Walk into any newsagent’s in the country and the shelves are covered with glossy magazines, influencing our style and telling us what next season’s trends will be.
While each publication is different, their cover celebrities often aren’t – on the whole they are white, young, slim and conventionally attractive.
What sets the September issues apart though, is the prevalence of black or mixed-race celebrities gracing the glossies.
Rihanna is on British Vogue, Ruth Negga features on Marie Claire, Lupita Nyong’o is the star on Porter magazine, while model Slick Woods is on Elle.
Fashion is worldwide, and so too appears to be the increasing diversity.
Beyonce is on US Vogue, Naomi Campbell is on Vogue Paris, Nicki Minaj is the cover star of Vogue Arabia and Zendaya is on Marie Claire US.
It’s not just diversity in ethnicity either, plus-size model Tess Holliday is to grace the cover of Cosmopolitan’s October issue.
So, is fashion truly beginning to embrace diversity, or is it merely tokenism?
Marie Claire’s Editor in Chief Trish Halpin said the publication is “committed to speaking to women of colour, not just on the cover of the magazine but throughout the whole issue”, one of the reasons behind it’s choice of Negga as its cover model.
She continued that Marie Claire’s decision to put Negga on their cover was not one of tokenism, and that the magazine holds true to its values when picking celebrities: “Our criteria for selecting cover stars is based on two factors: what we know sells, which is essentially A-list, recognisable stars, but who are also women we respect, who have integrity as well as talent, and we are delighted to have the wonderfully talented actress Ruth Negga on our September Fashion Issue Cover.”
Part of the reason Halpin believes so few BAME women appear on magazines is because “at the moment, there is a relatively small pool of BAME A-list stars – something we would like to see change – and a number of these are on our cover wish list, but it’s not that easy to get them.
“Last year we had two black actresses lined up for covers, but their publicists decided to go with other titles.”
But what do consumers think? Are these changes on covers impacting how they view fashion and the magazine’s brand?
Fashion blogger Onyi Moss believes that the changes we are seeing are for good and that it’s not simply a case of tokenism.
Instead, she puts the move down to the influence of social media which allows people to call out a lack of diversity more easily.
“People recognise there’s a problem with the system and that’s being reflected on social media,” she explained.
“In everyday life you encounter people from other walks of life so that needs to be reflected…
“It’s not a coincidence that all the magazines have mixed-race cover models at once, it’s a deliberate attempt to show they’re paying attention to social media, to say: ‘We’re listening to you’.”
The 32-year-old adds that she believes changes within the fashion industry have led to this shift within the sector.
“Since British Vogue appointed Edward Enninful as Editor-in-Chief, they’re obviously aware of the issue [a lack of representation in fashion magazines], so we will see change there, but I can’t speak for everyone else,” Moss said.
In December model Adwoa Aboah was British Vogue’s cover star, while May’s cover featured the predicted modelling stars of tomorrow – a range of women of different sizes and ethnicities, while in August 64-year-old Oprah Winfrey graced the front.
“I am happy that the magazines are paying attention and that they’re showing women as we see them in society – all shapes, sizes and ethnicities, and celebrating their achievements.”
Showing a more diverse range of women is something that Moss, from Salford, wishes she had seen on magazines while growing up.
“I would have been more inspired to go into the career I did from an earlier age,” she said.
“When I was growing up I didn’t see people like me, so I studied something different [accounting] as I didn’t think I could do it [get into fashion] and so it took longer to get there.”
She adds that seeing a lack of women like her in magazines means that she is less likely to buy them, and friends have told her similar stories, but since the September issues were released “friends have told me they will buy the new editions as they’re excited that they’re represented.
“These new covers will encourage people to engage with magazines more.”
Dee-Ann Kentish Rogers, the first black woman to win Miss Universe GB agrees that “it’s about time what you see on covers reflects society”, but argues that there needs to be a “delicate balance” to ensure that cover stars are not picked for tokenism and for magazines to score politically correct brownie points.
Like Moss, the 25-year-old believes the inclusion of a range of BAME cover celebrities “is a positive move to embolden more black women to get into the beauty industry.
“Seeing more can give you a little push to focus on your dreams, as things seem more possible if they’ve been done before by people like you.”agrees that “it’s about time what you see on covers reflects society”, but argues that there needs to be a “delicate balance” to ensure that cover stars are not picked for tokenism and for magazines to score politically correct brownie points. Like Moss, the 25-year-old believes the inclusion of a range of BAME cover celebrities “is a positive move to embolden more black women to get into the beauty industry.
“Seeing more can give you a little push to focus on your dreams, as things seem more possible if they’ve been done before by people like you.”
Photo Credit: Vogue/Porter/Elle/Marie Claire
First publushed 31.08.18: http://www.itv.com/news/2018-08-31/is-fashion-changing-its-face/