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While plenty of work goes into any magazine cover, September issues hold a particular amount of cultural clout. Selling at higher rates than any other issues during the year, they signify a fresh start in the fashion world (there’s even a whole documentary about it). So the fact that this year’s cover series depicts an array of Hollywood’s most influential black women is nothing short of a victory.
Vogue, Elle, and Marie Claire are just a few of the world’s leading publications whose September issues celebrate black beauty this year. If you placed these covers next to last year’s, the difference, quite literally, would be black and white. Last fall, almost every major magazine displayed white women on their covers. This year Tiffany Haddish, Rihanna, Tracee Ellis Ross, Zendaya, and others give the public a level of #BlackGirlMagic that has never graced newsstands before.
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When I first started, 21 years ago, I was told that it was hard for me to get onto covers of magazines because black people did not sell. Clearly that has been proven a myth. Not only is an African American on the cover of the most important month for Vogue, this is the first ever Vogue cover shot by an African American photographer.
With black excellence at work on and off camera, these September issues serve as some of the first of their kind in terms of representation. This pivotal shift would call for celebration on any media platform. However, it’s presence on the covers of distinguished, mainstream fashion magazines carries distinct importance.
All sorts of Brown & Beautiful on these coveted September covers ❣️#BlackGirlMagic (more deets on insta story)A post shared by Yara (يارا) Shahidi (@yarashahidi) on Aug 8, 2018 at 6:16pm PDT
All sorts of Brown & Beautiful on these coveted September covers ❣️#BlackGirlMagic (more deets on insta story)
A post shared by Yara (يارا) Shahidi (@yarashahidi) on Aug 8, 2018 at 6:16pm PDT
The impact and influence of magazine covers has been studied for decades. For example, UC Santa Barbara professor Ellen McCracken describes magazine covers as “the window to the future self” due to their ample ability to alter how we see ourselves in her 1992 book, Decoding Women’s Magazines: From Mademoiselle to Ms. The notion that media like magazine covers depict “ideal” or “ultimate” beauty is a universal one. If we don’t see diversity in these media, we have trouble seeing the beauty in diversity anywhere.
It’s wonderful that little black and brown girls now get to see women who look like them thriving on the year’s most critical magazine covers (I know I could’ve used a little more of that growing up). But this year’s September issues are a victory for more than just people of color. These covers give a platform to celebrate all kinds of skin colors, hair textures, body-types, etc. They can literally alter the way we, as a society, think about and perceive beauty. Validating the beauty in diversity is, without question, a victory for all of us.
My name is Ina and I'm an avid lover of fashion, food, friends, dance, music, and herb puns. I want to be as cool as Millie Bobby Brown when I grow up. Boston University Class of 2020.