When the Chicks posed nude for Entertainment Weekly in 2003

Stella McDaniel

It was March 2003, and the Dixie Chicks (now identified as the Chicks) had kicked off their new tour. Through the opening night time in London, on the eve of the Iraq War, lead singer Natalie Maines criticized George W. Bush and improved her and her bandmates’ life: “We’re on the very good facet with y’all,” she advised the audience. “We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas.” All of a sudden, the nation music trio — America’s leading-offering feminine group of all time — was engulfed in controversy as enraged fans and other individuals known as for a boycott, place radio stations pulled their tunes and album revenue started to fall.

A thirty day period later, the associates of the Chicks (Maines, Emily Strayer and Martie Maguire) responded in an in-depth job interview with Entertainment Weekly — and, in a shift deemed particularly surprising, posed nude for the protect, their bodies painted in words that people today had been calling them: “Dixie Sluts.” “Proud Individuals.” “Traitors.” “Fearless.” The impression was so placing that it went viral right before heading viral existed.

The include set the group’s defiant tone going ahead they ended up not heading to back down or apologize for getting women who experienced thoughts. It adjusted the study course of their profession — paving a path for their 2006 Grammy-sweeping album, “Taking the Lengthy Way” — and affected numerous other country functions. To some, specially individuals currently encouraged by their audio, they were being heroes. To other people, they have been a cautionary tale, and thought of, to this working day, to be the motive several Nashville singers refuse to say a term about politics. It is also why most place stations nevertheless will not perform the Chicks.

But even as Amusement Weekly fades away (significantly to the disappointment of showbiz fans who grew up on the journal), the Chicks address will never ever be neglected. Here’s the tale of how it took place.

John McAlley, who was the music editor for EW, regularly experienced to push for the magazine to prioritize audio coverage, given that the publication was weighty on Television and flicks. But he knew the Chicks controversy was going to be a substantial story, and it desired to be entrance and centre. So he was identified to land the interview — his most significant worry was that he was likely to be scooped by Time magazine, which had a inclination to “bigfoot” EW for stories, even although they had the exact owner.

“The news weeklies at the time ended up truly impressive and actually higher profile,” he mentioned. “There was so much prestige and visibility hooked up to being on the go over of a news weekly, that on far more than one particular occasion, we dropped a battle for a tale because Time was promising the protect. But Time never ever gave the address — it would constantly conclude up remaining an within story.”

In the meantime, Rogers & Cowan PMK chairman Cindi Berger, the Chicks’ publicist, could inform this backlash was not going absent. She and the band’s workforce decided the trio wanted to do three interviews: a syndicated radio display, a broadcast Tv job interview and the include of a well-known magazine. So she booked them on nation individuality Bob Kingsley’s radio present, an ABC specific with Diane Sawyer, and then referred to as … Rolling Stone.

Berger desired the cover to run at a certain time in Could to coincide with the Sawyer unique, as very well as the start of the Chicks’ U.S. tour dates, but Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner declined, she said. Her subsequent cellphone phone was to McAlley, who was eager to make it happen, and they started negotiations.

Berger needed to make sure they ended up certain the go over and that the editors and artwork administrators would collaborate with the band on the pictures idea.

“It was quite a few, numerous times of back and forth, good uncertainty no matter whether we would land the protect or not,” McAlley stated. He vividly remembers getting the go-ahead call: “I was in the living space of my parents’ house in suburban New York when my flip cellphone rang on a Saturday morning. It was Cindi Berger. She reported, ‘We want to do this.’ ”

Brainstorming began, and the EW staff members felt pressured to come up with the great thought.

“We all felt like, ‘Wow, we obtained the scoop — now we need an image that is heading to be equivalent to the simple fact that we obtained the unique on it,’ ” reported Geraldine Hessler, EW’s inventive director.

Tips started to circulation amongst the team and the band: Simply because people were screaming that the Chicks ended up unpatriotic, the initial thought was to wrap Maines, Maguire and Strayer in an American flag. But then the editors have been worried it would search like they have been denigrating the flag. An individual else proposed the singers dress in American flag earrings or kerchiefs. Fiona McDonagh Farrell, the photo editor, remembers remaining on the conference simply call exactly where Maines mentioned anything together the traces of, “We really should all be bare and branded with the issues they’ve been declaring about us.”

“The publicist, obviously, was like, ‘We are not accomplishing that!’ ” Farrell explained. “I waited a few minutes and then claimed, ‘Let’s go again to the plan Natalie pointed out, simply because it could be a actually, truly interesting principle.’ ” Farrell liked the strategy of juxtaposing some of the awful points they experienced been referred to as (“Saddam’s Angels,” for instance) with some of the favourable reactions (“brave” and “heroes”). Near the finish of the connect with, they made a 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 always had extremely specific imaginative suggestions. “The go over wanted to be important and essential to make a statement,” Berger explained. “When the ladies came up with this, I said, ‘Well, that is a assertion.’ ”

The photo shoot was booked in April, and it was a scramble — Hessler recollects they experienced 5 days, at most, to get ready for the shoot, which took spot in a distant plane hangar in Austin. Nevertheless Maines, Strayer and Maguire taken care of a feeling of serene and superior humor, it was an rigorous atmosphere: Death threats had been nevertheless rolling in in opposition to the band, and security was just about everywhere.

At that point, they agreed on the bumper sticker thought, and the art office made them. Still Farrell began to be concerned that the stickers would not get there in Austin on time — and far more importantly, even if they did, that they would glimpse terrible. She conferred with the photographer, James White, who agreed stickers may well not be the best glimpse. They determined to retain the services of a overall body make-up artist who could paint the words and phrases on the Chicks, just in situation.

Sure sufficient, the stickers never showed up. “I believed, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to have to get to established and have to tell Cindi we don’t have stickers — but we do have this other man or woman,’ ” Farrell claimed. “Fortunately, all the stars aligned. And while Cindi was justifiably terribly anxious about this notion, the 3 girls at the heart of the story ended up courageous ample to say, ‘Yes, let us do it. Let’s go for it.’ ”

“Terribly nervous” may have been an understatement for Berger, who was building panicked phone calls to the EW editors back again in New York. Her biggest dread was that the address was going to be considered as well specific and wrapped in brown paper on newsstands, which would defeat the complete reason. “I keep in mind stating, ‘I do not imagine this is going to function,’ ” she mentioned. “And James White stated, ‘I’m heading to position them correctly.’ And he did.”

White recalled the shoot general was a “very nice day” even with the tense circumstances and admired the trio’s bond in hard instances. “They have been very supportive of each and every other,” he claimed. “They caught together, and I liked looking at that.”

In 2013, on the 10th anniversary of the protect, Strayer informed EW that “it undoubtedly was the most bold thing” the band had at any time finished: “I felt like we understood the gravity of that shoot though it was occurring.”

McAlley assigned the story to Chris Willman, a respected place-new music author who experienced presently been attempting to get a characteristic tale heading on the Chicks and their latest album, “Home.” At EW, he mentioned, it was “always a significant fight” to get state audio in the New York-based mostly magazine. Abruptly, the tables had turned.

Willman was not allowed at the picture shoot, so he satisfied the band later at a sushi cafe for the interview. He mentioned it was tricky to grasp the enormity of the controversy at the time, and believed probably everything would blow over in a several months. But the moment he noticed the address pictures, he understood that for the band, there was no going again.

“We all understood what a defiant assertion it was,” Willman mentioned. “The protect was expressing them as currently being susceptible and having been victims in some sense in all of this, but it was also the most important middle finger you can put up to the entire world.”

In New York, Farrell started modifying the photos, and it was a “no-brainer” about what was heading to be the include. Hessler claimed that typically, EW put a great deal of textual content and supplemental imagery on handles, presented the great importance of newsstand profits. This was distinctive.

“You didn’t have to have a good deal of words and phrases on the deal with for the reason that the graphic was so solid,” she explained. “We have been just overjoyed by it — it was that thrill when you have a inventive vision and then it completely will come collectively, and not only as executed, but in a way that is so a great deal far better than you at any time imagined it could be.”

In spite of Berger’s problems, the magazine was not wrapped in brown paper some stores, such as Walmart, wouldn’t display screen handles with nudity. But as Hessler said, the journal “wasn’t about to compromise its editorial mission” centered on that probability.

EW does not allow for protect acceptance from subjects, so when Berger at last observed the magazine, she felt a big wave of relief and was blown away by the picture. She promptly faxed it to the band. “It was a effective, strong instant,” Berger reported. (She reported she gained a simply call from Wenner at Rolling Stone, who reported, “Well, that’s the include of the calendar year.”)

Around at EW, the editors had been overcome by the response — it was on each news exhibit and reprinted on the front of the New York Submit. The journal been given hundreds of letters from audience. “It just immediately kind of exploded in the tradition,” McAlley claimed. In a uncommon incidence, he acquired a bottle of Dom Pérignon from Berger, who expressed gratitude that the story handled the Chicks with regard and permit them converse their piece. “Thank you. You are a gentleman of your phrase,” study the be aware.

All of the EW staffers interviewed say it was a profession emphasize, even as Willman joked that his lengthy Q&A with the band accounted for a mere 1 percent of the response. In 2005, the American Society of Magazine Editors named it a single of the leading 40 covers of the very last 40 yrs. “It was a single of the these times where by we took a chance, and the Dixie Chicks, they took a large risk,” Farrell mentioned. “Sometimes a cover can be the the very least fascinating impression, but sometimes, it can be a true assertion.”

The staffers also spoke with a trace of wistfulness — journal covers don’t make rather the exact same splash these days. “This was an act of defiance and strength and it was just a super-daring cover,” McAlley reported. “And 1 of Leisure Weekly’s biggest times, for absolutely sure.”

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