Sixty-eight-year-old author and singer, 70’s Punk star Patti Smith is one of the subjects of this year’s Pirelli calendar — considered fashion’s sexiest – celebrating female achievement. With her hair grown out gray, no makeup or face lift, and her singular uniform, she presents a very different kind of role model then the usual Pirelli pin-up. Last May, New York Magazine’s The Cut interviewed Smith after her photo session with Annie Leibovitz (who photographed her many times over the decades). Here’s our ‘best of’:
With the calendar’s theme being female achievement, how do you think it affected the outcome of the photos you took today?
I’ve always felt strong. I was a sickly child, not very strong physically. I wasn’t really the greatest in school. I didn’t really excel in anything particularly. But I was happy with who I was. I was skinny, I had some pimples, I had long braids and wasn’t particularly popular.
But I was happy to be alive and happy with who I was. I’m still like that. Every day I feel just happy to be alive. Male or female, you know? I’m 68 years old, I’m not so concerned with my gender, probably because I’m a mother; I have a son and a daughter, so I’m interested for all people to feel empowered.
Where do you think that feeling of strength comes from?
I think from the joy of being alive and relatively free. When I was young, I used to watch all of my friends, my girlfriends, struggle worrying about how they looked all the time. I would be like, “What are you worried about?” Don’t worry. If you feel good about who you are inside, it will radiate.
Sometimes people say they have trouble with their skin. One thing you can do is to radiate positivity, and that glow will come through your skin. I know it sounds very simplistic, and it’s very difficult because our world has so many problems, from economic to disease to poverty. All of these things are true things that we have to be concerned about. But if you face every day feeling good about yourself and happy, you can find solutions for whatever you can do. Small things.
You can’t change the world; you can’t fix the whole environment. But you can recycle. You can turn the water off when you’re brushing your teeth. You can do small things. A lot of strength just comes from joy and being, feeling positive. If you’re negative, you pull yourself in. And if you’re positive, you expand.
Patti Smith has become something of a role model for our aging selves: a very public icon who has not tried to hide her aging self, but has let it happen, in plain sight: RADICAL.