Amy Schumer's Photo Has An Important Message

by Courtney Lindley

“Beautiful, gross, strong, thin, fat, pretty, ugly, sexy, disgusting, flawless, woman,” Amy Schumer said of her topless Pirelli Calendar photo. The picture, from the 43rd edition of the Pirelli Calendar, was shot by renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz and shared by Schumer on her Instagram and Twitter accounts Monday morning. In it, Schumer holds a cup of coffee, wearing nothing but heels, underwear, and a candid, naturalistic pose. There are no airs being put on, there's no Photoshopping, no make-believe, no "pretense" — just as Leibovitz wanted.

The 43rd edition of the Pirelli Calendar — mostly known in the past for its inclusion of supermodels — has taken a different, refreshing route this year. Among Schumer are women who have each done something important and relevant to the current culture, including goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Yao Chen, Selma director Ava DuVernay, Rookie magazine founder Tavi Gevinson, and tennis champ Serena Williams.

It's no surprise that Schumer — with her feminist comedy sketch show, Inside Amy Schumer, outspoken feminist viewpoints, and smart social commentary — was a shoo-in for the calendar. Schumer's had one hell of a successful year. Inside Amy Schumer has gone from a small, relatively unknown show to an Emmy-winning hit, Schumer wrote and starred in a widely successful Judd Apatow film, had an HBO standup special, and graced the covers of countless magazines. However, it's this calendar that really puts a bow on everything. After admitting to struggling with body image issues in the past, Schumer declared in a promo for the shoot that she "I felt I looked more beautiful than I've ever felt in my life, and I felt like it looked like me."

This isn't Schumer's first foray into using social media as a platform to embrace her own body image. Just one week ago, Schumer shared a caption that The Daily Mail posted about her and re-appropriated its negativity. She tweeted "Who's that girl?" along with the photo, insinuating in some subversive, yet self assertive manner, that she's not bothered by critiques of her clothing. That her perception — her answer to the question that she proposed — is the only one that matters.

Here's another example of when her body positive message made waves: A few months back, when Schumer's Emmy winning "Girl You Don't Need Makeup" sketch aired, she posted a photo of her bare face, and soon #girlyoudontneedmakeup was trending on Twitter.

Even if it's something as simple as a sarcastic joke found on her Instagram, where she thanks her favorite foods for the "Best Body" award, Schumer exhibits the kind of confidence and body positivity that has the ability to make everyone around her feel empowered, just by witnessing it.

As I read “Beautiful, gross, strong, thin, fat, pretty, ugly, sexy, disgusting, flawless, woman" over and over again, I can't help but hear Schumer's speech from the Ms Foundation Gala last year echoing in my head. The message has come full circle for her, though that's not to say she's reached the end of anything. In the speech, Schumer declared boldly, "I say if I’m beautiful. I say if I’m strong." But guess what else? She says if she's gross, thin, fat, pretty, ugly, sexy, disgusting, and flawless. Because no one else gets to.

It's a method that's surprisingly simple, and completely liberating. She's the only one who gets to have an opinion about herself that's worth sharing. It's a way to mock Hollywood's beauty standards without mocking anyone but her own critics. It's a take back of everything that's ever been said about her — positive and negative — and it's a stunning, powerful photo.