Why use nude celebrities to raise public awareness around the issue of domestic violence, rape and other issues that affect women? Because it gets the public’s attention and forces them to engage with the subject matter even if they object to the execution.
How has the public's reaction to your campaigns compared to reaction you anticipated?It’s exactly as we anticipated. This is the third year we have run a naked campaign which addresses a social issue and every year we have the same reaction – why the nudity? What does it have to do with the cause? Every year people lose sight of the fact that the nudity is what got their attention in the first place. This year we chose to shoot couples naked to highlight positive relationships and suggest that trust is an important part of healthy partnerships. The nudity is simply the mechanism by which we get the message across – and believe me, it works. Every year a different image/personality seems to draw the most public censure and different sectors respond differently. This year, many Afrikaans-speaking readers responded to the images of Minki that were published in the Afrikaans press – they’re not used to seeing her in this way and the response was emotional – but you probably wouldn’t see a story about an incident of domestic abuse making the front page of Rapport in any other form. Responses to domestic violence should be emotional. The statistics are shocking. Minki was incredibly brave to stand up for this issue and face her community’s reaction and we are very grateful to her for doing so.
What are some of the reactions that have stood out for you - over the years? Why do they stand out?In the first year the response was far less violent than it has been in the last two years. The first campaign was linked to the Treatment Action Campaign and the roll-out of ARVs to South Africans with HIV and AIDS. The second two campaigns are both about violence against women – one in conjunction with Rape Crisis and one with POWA. The reactions are often to do with what the public perceive to be the sexualising of the nudity – which is territory we are incredibly careful not to stray into when these pictures are conceived. It’s very difficult to argue this with the general public, however, because these opinions and beliefs are so entrenched and so emotionally charged, that very few stop to consider how flawed they are. The most common reaction is that the images may in some way promote sexual violence – which is the most disturbing reaction since this is precisely one of the myths these campaigns are attempting to debunk: there is no mitigating factor when it comes to abuse; men and women CAN control their urges and no one EVER makes themselves a target. Abuse is never the fault of the victim. As long as people continue to hold these views – effectively absolving criminals and rapists from taking responsibility for their crimes – we will never get a handle on this problem.
Would you take your clothes off for a cause like this - and SAY you did, how would your relatives and "community" feel about it? I did pose topless for the editor’s letter page – but wasn’t as brave as some of the other celebrities! (Not as comfortable with my body, maybe...) If I’d gone further I think my family would have probably rolled their eyes – but I also think they would have been proud. It’s a brave decision – it’s something meaningful that one person can do to send a message that is ultimately very powerful: it says, we acknowledge that this is happening and it’s not OK.
How do you feel about the way other media have handled this campaign? I saw a City Press poster that read "Celebs Strip Bare", if I remember correctly. It’s been handled better this year than in previous years, although the current 'gossip' about one of the celebs not approving her pics prior to publication has been very disappointing. `All it has succeeded in doing is to detract from the message and the good intentions of all the other celebs who posed to benefit POWA. Last year, headlines in the press were far more exploitative and we objected to these in the strongest possible terms. It’s reassuring to see that this hasn’t happened again this year. So far.
Over the years there have been accusations that you didn't have permission to use certain shots - in other words, that you exposed more flesh and bits of particular organs that the celebs had not agreed to have you show. True or false? If true, why did you do it? If false, why are they whining? Absolutely false. Last year, a picture of one of the celebrities was scanned out of Marie Claire and used in a newspaper without our or the celebrity’s permission. It was not fair usage and we insisted on and received a full apology from the paper concerned which we have on record. Another image was withdrawn at the last minute because the person in question changed her mind about participating. This was entirely her prerogative and we honoured her request. It is not Marie Claire’s intention to exploit anyone with these campaigns. Nobody is coerced into participating and everyone has the opportunity to see the pictures throughout the process (in this year’s case – they were downloaded digitally on the shoot and seen immediately, so that if there were concerns they could be raised at the time.) If concerns are not voiced we cannot be held responsible. Where we have been asked to crop we have cropped and in some instances, we reshoot if the celebrities are uncomfortable – as happened with one of the couples this year.I suspect that what often happens is that the celebrities’ family and friends react to the images once in print and that they then feel they need justify their decision or make it seem as though they didn’t have a choice at the time – to escape criticism. This is unfortunate. Everyone who participates should have the courage of their convictions and remember why they agreed to the shoot in the first place.
Has it been worth it?The Cape Argus received an SMS from a woman who said she would be joining the campaign and leaving her abusive partner of 24 years as a result. For that one person (that we know of so far), it’s been worth it.
Will you do it again? Because?Yes. It is part of Marie Claire’s social responsibility agenda that we do a number of campaigns each year in support of charities and to raise awareness around, in particular, issues affecting women. This is a feature of the brand worldwide. In SA, the Naked campaigns are some of our most successful campaigns and we’ll keep doing them as long as they keep doing some good.
Which celebrities would you most like to feature nude next year… There are SO many... Jonathan Shapiro, DJ Fresh, Colin Moss, Brian Habana, Noeleen Maholwana Sangqu, Helen Zille, Desmond Tutu, Judith Sephuma and Fiona Coyne. Please!
If you had to pick one politician to feature, who would it be?Locally, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang. Overseas – Nicolas Sarkozy!
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