It was March 2003, and the Dixie Chicks (now recognised as the Chicks) had kicked off their new tour. For the duration of the opening night in London, on the eve of the Iraq War, guide singer Natalie Maines criticized George W. Bush and improved her and her bandmates’ life: “We’re on the great facet with y’all,” she instructed 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 place tunes trio — America’s leading-promoting woman group of all time — was engulfed in controversy as enraged supporters and some others named for a boycott, country radio stations pulled their tracks and album revenue began to fall.
A month later on, the associates of the Chicks (Maines, Emily Strayer and Martie Maguire) responded in an in-depth job interview with Leisure Weekly — and, in a move considered primarily surprising, posed nude for the deal with, their bodies painted in terms that people today were contacting them: “Dixie Sluts.” “Proud Us citizens.” “Traitors.” “Fearless.” The image was so placing that it went viral before heading viral existed.
The cover established the group’s defiant tone likely ahead they ended up not heading to back again down or apologize for being girls who experienced thoughts. It changed the system of their profession — paving a route for their 2006 Grammy-sweeping album, “Taking the Extensive Way” — and influenced countless other state functions. To some, especially all those currently influenced by their audio, they have been heroes. To other individuals, they ended up a cautionary tale, and considered, to this day, to be the rationale lots of Nashville singers refuse to say a word about politics. It’s also why most region stations nonetheless will not engage in the Chicks.
But even as Leisure Weekly fades absent (much to the disappointment of showbiz followers who grew up on the magazine), the Chicks go over will by no means be forgotten. Here’s the story of how it transpired.
John McAlley, who was the new music editor for EW, routinely had to thrust for the journal to prioritize music coverage, supplied that the publication was major on Tv set and films. But he knew the Chicks controversy was heading to be a large story, and it needed to be entrance and heart. So he was determined to land the job interview — his major concern was that he was going to be scooped by Time journal, which experienced a tendency to “bigfoot” EW for tales, even even though they experienced the similar proprietor.
“The news weeklies at the time were being actually strong and truly large profile,” he reported. “There was so considerably status and visibility attached to remaining on the go over of a information weekly, that on more than a single occasion, we lost a fight for a story simply because Time was promising the cover. But Time in no way gave the protect — it would often close up remaining an within tale.”
Meanwhile, Rogers & Cowan PMK chairman Cindi Berger, the Chicks’ publicist, could convey to this backlash was not likely away. She and the band’s workforce decided the trio necessary to do three interviews: a syndicated radio display, a broadcast Tv set interview and the cover of a common magazine. So she booked them on place temperament Bob Kingsley’s radio exhibit, an ABC exclusive with Diane Sawyer, and then known as … Rolling Stone.
Berger wished the deal with to run at a particular time in May perhaps to coincide with the Sawyer exclusive, as properly as the get started of the Chicks’ U.S. tour dates, but Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner declined, she explained. Her upcoming cell phone connect with was to McAlley, who was keen to make it transpire, and they began negotiations.
Berger required to make confident they were being assured the cover and that the editors and art directors would collaborate with the band on the photography concept.
“It was a lot of, a lot of times of back again and forth, good uncertainty regardless of whether we would land the deal with or not,” McAlley said. He vividly remembers obtaining the go-ahead phone: “I was in the living place of my parents’ residence in suburban New York when my flip phone rang on a Saturday morning. It was Cindi Berger. She said, ‘We want to do this.’ ”
Brainstorming started, and the EW workers felt pressured to arrive up with the best thought.
“We all felt like, ‘Wow, we got the scoop — now we need an graphic which is going to be equivalent to the truth that we acquired the special on it,’ ” reported Geraldine Hessler, EW’s inventive director.
Suggestions commenced to circulation among the staff and the band: For the reason that individuals have been screaming that the Chicks had been unpatriotic, the initial plan was to wrap Maines, Maguire and Strayer in an American flag. But then the editors have been involved it would look like they were denigrating the flag. Another person else prompt the singers don American flag earrings or kerchiefs. Fiona McDonagh Farrell, the photograph editor, recalls remaining on the conference simply call where Maines reported a little something alongside the traces of, “We must all be bare and branded with the factors they’ve been indicating about us.”
“The publicist, the natural way, was like, ‘We are not accomplishing that!’ ” Farrell claimed. “I waited a several minutes and then explained, ‘Let’s go back again to the idea Natalie mentioned, since it could be a truly, truly attention-grabbing notion.’ ” Farrell appreciated the thought of juxtaposing some of the horrible factors they experienced been known as (“Saddam’s Angels,” for illustration) with some of the constructive reactions (“brave” and “heroes”). Close to the close of the simply call, they made the decision the Chicks would wrap themselves in bumper stickers with all the phrases.
In truth, Berger was mildly horrified by the strategy of a nude address. But the band always experienced extremely unique creative thoughts. “The protect required to be significant and required to make a assertion,” Berger stated. “When the girls arrived up with this, I explained, ‘Well, which is a assertion.’ ”
The image shoot was booked in April, and it was a scramble — Hessler recollects they experienced five times, at most, to put together for the shoot, which took location in a remote plane hangar in Austin. Although Maines, Strayer and Maguire managed a sense of calm and good humor, it was an intense ambiance: Demise threats have been even now rolling in against the band, and security was everywhere.
At that issue, they agreed on the bumper sticker strategy, and the artwork section built them. Nonetheless Farrell begun to fear that the stickers would not get there in Austin on time — and a lot more importantly, even if they did, that they would search terrible. She conferred with the photographer, James White, who agreed stickers could not be the ideal seem. They made the decision to employ the service of a body make-up artist who could paint the phrases on the Chicks, just in circumstance.
Absolutely sure more than enough, the stickers by no means confirmed up. “I assumed, ‘Oh my God, I’m likely to have to get to established and have to inform Cindi we really do not have stickers — but we do have this other individual,’ ” Farrell said. “Fortunately, all the stars aligned. And while Cindi was justifiably terribly anxious about this principle, the three gals at the heart of the story have been brave enough to say, ‘Yes, let us do it. Let’s go for it.’ ”
“Terribly nervous” may perhaps have been an understatement for Berger, who was earning panicked calls to the EW editors back in New York. Her most significant concern was that the protect was heading to be deemed too explicit and wrapped in brown paper on newsstands, which would defeat the total reason. “I remember expressing, ‘I don’t assume this is likely to function,’ ” she claimed. “And James White explained, ‘I’m likely to place them completely.’ And he did.”
White recalled the shoot overall was a “very wonderful day” inspite of the tense conditions and admired the trio’s bond in challenging moments. “They were very supportive of each individual other,” he said. “They trapped together, and I loved looking at that.”
In 2013, on the 10th anniversary of the deal with, Strayer advised EW that “it absolutely was the most bold thing” the band had at any time accomplished: “I felt like we understood the gravity of that shoot even though it was happening.”
McAlley assigned the story to Chris Willman, a revered place-tunes writer who experienced by now been seeking to get a characteristic tale likely on the Chicks and their latest album, “Home.” At EW, he stated, it was “always a significant fight” to get region audio in the New York-based mostly journal. Quickly, the tables had turned.
Willman was not authorized at the photograph shoot, so he satisfied the band afterwards at a sushi restaurant for the interview. He explained it was difficult to grasp the enormity of the controversy at the time, and assumed possibly everything would blow about in a number of months. But when he noticed the include visuals, he understood that for the band, there was no heading again.
“We all understood what a defiant assertion it was,” Willman mentioned. “The include was expressing them as being susceptible and possessing been victims in some feeling in all of this, but it was also the most important center finger you can put up to the entire world.”
In New York, Farrell started enhancing the photos, and it was a “no-brainer” about what was going to be the address. Hessler mentioned that usually, EW place a whole lot of textual content and extra imagery on addresses, given the great importance of newsstand profits. This was various.
“You didn’t have to have a ton of terms on the include mainly because the impression was so sturdy,” she claimed. “We were just overjoyed by it — it was that thrill when you have a artistic eyesight and then it wholly comes jointly, and not only as executed, but in a way that is so much better than you ever thought it could be.”
Regardless of Berger’s concerns, the journal was not wrapped in brown paper some stores, these as Walmart, would not display addresses with nudity. But as Hessler mentioned, the magazine “wasn’t about to compromise its editorial mission” based on that likelihood.
EW doesn’t allow go over acceptance from topics, so when Berger eventually noticed the magazine, she felt a huge wave of reduction and was blown absent by the image. She instantly faxed it to the band. “It was a potent, impressive moment,” Berger claimed. (She reported she gained a call from Wenner at Rolling Stone, who stated, “Well, that is the cover of the 12 months.”)
Around at EW, the editors were confused by the reaction — it was on each individual news demonstrate and reprinted on the entrance of the New York Publish. The journal gained hundreds of letters from audience. “It just instantly type of exploded in the tradition,” McAlley stated. In a scarce event, he received a bottle of Dom Pérignon from Berger, who expressed gratitude that the story addressed the Chicks with respect and permit them speak their piece. “Thank you. You are a person of your term,” browse the notice.
All of the EW staffers interviewed say it was a profession spotlight, even as Willman joked that his prolonged Q&A with the band accounted for a mere 1 p.c of the response. In 2005, the American Culture of Magazine Editors named it just one of the major 40 addresses of the final 40 decades. “It was a person of the people times wherever we took a danger, and the Dixie Chicks, they took a substantial danger,” Farrell explained. “Sometimes a address can be the least exciting graphic, but often, it can be a actual assertion.”
The staffers also spoke with a trace of wistfulness — magazine addresses really don’t make really the exact same splash these days. “This was an act of defiance and energy and it was just a tremendous-bold go over,” McAlley said. “And a single of Entertainment Weekly’s best moments, for confident.”