Pirelli's famous calendar, now safe for work

Model-activist Summer Rayne Oakes is one of the beauties with a cause featured in the 2013 Pirelli Calendar. Steve McCurry/Pirelli

If you've never heard of the Pirelli Calendar, you're probably not cool enough to get one.

Let's be real: Even if you have heard of it, chances are you're still not on the list.

Last night, the president of Brazil, supermodels and celebrities such as Owen Wilson gathered in Rio de Janeiro for the launch of the 2013 Pirelli Calendar.

While Kendrick Lamar raps "pull off at Church's with Pirelli skirting" in his song "Money Trees," trust that last night's meal was not Church's Chicken and the only reason any guest wanted to skirt out of the gala was to receive the highly coveted calendar -- which is not, and has never been, for sale.

But even with all of the glamour that surrounded the exclusive event, there was a different tone for this year's calendar celebration.

Outside of being the official tire for the Formula One World Championship, Pirelli initiated the now-famed calendar in 1964 as an art project and exploratory branch of its brand. This is not your typical pin-up parade; it's art. Which means to say the models are beautiful and have typically been shot, artfully, naked.

Except for this year.

When choosing photographer Steve McCurry, who shot the famous 1985 Afghan Girl cover for National Geographic, Pirelli granted the Pennsylvania native full creative freedom.

McCurry is known for his journalistic and documentary style, a step away from the fashion photographers Pirelli has picked in previous years.

While McCurry could have shot a pregnant Adriana Lima in full flesh -- after all, Terry Richardson, Annie Leibovitz and Mario Sorrenti certainly did not hesitate on the opportunity in previous Pirelli calendars with models such as Kate Moss, Miranda Kerr and Joan Smalls -- he opted to shoot her and the rest of his subjects clothed, in Rio de Janeiro, his perfect city backdrop.

"You can do sexy shots anywhere, including the lobby of a hotel," McCurry says. "For what I was trying to do, I needed setting, background, a sense of atmosphere."

As if being stunningly beautiful wasn't enough, these women also have huge hearts. Hand-picked by McCurry and world-renowned casting director Jennifer Starr, each model was chosen for how she uses what she has been blessed with to help others.

"I thought it would be better for me to take these fabulous women who are part of charities and worthwhile, interesting projects and to focus on them, highlight them and their work," McCurry says. "To call them models ... it's much more than that. It’s not about their bodies or their sexuality."

Take 25-year-old Kyleigh Kuhn, Miss May. The UC-Berkeley graduate (peace and conflict studies) dedicated her life to help war-torn countries after a trip to visit her family's demining projects in Croatia.

Being only 13 at the time, she says, "I was forced to confront the aftermath of a war zone at a pretty young age. Three years later, at 16, after September 11th, I was reminded of what it was like to be in that type of fear. I decide to start a project that would build schools in Afghanistan."

Since that trip, Kuhn has kept her commitment and has even created a book with photos of the students in one of the six schools she has built. It's the first time many of these children have seen a printed image of themselves.

When asked to be a part of the Pirelli Calendar, she gushes: "I was beside myself. When I realized that I could use modeling as a platform to promote what I'm working on, this is the ideal project. I always thought, 'I think brands would really love to do this. I think that it would work.' When this came along, it really solidified that notion. It's elevating our projects and our effort to merge the modeling world and our causes."

Though Pirelli’s 40th edition does not feature women in all their glory, McCurry’s direction and vision may make this one more meaningful.

The tire company’s legacy is elevated due to the depth it has added to the calendar. Rappers will continue to rap, Formula One racers will continue to race, and models will continue to model -- clothed or not -- for years to come, all in the name of Pirelli.

But with their calendar's strong emphasis on humanitarian efforts through these extraordinary superwomen, the only question left is: How can Pirelli’s 2014 calendar top it?