How George Michael made feminism sexy

Fashion is the promise of reinvention. And with his path-breaking ‘90s music video, Freedom! 90, George Michael made that promise come true for his own career, for the supermodel generation and for some of today’s biggest names in this most commercial of arts.

Freedom! ’90 was the textbook definition of serendipity. Michael had just sworn off photoshoots and music videos, but was under pressure from Columbia Records to shoot one anyway. At the same time, Peter Lindberg’s iconic Vogue cover heralding the decade of the supermodel hit stands. Linda Evangelista — the exotic brunette with ocean-deep eyes — just happened to dye her hair platinum blonde the night before, a surprise decision that would prove to be the most memorable look of her career.

How Freedom! ’90 broke the mould

If the video’s origin story was series of coincidences, its message was anything but. George Michael didn’t want to use the models as elaborate, hyper-sexualised props, a music video norm . Instead, he wanted his women to have all the power. Naomi Campbell, Tatiana Patiz, Christy Turlington, Evangelista, Cindy Crawford… these weren’t PYTs draped across the arm of a bare-chested rockstar to make him look good. These were successful working women at the height of their careers, earning a dizzying $15,000 a day for their efforts.

Michael genuinely respected Campbell and co., and his refusal to resort to cheap titillation despite hiring five of the world’s hottest women proved it. Even when Crawford’s stunning body — dressed in nothing more than a G-string and baby oil — fills the frame, there’s no question about who’s in control of the camera.

It’s unlikely that George Michael would have described himself as a feminist. But by giving the world the perfect Venn diagram of fashion, pop music and female empowerment, he inadvertently became one.


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