It was March 2003, and the Dixie Chicks (now regarded as the Chicks) had kicked off their new tour. All through the opening evening in London, on the eve of the Iraq War, lead singer Natalie Maines criticized George W. Bush and modified her and her bandmates’ lives: “We’re on the good facet with y’all,” she informed the audience. “We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas.” Instantly, the nation songs trio — America’s top rated-advertising female group of all time — was engulfed in controversy as enraged enthusiasts and others named for a boycott, place radio stations pulled their tracks and album sales 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 Leisure Weekly — and, in a go considered specially surprising, posed nude for the cover, their bodies painted in text that folks ended up contacting them: “Dixie Sluts.” “Proud Us residents.” “Traitors.” “Fearless.” The graphic was so hanging that it went viral prior to heading viral existed.
The deal with set the group’s defiant tone going forward they have been not going to back again down or apologize for getting ladies who experienced viewpoints. It adjusted the class of their career — paving a route for their 2006 Grammy-sweeping album, “Taking the Extended Way” — and motivated innumerable other place functions. To some, particularly people presently motivated by their music, they had been heroes. To some others, they had been a cautionary tale, and deemed, to this day, to be the reason many Nashville singers refuse to say a term about politics. It’s also why most country stations even now won’t play the Chicks.
But even as Leisure Weekly fades away (much to the disappointment of showbiz enthusiasts who grew up on the magazine), the Chicks address will under no circumstances be neglected. Here’s the story of how it took place.
John McAlley, who was the new music editor for EW, regularly had to thrust for the magazine to prioritize tunes coverage, provided that the publication was hefty on Tv and films. But he knew the Chicks controversy was heading to be a huge story, and it essential to be front and centre. So he was identified to land the job interview — his major problem was that he was likely to be scooped by Time journal, which had a tendency to “bigfoot” EW for tales, even while they had the similar proprietor.
“The news weeklies at the time ended up truly effective and seriously higher profile,” he reported. “There was so a great deal status and visibility attached to getting on the cover of a information weekly, that on far more than 1 situation, we lost a struggle for a tale mainly because Time was promising the address. But Time by no means gave the include — it would generally conclusion up staying an inside of tale.”
In the meantime, Cindi Berger, the Chicks’ publicist, could tell this backlash was not going away. She and the band’s team established the trio required to do a few interviews: a syndicated radio demonstrate, a broadcast Television set interview and the protect of a well-liked journal. So she booked them on place identity Bob Kingsley’s radio display, an ABC distinctive with Diane Sawyer, and then known as … Rolling Stone.
Berger wanted the go over to run at a unique time in May perhaps to coincide with the Sawyer particular, as very well as the get started of the Chicks’ U.S. tour dates, but Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner declined, she claimed. Her next phone call was to McAlley, who was keen to make it occur, and they began negotiations.
Berger required to make confident they ended up guaranteed the include and that the editors and artwork directors would collaborate with the band on the photography notion.
“It was lots of, quite a few times of back and forth, great uncertainty whether we would land the go over or not,” McAlley reported. He vividly remembers obtaining the go-in advance get in touch with: “I was in the residing area of my parents’ property in suburban New York when my flip cell phone rang on a Saturday early morning. It was Cindi Berger. She stated, ‘We want to do this.’ ”
Brainstorming commenced, and the EW staff members felt pressured to come up with the fantastic concept.
“We all felt like, ‘Wow, we got the scoop — now we need to have an impression that is heading to be equal to the fact that we received the distinctive on it,’ ” said Geraldine Hessler, EW’s imaginative director.
Strategies started to stream involving the workforce and the band: Mainly because men and women were screaming that the Chicks were being unpatriotic, the initial strategy was to wrap Maines, Maguire and Strayer in an American flag. But then the editors were being worried it would glance like they ended up denigrating the flag. An individual else suggested the singers dress in American flag earrings or kerchiefs. Fiona McDonagh Farrell, the photo editor, recollects becoming on the conference contact where Maines explained one thing along the lines of, “We need to all be bare and branded with the items they’ve been expressing about us.”
“The publicist, in a natural way, was like, ‘We are not undertaking that!’ ” Farrell mentioned. “I waited a several minutes and then claimed, ‘Let’s go again to the thought Natalie described, mainly because it could be a actually, actually intriguing concept.’ ” Farrell appreciated the notion of juxtaposing some of the awful things they had been termed (“Saddam’s Angels,” for instance) with some of the optimistic reactions (“brave” and “heroes”). In close proximity to the end of the contact, they determined the Chicks would wrap themselves in bumper stickers with all the phrases.
Indeed, Berger was mildly horrified by the thought of a nude address. But the band often experienced quite unique imaginative strategies. “The go over required to be important and needed to make a assertion,” Berger said. “When the girls came up with this, I stated, ‘Well, which is a statement.’ ”
The picture shoot was booked in April, and it was a scramble — Hessler recollects they experienced five times, at most, to prepare for the shoot, which took location in a remote plane hangar in Austin. While Maines, Strayer and Maguire taken care of a perception of calm and superior humor, it was an intense atmosphere: Demise threats were being nevertheless rolling in in opposition to the band, and protection was everywhere.
At that level, they agreed on the bumper sticker strategy, and the artwork division built them. But Farrell started to fear that the stickers wouldn’t get there in Austin on time — and additional importantly, even if they did, that they would glimpse dreadful. She conferred with the photographer, James White, who agreed stickers may well not be the finest search. They made the decision to retain the services of a human body makeup artist who could paint the words and phrases on the Chicks, just in circumstance.
Guaranteed more than enough, the stickers in no way showed up. “I considered, ‘Oh my God, I’m likely to have to get to established and have to tell Cindi we do not have stickers — but we do have this other human being,’ ” Farrell reported. “Fortunately, all the stars aligned. And even though Cindi was justifiably terribly anxious about this idea, the 3 females at the heart of the tale have been brave sufficient to say, ‘Yes, let’s do it. Let us go for it.’ ”
“Terribly nervous” might have been an understatement for Berger, who was generating panicked phone calls to the EW editors back again in New York. Her most significant fear was that the include was likely to be deemed way too specific and wrapped in brown paper on newsstands, which would defeat the full function. “I don’t forget expressing, ‘I don’t consider this is heading to work,’ ” she stated. “And James White reported, ‘I’m likely to area them beautifully.’ And he did.”
White recalled the shoot general was a “very awesome day” despite the tense instances and admired the trio’s bond in difficult occasions. “They were incredibly supportive of every single other,” he mentioned. “They stuck alongside one another, and I cherished viewing that.”
In 2013, on the 10th anniversary of the deal with, Strayer advised EW that “it certainly was the most bold thing” the band had ever performed: “I felt like we knew the gravity of that shoot even though it was happening.”
McAlley assigned the tale to Chris Willman, a revered nation-new music author who experienced presently been striving to get a element story going on the Chicks and their newest album, “Home.” At EW, he stated, it was “always a significant fight” to get nation audio in the New York-centered magazine. Abruptly, the tables had turned.
Willman wasn’t permitted at the picture shoot, so he met the band later on at a sushi restaurant for the job interview. He mentioned it was challenging to grasp the enormity of the controversy at the time, and thought maybe almost everything would blow more than in a few months. But the moment he observed the address visuals, he understood that for the band, there was no likely back again.
“We all recognized what a defiant assertion it was,” Willman said. “The include was expressing them as remaining vulnerable and possessing been victims in some feeling in all of this, but it was also the most important center finger you can set up to the planet.”
In New York, Farrell started editing the images, and it was a “no-brainer” about what was heading to be the go over. Hessler claimed that typically, EW set a great deal of textual content and additional imagery on covers, supplied the worth of newsstand sales. This was distinct.
“You didn’t have to have a great deal of words on the cover for the reason that the graphic was so strong,” she reported. “We ended up just overjoyed by it — it was that thrill when you have a innovative eyesight and then it absolutely arrives alongside one another, and not only as executed, but in a way that is so a lot far better than you at any time assumed it could be.”
Despite Berger’s problems, the magazine was not wrapped in brown paper some suppliers, these types of as Walmart, would not screen addresses with nudity. But as Hessler claimed, the journal “wasn’t about to compromise its editorial mission” based mostly on that chance.
EW does not make it possible for deal with approval from topics, so when Berger eventually observed the journal, she felt a massive wave of reduction and was blown absent by the picture. She quickly faxed it to the band. “It was a potent, effective second,” Berger reported. (She said she been given a contact from Wenner at Rolling Stone, who said, “Well, which is the deal with of the 12 months.”)
Over at EW, the editors ended up overcome by the response — it was on every information demonstrate and reprinted on the front of the New York Publish. The journal obtained hundreds of letters from viewers. “It just promptly variety of exploded in the lifestyle,” McAlley reported. In a scarce prevalence, he obtained a bottle of Dom Pérignon from Berger, who expressed gratitude that the tale taken care of the Chicks with regard and let them converse their piece. “Thank you. You are a guy of your phrase,” examine the note.
All of the EW staffers interviewed say it was a occupation highlight, even as Willman joked that his lengthy Q&A with the band accounted for a mere 1 p.c of the response. In 2005, the American Culture of Journal Editors named it one particular of the best 40 addresses of the very last 40 a long time. “It was just one of the individuals moments where by we took a chance, and the Dixie Chicks, they took a enormous risk,” Farrell claimed. “Sometimes a cover can be the the very least exciting graphic, but often, it can be a genuine assertion.”
The staffers also spoke with a hint of wistfulness — journal addresses really do not make fairly the exact same splash these times. “This was an act of defiance and energy and it was just a super-daring address,” McAlley mentioned. “And one of Leisure Weekly’s finest moments, for positive.”