Why Beyonce's Vogue Cover Is So Important
The recent release of Vogue’s September Issue has sparked conversation among many. With Beyonce gracing the cover of the most influential issue of the year, it is clear that Vogue’s September issue holds immense power in the fashion industry. With the ability to dictate trends, and influence many facets of our culture, the September issue is more than just a magazine.
Vogue has confirmed that Beyonce has had a great deal of artistic liberty with this years September issue. Reports state that Beyonce had unprecedented control. True to form, she did not taken this opportunity lightly. She chose to be photographed by 23 year old Tyler Mitchell, the first black photographer to ever shoot a Vogue cover.
Started in 1892, Vogue has had more than 1,000 covers. However, less than 1% of those covers have featured minorities. In 1966, Vogue featured its first person of color on the cover, Detroit model Donyale Luna. While this was an important first step, American Vogue decided to place the model’s hand over her face, thus hiding her. Vogue claimed that having someone black on the cover would discourage sales on newsstands. It took another 8 years for Vogue to fully feature a black model.
This history of exclusion in the fashion industry has been widespread and evident. This is what Beyonce was trying to address in her September issue. She stated, “Until there is a mosaic of perspectives coming from different ethnicities behind the lens, we will continue to have a narrow approach and view of what the world actually looks like.”
Her strategic choice of Tyler Mitchell is instrumental in her goal of inclusivity. He started his artistic journey around skate parks in Marietta, Georgia, where he grew up. He loved the aspect of community that surrounded skating, and enjoyed making videos of him and his friends. While attending NYU Tisch’s School of the Arts, he made a name for himself by shooting videos for indie rapper, Kevin Abstract. He continued to develop his brand by posting his photos on Instagram, attracting brands such as Marc Jacobs and Converse. In his independent projects such as I’m Doing Pretty Hood in My Pink Polo, Mitchell has explored black masculinity and societal expectations surrounding the black community. He says, “In that series I wanted to incorporate the things that have been used against black men… You see the dark side of how we’ve been victimized, but there’s a duality to the images, with their candy-colored walls.” Mitchell’s socially conscious photography was a perfect choice for Beyonce. This sensibility can be clearly seen in his portraits of her.
This fall, many publications are featuring black women on their covers. Major magazines such as Glamour, Elle, and British Vogue are all featuring black women on the covers. Some big names that are gracing these covers include Rihanna, Yara Shahidi, Tiffany Haddish, Tracee Ellis Ross, Lupita Nyong’o, Zendaya, Slick Woods, Issa Rae, Aja Naomi King, Laverne Cox, and Naomi Campbell. It is clear that September 2018 is the month of #BlackGirlMagic with 12 of fashion’s most important magazines featuring these black women. Additionally, British Vogue has initiated their first black male editor-in-chief, Edward Enninful, an immigrant from Ghana.
While it is clear that the fashion industry has had a history of exclusion and racism, it is also clear that they are headed in the right direction. Hopefully we will see collaborations similar to Beyonce and Tyler Mitchell’s in the coming months.