HITTING BACK: As practiced outrage spread through America on Monday over Miley Cyrus’ back-baring photos for Vanity Fair (“Miley’s Shame” boomed the front of The New York Post), no one was more confounded than the magazine’s fashion and style director, Michael Roberts, who styled the shoot by Annie Leibovitz. “I’m European. I come from London, I lived in Paris, and I just find it extraordinary that this has been blown up like this,” he told WWD.
He continued, “The whole kiddie porn prurient angle seems to be worryingly sour grapes from other magazines that didn’t get a picture like this…teenagers can be seen on TV and in the cinema in the most prurient ways, and then a photograph which is for all intents and purposes innocent is blown out of portion and condemned as some ridiculous apotheosis. It’s a joke to me. But it’s not a joke because I don’t find it funny. I find it offensive. I’m deemed as being party to some kind of subversive picture of this girl, that she was cajoled. That we literally manhandled her into stripping is completely not true.”
This story first appeared in the April 29, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
He also objected to the characterization of Cyrus’ attire as a bedsheet. “It’s a duchess satin stole, Champagne, specially made — I had several made for different photo shoots. I thought this one was really appropriate. It’s about 83 inches long. She’s not wrapped in something skimpy. She had her jeans on. She looked at the screen and loved the picture.”
As for Cyrus’ statement apologizing to her fans and distancing herself from the shoot, Roberts said, “This is a girl caught up in a gigantic enterprise where many people’s fortunes are riding on her future. If it was fine then, I don’t see why suddenly it’s not fine.”
Roberts suggested one rationale for the change of heart: “Maybe Vanity Fair is a far too sophisticated media outlet for her. Maybe she’s better off in those teen magazines. We don’t do cheesy teen pictures. We do chic pictures and pictures that are beautiful portraits by probably the leading portrait photographer of our age.”
Leibovitz did not respond for a request for comment, but issued a statement through Vanity Fair Monday saying, “I’m sorry that my portrait of Miley has been misinterpreted. Miley and I looked at fashion photographs together and we discussed the picture in that context before we shot it. The photograph is a simple, classic portrait, shot with very little makeup, and I think it is very beautiful.” The magazine’s statement said in part, “Miley’s parents and/or minders were on the set all day.”
The Disney Channel, which does a brisk business off Cyrus’ squeaky clean image, said in a statement, “Unfortunately, as the article [in Vanity Fair] suggests, a situation was created to deliberately manipulate a 15-year-old in order to sell magazines.” — Irin Carmon
WE’LL TAKE IT!: How did “The Hills” stars Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag snag seats at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in Washington with Fortune? Because Fortune’s original guest, Blackstone Group’s Stephen Schwartzman, opted out at the last minute, managing editor Andy Serwer offered up the empty seats to the couple.
But why would Serwer, who regularly appeared on CNN, want to attend the dinner with two MTV reality stars? Turns out the couple’s relationship with Fortune goes back six months ago, when Pratt was photographed reading the magazine while on vacation with Montag. Serwer was alerted to the photo by People managing editor Larry Hackett and wrote a letter to the couple offering them a complimentary subscription.
At the Capitol File after party at the Newseum, where Pete Wentz spun for a crowd including Rosario Dawson (who cofounded VotoLatino, a Hispanic youth outreach group), Craig Ferguson, Perez Hilton and ABC president David Westin, Pratt showed his appreciation for Serwer. “I love the fact that [Serwer] has worked there for 23 years, starting as an intern, and is now the [managing] editor. And I love the fact that he’s introducing us to Bill Gates and Steve Jobs,” Pratt said. “And he so funny!” added Montag. Also at the party was their “Hills” nemesis Lauren Conrad, who ducked out just as the duo arrived.
Across town, the Bloomberg after party was a soggier affair since the roof was leaking in several places, dampening guest including Jemima Khan (who ducked out early after complaining of being tired and jet lagged), Eric Dane, The Jonas Brothers, Colin Firth, Donatella Versace, Rupert Everett and mother and daughter Roberta and Meghan McCain. Bloomberg invited a slew of celebrities to join them at the dinner, including Pamela Anderson, who fretted over what to wear as she sat in the lobby of the Willard Hotel with Dan Matthews from PETA. Why was she at the event? “You know, it’s like dinner with friends,” she described. — Stephanie D. Smith
TV WARS: Elle editor in chief Robbie Myers and Joe Zee will appear on “Ugly Betty,” just like their former fashion director Nina Garcia. Myers and Zee will appear on the season finale of the show, which depicts a charity softball game between Elle and Mode magazine. Elle, however, will have a designated hitter in Naomi Campbell, who will also be guest starring on the show. No word on what position any of the guest stars are playing, but both will be up to bat on the episode. Mode will be on the field with Wilhemina Slater, played by Vanessa Williams, pitching. Zee and Myers will film the segment on Wednesday in Los Angeles. Garcia filmed an episode with “Project Runway” season four winner Christian Siriano earlier this month that will air on Thursday. — S.D.S.
HEADING EAST: The Financial Times has launched a new edition for the Middle East, with the first full edition available today. The FT said the timing of the launch coincides with the emergence of the Gulf region as an international finance and business center. The FT’s regional editorial team will be based in Abu Dhabi and stringer journalists will be recruited in Qatar and Saudi Arabia. — Amy Wicks
NOT SO SCARCE: Ever since the Hermès Birkin bag was introduced in 1984, it’s been one of the hottest bags in Hollywood and also one of the most elusive, no matter how much influence or money the buyer has. Even A-list celebrities stay on waiting lists for months, or even years. As a “Robin Hood to thousands of desperate rich women,” former hairdresser and makeup artist Michael Tonello created a lucrative business out of acquiring these hard-to-obtain bags and reselling them, sometimes on eBay, other times to private clients, and he documented the process in his new novel, “Bringing Home the Birkin.”
During tea Monday at the St. Regis in Manhattan, Tonello unlocked one of the key secrets to obtaining a Birkin and skipping the waiting list. And he should know. After all, in 2005 alone, he spent approximately $1.6 million purchasing them. “If someone walks in and buys a scarf, a whole outfit, all of a sudden, a saleswoman might say, ‘We have a Birkin in the back room if you’re interested.’ The key is how much money is spent at Hermès — it can let you jump the waiting list by two years.” His globe-trotting tales about buying Birkins (there is a map in the book) and reselling them went on sale April 22. So far, he said Hermès has addressed the book publicly in one publication — the Boston Globe. An Hermès spokeswoman said there was a waiting list at one time but now the company has realized the whole concept could be off-putting for some customers. — A.W.