct singer Natalie Maines criticized George W. Bush and transformed her and her bandmates’ life: “We’re on the good facet with y’all,” she explained to the viewers. “We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas.” Instantly, the region songs trio — America’s top-promoting woman group of all time — was engulfed in controversy as enraged followers and others named for a boycott, nation radio stations pulled their music and album sales began to fall.

A month later, the users of the Chicks (Maines, Emily Strayer and Martie Maguire) responded in an in-depth interview with Leisure Weekly — and, in a shift considered specially shocking, posed nude for the address, their bodies painted in words that individuals were being contacting them: “Dixie Sluts.” “Proud People.” “Traitors.” “Fearless.” The image was so placing that it went viral in advance of likely viral existed.

The include established the group’s defiant tone going forward they have been not likely to back again down or apologize for getting women of all ages who had thoughts. It adjusted the study course of their job — paving a path for their 2006 Grammy-sweeping album, “Taking the Very long Way” — and influenced a great number of other state functions. To some, particularly those people already impressed by their songs, they were heroes. To others, they were a cautionary tale, and considered, to this working day, to be the reason several Nashville singers refuse to say a term about politics. It is also why most country stations nonetheless won’t participate in the Chicks.

But even as Amusement Weekly fades away (substantially to the disappointment of showbiz fans who grew up on the magazine), the Chicks address will never ever be neglected. Here’s the story of how it happened.

John McAlley, who was the tunes editor for EW, frequently had to thrust for the journal to prioritize music coverage, provided that the publication was heavy on Tv set and videos. But he understood the Chicks controversy was likely to be a substantial tale, and it needed to be entrance and heart. So he was identified to land the job interview — his major issue was that he was likely to be scooped by Time journal, which experienced a inclination to “bigfoot” EW for tales, even nevertheless they experienced the exact proprietor.

“The information weeklies at the time were being actually impressive and actually high profile,” he stated. “There was so substantially prestige and visibility attached to being on the address of a information weekly, that on a lot more than a single occasion, we dropped a battle for a story for the reason that Time was promising the deal with. But Time never ever gave the cover — it would always stop up being an within tale.”

Meanwhile, Cindi Berger, the Chicks’ publicist, could explain to this backlash was not likely absent. She and the band’s group determined the trio needed to do three interviews: a syndicated radio display, a broadcast Television interview and the protect of a well known magazine. So she booked them on nation persona Bob Kingsley’s radio clearly show, an ABC specific with Diane Sawyer, and then known as … Rolling Stone.

Berger wished the address to run at a specific time in May to coincide with the Sawyer exclusive, as well as the start of the Chicks’ U.S. tour dates, but Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner declined, she reported. Her following telephone call was to McAlley, who was eager to make it happen, and they started negotiations.

Berger wanted to make sure they had been guaranteed the protect and that the editors and artwork directors would collaborate with the band on the photography strategy.

“It was lots of, lots of days of back and forth, wonderful uncertainty whether or not we would land the go over or not,” McAlley mentioned. He vividly remembers obtaining the go-forward get in touch with: “I was in the dwelling area of my parents’ house in suburban New York when my flip cell phone rang on a Saturday early morning. It was Cindi Berger. She claimed, ‘We want to do this.’ ”

Brainstorming started, and the EW team felt pressured to occur up with the excellent plan.

“We all felt like, ‘Wow, we acquired the scoop — now we will need an image which is going to be equivalent to the fact that we bought the exclusive on it,’ ” explained Geraldine Hessler, EW’s artistic director.

Tips commenced to circulation involving the workforce and the band: Mainly because individuals had been screaming that the Chicks were being unpatriotic, the first thought was to wrap Maines, Maguire and Strayer in an American flag. But then the editors have been concerned it would seem like they have been denigrating the flag. Anyone else suggested the singers wear American flag earrings or kerchiefs. Fiona McDonagh Farrell, the picture editor, recollects becoming on the convention call wherever Maines explained something together the strains of, “We should all be naked and branded with the matters they’ve been declaring about us.”

“The publicist, obviously, was like, ‘We are not performing that!’ ” Farrell explained. “I waited a number of minutes and then mentioned, ‘Let’s go back to the idea Natalie described, since it could be a definitely, seriously interesting thought.’ ” Farrell appreciated the plan of juxtaposing some of the horrible factors they experienced been identified as (“Saddam’s Angels,” for example) with some of the favourable reactions (“brave” and “heroes”). Around the end of the contact, they made the decision the Chicks would wrap themselves in bumper stickers with all the phrases.

Certainly, Berger was mildly horrified by the notion of a nude address. But the band usually experienced extremely particular artistic suggestions. “The cover essential to be crucial and essential to make a assertion,” Berger reported. “When the girls came up with this, I stated, ‘Well, which is a assertion.’ ”

The picture shoot was booked in April, and it was a scramble — Hessler recalls they experienced 5 days, at most, to prepare for the shoot, which took place in a distant airplane hangar in Austin. Although Maines, Strayer and Maguire taken care of a feeling of relaxed and fantastic humor, it was an intensive ambiance: Dying threats were still rolling in towards the band, and security was almost everywhere.

At that stage, they agreed on the bumper sticker thought, and the artwork office created them. Nevertheless Farrell began to fear that the stickers would not arrive in Austin on time — and extra importantly, even if they did, that they would appear terrible. She conferred with the photographer, James White, who agreed stickers could not be the finest appear. They resolved to hire a human body make-up artist who could paint the words and phrases on the Chicks, just in circumstance.

Absolutely sure plenty of, the stickers in no way showed up. “I considered, ‘Oh my God, I’m heading to have to get to established and have to inform Cindi we really don’t have stickers — but we do have this other man or woman,’ ” Farrell reported. “Fortunately, all the stars aligned. And even though Cindi was justifiably terribly nervous about this strategy, the a few ladies at the coronary heart of the story had been brave sufficient to say, ‘Yes, let’s do it. Let us go for it.’ ”

“Terribly nervous” may possibly have been an understatement for Berger, who was building panicked phone calls to the EW editors back in New York. Her largest dread was that the protect was heading to be considered much too express and wrapped in brown paper on newsstands, which would defeat the entire reason. “I remember saying, ‘I really do not imagine this is going to operate,’ ” she said. “And James White explained, ‘I’m likely to location them flawlessly.’ And he did.”

White recalled the shoot total was a “very great day” irrespective of the tense circumstances and admired the trio’s bond in hard occasions. “They have been incredibly supportive of each individual other,” he explained. “They stuck with each other, and I cherished viewing that.”

In 2013, on the 10th anniversary of the include, Strayer advised EW that “it unquestionably was the most bold thing” the band experienced ever carried out: “I felt like we understood the gravity of that shoot even though it was taking place.”

McAlley assigned the story to Chris Willman, a highly regarded region-songs writer who had currently been striving to get a characteristic story likely on the Chicks and their most current album, “Home.” At EW, he said, it was “always a big fight” to get nation tunes in the New York-primarily based journal. Suddenly, the tables experienced turned.

Willman was not authorized at the photograph shoot, so he achieved the band later on at a sushi restaurant for the job interview. He said it was hard to grasp the enormity of the controversy at the time, and assumed maybe almost everything would blow more than in a couple months. But once he observed the go over pictures, he recognized that for the band, there was no going back.

“We all recognized what a defiant statement it was,” Willman said. “The include was expressing them as currently being susceptible and obtaining been victims in some feeling in all of this, but it was also the biggest center finger you can set up to the planet.”

In New York, Farrell commenced enhancing the photographs, and it was a “no-brainer” about what was going to be the address. Hessler said that usually, EW place a ton of textual content and added imagery on handles, given the importance of newsstand income. This was distinct.

“You did not have to have a ton of phrases on the protect simply because the picture was so robust,” she stated. “We ended up just overjoyed by it — it was that thrill when you have a creative vision and then it totally will come alongside one another, and not only as executed, but in a way that is so a great deal superior than you at any time considered it could be.”

Even with Berger’s fears, the journal was not wrapped in brown paper some merchants, this kind of as Walmart, would not display screen handles with nudity. But as Hessler explained, the magazine “wasn’t about to compromise its editorial mission” primarily based on that probability.

EW does not allow for cover acceptance from topics, so when Berger ultimately noticed the magazine, she felt a substantial wave of aid and was blown absent by the image. She right away faxed it to the band. “It was a highly effective, impressive minute,” Berger explained. (She said she been given a get in touch with from Wenner at Rolling Stone, who explained, “Well, that is the go over of the year.”)

About at EW, the editors had been overwhelmed by the response — it was on each individual news present and reprinted on the entrance of the New York Article. The magazine been given hundreds of letters from visitors. “It just straight away variety of exploded in the lifestyle,” McAlley said. In a uncommon prevalence, he gained a bottle of Dom Pérignon from Berger, who expressed gratitude that the tale addressed the Chicks with respect and allow them speak their piece. “Thank you. You are a male of your phrase,” browse the notice.

All of the EW staffers interviewed say it was a career spotlight, even as Willman joked that his lengthy Q&A with the band accounted for a mere 1 p.c of the response. In 2005, the American Modern society of Journal Editors named it one particular of the top rated 40 covers of the final 40 a long time. “It was a single of the people times where by we took a chance, and the Dixie Chicks, they took a large danger,” Farrell explained. “Sometimes a include can be the the very least intriguing picture, but sometimes, it can be a real statement.”

The staffers also spoke with a trace of wistfulness — journal covers really do not make pretty the very same splash these days. “This was an act of defiance and energy and it was just a super-daring cover,” McAlley explained. “And one of Leisure Weekly’s greatest times, for positive.”