Pirelli celebrates all-black cast with 2018 calendar bash

Duckie Thot at the Manhattan Center on Nov. 10 in New York City. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Pirelli Calendar 2018 Launch Gala was held on a freezing Friday night at the Manhattan Center in New York City. This year, the starry event feted the 45th edition: British photographer Tim Walker’s surreal reimagining of Alice in Wonderland. The result was whimsical images of stars showcasing their unique and diverse beauty while clad in dreamy costumes designed by British Vogue editor in chief Edward Enninful, with elaborate set design by creative director Shona Heath.

Seventeen different characters from the world of fashion, music, film, and “the underground universe” were featured in the calendar. Duckie Thot stars as Alice and told Yahoo Lifestyle about her “dream job”: “I’m really, really honored to be here tonight. I’m super-thrilled to be on the cover.” Thot described her structured J’Anton Couture ball gown festooned with white appliqués: “I wanted to be very much the Wonderland theme, and I think it quite replicates that.”

Naomi Campbell and Sean Combs arrive at the Manhattan Center on Nov. 10 in New York City. (Photo: Getty Images)

The roles of the Royal Beheaders went to Naomi Campbell and Sean “Diddy” Combs, who arrived together about an hour and half after the red carpet was scheduled to end. Combs dutifully took Campbell’s fur coat as she posed on the red carpet. The supermodel gave maternal advice to Australian refugee Adut Akech. Clad in a sequined tuxedo short ensemble that highlighted her seemingly endless legs, Akech said to Yahoo Lifestyle, “Naomi’s taken me under her wings like a little daughter, and it’s really good to have somebody like her looking out for me and mentoring me while I’m here in the big city.”

What tips did the veteran model share with the calendar’s Queen of Diamonds? “She’s just been giving me advice about the industry, how I should always be myself no matter what, and do things that I feel comfortable doing and I should never do something that I don’t feel I have to do,” Akech said.

Lupita Nyong’o showcased her Dormouse for the calendar and advised Akech, “Don’t you dare ever change for anybody or anything. You’ve got this amazing personality and you’ve got a bright future ahead of you.” How did the counsel inspire Akech? “It’s just things like that that motivate me to feel like somebody does recognize my hard work and they see my talent, so now I’ve got to push even harder and never give up, no matter what.”

Pirelli 2018 calendar models Jaha Dukureh, Duckie Thot, and Thando Hopa on the red carpet. (Photo: Getty Images)

Lawyer turned model Thando Hopa donned a strapless dress with a plunging neckline from her fellow South African, designer Gert Johan Coetzee, who discovered her years ago. The calendar’s Princess of Hearts described how her career and her inherited genetic condition — which reduces the amount of melanin pigment formed in her skin, hair, and eyes — imbue her with tremendous responsibilities. “As a lawyer, I was a prosecutor and I specialized in sexual offense cases, but that deals with representation,” Hopa said. “It means that you’re carrying people’s lives with you, and as a model, it also deals with representation because you’re carrying so many people with you. As I stand, I carry women, South Africans, black people, people who look different, people with albinism. So each time, I feel like I continuously carried a responsibility and I do my best to make sure that I carry that responsibility with the best of intentions and have an impact on everything I do.”

The iconic role of the Mad Hatter went to Slick Woods, who wore a dotted, sheer David Koma gown that was selected by her fashion consultant. “My stylist, Jamie Frankel, helped me out. It was just a really dope experience. She tries to get me out of my box. We just tried to get on that whole vibe, a little fairy-tale-esque.” Make that one of Disney’s villains: “I feel a little Maleficent today.”

The star’s team transformed Woods’s hair and eyebrows into a vivid orange hue via a surprising process. “I was like, I want to dye it. They’re like, we don’t have time, we’re just going to paint it, and I was like, oh, OK. And it looks natural and I love it.” The model wore one Swarovski earring that didn’t match her other jewelry. “I like to switch it up,” Woods said. “I don’t like to wear the same earrings, ever.”

Woods, whose customized chains were personalized, clearly isn’t concerned with labels because she didn’t know who designed her purse or footwear. “I don’t even know whose shoes I’m wearing.” Woods joked. “I can’t even tell you. I suck!”

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