Air Canada Flight Attendants Shoot Angelic Calendar

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Air Canada flight attendant Shantih Accardi wanted to produce a charity calendar with her fellow co-workers that was attractive, tasteful and appealed to both sexes. Sky Angels: The Virtues 2013 calendar features 13 ladies photographed by Wahb Mabkhout, whose work has graced the covers of GQ, Sports Illustrated, Maxim and Cosmopolitan.

The 2013 calendar — which starts with Dec. 2012  — sells for $20 at www.skyangels.ca and retailer Aviation World in Toronto and Vancouver. All proceeds from the sale of the calendars benefit The Children’s Aid Foundation.

“Each flight attendant [in the calendar] represents a virtue that is necessary on board,” Accardi tells Samaritanmag. “Compassion, kindness, flexibility, patience, creativity, service… I wanted to create something beautiful that didn’t objectify women for a change, something to reflect the inner beauty of women and the real values of our work — to benefit a great cause.”

Accardi, who has worked for Air Canada for 13 years, and her colleague Olivia Yap, selected The Children’s Aid Foundation as the recipient of the money after much research. “Olivia is a mother and so we felt we wanted to do a children’s one,” explains Accardi. “We did some research about orphans in Canada and found out there are no orphanages, so children who fall through the cracks don’t really have anywhere to go; they have to be placed in foster homes [by Children’s Aid Societies].

“We like The Children’s Aid Foundation because they aren’t super huge, like the Children’s Miracle Network, so they don’t have a big overhead and they are privately funded. Everything that goes to them goes to children’s programs. They’re in Toronto, and we can see where the money is going. We’re not raising $50,000; we’re raising a few thousand so we want to make sure it goes somewhere good.”

The Children’s Aid Foundation is an independent charity that helps Canada’s most neglected and vulnerable kids reinvent their lives by giving them the support and skills they need.

According to its web site, 76,000 kids in Canada live in foster homes, residential facilities, and supervised care. The organization works with child welfare agencies across the country, such as the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, Catholic Children’s Aid Society, Native Child and Family Services of Toronto, Jewish Family and Child, and the Children Welfare League of Canada, helping to fund programs and services — last year providing $6 million in aid.

Air Canada's first calendar was 2005’s Cabin Fever. Accardi was a flight attendant for the airline then, but wasn't part of the project. Proceeds went to the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation towards patient care.

“It actually began because one of our colleagues [the late Ylona Doederlein] was really sick — she had leukemia — so all her friends gathered together and made a really naughty kind of calendar,” Accardi relays, adding that it was Doederlein who recommended she get involved in 2006.

Accardi modelled for the 2007 and 2008 Cabin Fever calendars, then the Air Canada project lay dormant for four years. "I got one going in Montreal with another colleague, involving attendants from other airlines, for MS [Multiple Sclerosis Foundation of Quebec]," she says of the calendar called Turbulence 2012. "We raised almost all the sponsorship and helped select models  in 2011 for 2012, but it was too sexualized for my liking what my partner was doing, so I decided to make my own with all Air Canada girls again —  something completely different, something that wasn’t sexualizing flight attendants, but about the virtues, which was just about inner qualities and what motivates us and about caring about people.”

In the sponsorship materials for Sky Angels: The Virtues 2013 calendar, it says: “In a world where service jobs tend to be underrated many people don’t realize how intense flight attendant training can be. It takes a very altruistic and alert type of person to meet the required criteria. Aside from their wonderful disposition, flight attendants are psychologically profiled, hired and trained primarily for the safety of their passengers, a fact that’s often overlooked.”

With that in mind, Accardi says, that formed the basis for the calendar's concept. “The inspiration I had floating around  — because I’m into psychology and archetypes — was when I’m looking at the motivation for my job, I would think of myself as a sky angel because of working above the clouds and being good to people and potentially saving their lives. That’s where the concept [of the virtues] came from and from watching my co-workers. It was a little fantasy about the higher purpose of our job.”

All 13 flight attendants in the calendar were hand-selected by Accardi. There were no auditions. “They are all girls that I know and I like their personalities. It wasn’t just because they were pretty. I thought they were great people and I wanted a great team of people that would be motivated [to sell the calendars],” explains Accardi.

She also teamed each flight attendant with their virtue word ie. Dec. 2012’s calendar girl Caroline is prudence, January, 2013's Nicole is knowledge; February’s Kieya is love; March’s calendar girl Natalie is flexibility; April’s Averil is focus and cover girl/May’s Heather is patience.

Each girl also contributed a quote for the calendar showing their personality in regard to how their designated virtue is expressed in their line of work.

Mabkhout, a renowned Los Angeles photographer, was brought onboard by Yap, who is a friend of his.  Accardi gave him Internet pictures as examples of the concepts she had in mind representing each of the virtues. “I knew what each key word was going to be and then he put his own spin on it,” she says. “I thought that he would bring out the sensual aspect in the angels.”

The flight attendants were all shot against a white background and Mabkhout did the rest in post-production.

While happy with the results, she says, he took longer than anticipated to complete the project, which hampered her ability to secure mass distribution for the calendar, which would’ve helped raise more money for The Children’s Aid Foundation.

“We started last February, but the post-production it took so long for him to get the wings. I thought draw them in, but he didn’t. He photographed them and superimposed. He’s a little bit eccentric, sort of a genius, but it cost us in the sense that we ended up not being able to get a distribution deal because stores need to have it in place by spring,” Accardi explains.

All of the flight attendant models are helping to sell the calendar — 1750 copies were printed. The launch event was in mid-October at Tattoo Rock Parlour, a shared event with The Toronto Firefighters, which launched their long-running calendar to benefit the Princess Margaret Cancer Center. Edwin, formerly of I Mother Earth and now frontman for Crash Karma, performed with his solo band. Sky Angels: The Virtues 2013 raised $1200 that night and $3500 to date, with more sales coming in.

Accardi is hoping to do a 2014 Sky Angeles calendar, although it will be shot in Toronto next time and the theme will be different. She already had some sponsors in place and is hoping to find a local photographer.

“For the future, I already have a concept which is more vintage flight attendants and something more classic, but with little funny moments like her stocking is falling or your hotel room has been double booked so there’s someone getting changed and you’re like, ‘Oh my god.’ I thought it would be humorous and vintage fun.”

Samaritanmag.com is an online magazine covering the good deeds of individuals, charities and businesses.