Angelina Jolie recently joined forces with National geographic to draw attention to bee conservation and support women beekeepers. For this occasion, the famous actress and humanitarian posed with her face and torso covered in bees and without a protective suit. NatGeo shared a video of Jolie as she was being photographed, and it’s amazing how calm she was. In fact, she was so calm that none of the bees stung her.
The shoot was done back in March but with International Bee Day (20 May) in mind. Photographer Dan Winters, who also happens to be an amateur beekeeper, is the man behind the shot. The message of the photo is to raise awareness of bee conservation and emphasize bees’ importance in the ecosystem. Also, Jolie wanted to draw attention to a UNESCO-Guerlain program that trains women as beekeeper-entrepreneurs and protectors of native bee habitats around the world. Winters was inspired by a famous 1981 Richard Avedon portrait of a beekeeper Ronald Fischer. So, the image of Jolie is also an homage to the famous photographer.
Winters shared the photo on his Instagram along with a bit of a backstory. He writes that it was, in fact, Jolie who wanted to do a portrait covered in bees. The whole process was a bit tricky, and safety was the photographer’s main concern.
“Shooting during the pandemic, with Angelina, a full crew and live bees made the execution complex. I knew the only way to insure we achieved the desired effect for the photo was to use the same technique that Avedon used 40 years ago to create his iconic portrait ‘The Beekeeper’.”
Winters hired master beekeeper Konrad Bouffard to help him with the shoot and turning the idea into an actual photo. He contacted the same entomologist who formulated the specific bee pheromone (queen mandibular pheromone or QMP) for Avedon and his shot.
As for the bees, Winters writes that they used calm Italian bees. Everyone on set was wearing bee suits, as you can see in the video. Except for Jolie, of course, who was wearing a white dress and the pheromone “perfume.” In an interview with NatGeo, Jolie reveals that she wasn’t allowed to shower for three days before the shoot. “If you have all these different scents, shampoos and perfumes and things, the bee doesn’t know what you are,” the beekeepers told her.
Winters applied the pheromone by hand in the places on the actress where he wanted bees to congregate. You can see a part of the process in the video. Jolie says that she also needed to plug her nose and ears so that the bees didn’t have “as many holes to climb in.”
“The bees are attracted to the pheromone, but it also encourages them not to swarm,” the photographer explains. “Angelina stood perfectly still, covered in bees for 18 minutes without a sting.” She even had one bee that got under her dress. “It was like one of those old comedies,” she told NatGeo. “I kept feeling it on my knee, on my leg, and then I thought, ‘Oh, this is the worst place to get stung. It’s getting really close.’” Believe it or not, the actress says that the bee stayed under her dress the entire time of the shoot. When it was over and she got all the other bees off, she lifted the skirt and the lost bee flew away.
I remember seeing models covered in bees in America’s Next Top Model and Jessica Kobeissi’s reaction video. Since they are inexperienced, it was difficult to watch as some of them were obviously terrified. I admire Jolie for how calm she remained and how slowly she moved even when a bee crawled on her eyelid. I love bees, but I admit – I sure would freak out.