Beyonce rode into town this week on a wave of #BlackGirlMagic set to buoy magazine newsstands nationwide next month.
Black women grace the September covers of over a dozen major magazines in the U.S., Canada and Britain — in their all-important fall fashion issues — which is a record, fashion industry observers say.
While some note the trend is pegged to celebrity draw and ad sales, it’s still an inspiring moment for our nation that has grown more strongly divided on race and the value of diversity in the past two years.
Beyonce takes over Soldier FieId this weekend after a non-hostile takeover of Vogue’s September issue. The icon demanded and was given unprecedented control of her photos, captions and story.
This resulted in Vogue’s first-ever cover photo shot by a black photographer in the fashion bible’s 126-year-history: a career-altering opportunity given to 23-year-old Tyler Mitchell of Atlanta.
Peer music icon Rihanna graces the cover of British Vogue, a similarly historic moment, as she’s the first woman of color to be featured on British Vogue’s September issue in its 102-year history.
Those kind of numbers, in 2018 — the first in 126 years, first in 102 years — boggle my mind. But it’s progress yet, and still must be celebrated.
Five actresses: Lupita Nyong’o, Tracee Ellis Ross, Tiffany Haddish, Zendaya and Aja Naomi King, grace the covers of Porter and Elle Canada magazines, Glamour, Marie Claire and Shape, respectively.
Supermodel Slick Woods is on the cover of British Elle; fellow models Adwoa Aboah and Naomi Campbell grace the cover of Love magazine. And actress Lauren Harrier, currently starring in the weekend box office opener “BlacKkKlansman,” owns the cover of The Sunday Times.
“There was a time as recently as the ’90s when the unconventional wisdom was that African-American women didn’t sell on covers,” says Charles F. Whitaker, acting dean of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.
“But Beyonce and Rihanna, in particular, and Lupita Nyong’o, have just obliterated that notion,” says Whitaker, who was a longtime writer and exec at Johnson Publishing Co. “You put them on the covers and your newsstand sales do very well.”
“So I think it’s a moment, right? A time when we are finally recognizing and acknowledging that black women are amazing trendsetters; that they are arbiters of taste not just for black women, but internationally. This flurry of covers is indication that magazines have finally come around to that, come around in a big way.”
Iconic magazines like Ebony and Essence have always provided that inclusiveness, and for too long were the only outlets where we could see ourselves reflected on newsstands. They continue to do so in September. New “it” girl, actress Issa Rae, owns the cover of Ebony; model Naomi Campbell, this time by herself, graces Essence; and Oprah, as always, owns the cover of her O, The Oprah Magazine.
Back to Queen Bey, who is in Chicago for the On The Run II tour concert with husband Jay-Z on Friday and Saturday night at Soldier Field. Bey’s power on her cover photo — the ability and choice to open that door for a young black man — lit up the internet for days.
It seemed elation over the achievement only died down after the unveiling of the sea of black women joining her in September.
Bey, I think, has best captured the meaning of this moment in the first-person essay accompanying her Vogue photos. In true icon fashion, she refused to be interviewed.
“If people in powerful positions continue to hire and cast only people who look like them, sound like them, come from the same neighborhoods they grew up in, they will never have a greater understanding of experiences different from their own. They will hire the same models, curate the same art, cast the same actors over and over again, and we will all lose,” Bey writes.
“As the mother of two girls, it’s important to me that they see themselves too — in books, films, and on runways. It’s important to me that they see themselves as CEOs, as bosses, and that they know they can write the script for their own lives.”
As we mark the anniversary of the violent Aug. 12, 2017, rally by white nationalists, neo-Nazis and alt-right supporters in Charlottesville this weekend, it’s clear that we as a nation still have far to go before diversity and inclusiveness are truly valued.
But I’ll take this beautiful, multi-hued and multi-textured wave of #BlackGirlMagic as an inspiring step in the journey.