Trolls Attack Valentino's Not-So-Revealing Nude Photo, Creative Director Claps Back

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday April 15, 2021

Valentino Creative Director Pierpaolo Piccioli
Valentino Creative Director Pierpaolo Piccioli  (Source:Pierpaolo Piccioli/Instagram)

A not-so-revealing photo showing a nude male model holding a handbag that was part of an ad campaign by Italian fashion brand Valentino sparked a wildly overwrought and vitriolic hate storm on social media. The brand's creative director, Pierpaolo Piccioli, clapped back hard at the trolls.

"Over the weekend, Valentino released a new Collezione Milano campaign shot by Michael Bailey-Gates," Dazed Digital detailed. "One of the images is a self-portrait of the photographer and model, showing him nude and posing with a handbag from the collection."

That image was posted to Instagram along with others from the same campaign. Dazed Digital noted that while other photos garnered few comments (less than 100), the image of the nude male model with the handbag drew more than ten thousand responses, many of them negative, transphobic, and using "vomit" emojis.

The wildfire of hate was replete with the usual tropes about "gender confusion," "turning men into women," "poisoning the children," and the like, reports noted.

"Is it the nudity?" Dazed Digital wondered about the tsunami of homophobia and transphobia. "The handbag? The sensual stare?"

The frenzied response was particularly odd, noted in various reports, because the image did not overtly challenge gender stereotypes, and the nudity was mild and non-revealing.

Piccioli shared the image at his own Instagram account, and called out the haters.

"Hate is not an expression, hate is a reaction to fear and fear can easily turn into violence," Piccioli noted. "We have to stand against and condemn all form of violence, hate, discrimination and racism, and I'm proud to use my voice and my work to do so, now and forever."

The creative director used the moment to wax poetic about equality in society's growth toward justice.

"My job is to deliver my vision of beauty according to the time we are living and beauty and whom we consider beautiful, is a reflection of our own values," he posted. "We are witnessing a big, huge shift in humankind, the movements of self awareness are all leaded by the same idea: evolution is possible if equality is possible, if inclusivity is possible, if human rights are defended and freedom of expression is protected and nurtured."

As for the photo's nudity? Piccioli explained it from an artist's point of view:

"This picture is a self-portrait of a young, beautiful man and evil is in the eye of the beholder, not in his naked body."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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