In Top Magazines, Black Representation Remains a Work In Progress


On the last Friday morning of August, the website of Harper’s Bazaar magazine featured an image of a Black model with dreadlocks in her hair, smiling broadly in a Hermès gown. Below that was a portrait of Lil Nas X, and just below that was a series of stories about Aaliyah’s personal style.

The most recent edition cover of the magazine featured Beyoncé, photographed and partially designed by Campbell Addy, a black photographer. Samira NasrIn 2020, he became the first person of color to lead the broadcast in its 154-year history. (This was also Beyoncé’s first Harper’s Bazaar cover in ten years; she was most recently photographed and styled for the magazine. 2nd White men known for selling images that look like soft-core pornography.)

None of that is lost on Nikki Ogunnaike, who was appointed digital director of Harper’s Bazaar in November. She said that when she started interning at fashion magazines about 15 years ago, she got used to being one of the two Black people on the roster.

He now moderates panels during initiatives like Hearst Magazines’ last three-day programme. soap opera highlighting black talent in fashion. (Did he have access to similar programs early in his career? “Absolutely not.”) He now seeks alumni of historically Black colleges and universities, far from New York City, as they seek to fill entry-level positions. (“I don’t think people were running to HBCUs 10 years ago,” he said. “They weren’t running to U. Va. where I was going.”)

But the question is: Will the change that Ms. Ogunnaike witnessed, accelerated by the murder of George Floyd in 2020 and the social unrest that followed, will be permanent when it comes to magazines? Will fashion, with history prejudice and exclusionGo back to old patterns of treating racial progress as a trend, or will it truly embrace systemic reinvention?

Conversation around the diversity problem of magazines, perennial. For example, Black women in September 2018 closed a majority one of the best titles. But by 2019, the models on these covers were less racially diverse, according to The Fashion Spot. annual report.

Even now, there are signs that the imperative is waning. Earlier this year, The New York Times reviewed Whether black representation in the fashion industry, including magazines, has flourished and faced widespread reluctance to deal with questions about staffing from companies. Still, analysis of nine major magazines—four international editions of Vogue, the American and British editions of Elle and Harper’s Bazaar, and InStyle—showed an increase in Black representation at the time.

This surge has slowed down. The majority of these nine posts used less Black talent for their covers in the March to September six-month period of this year compared to the previous six-month period immediately following the Black Lives Matter protests. (The two exceptions were Vogue Italia and Harper’s Bazaar, which used more Black flair over time.)

Different covers don’t always reflect a different cast, either. People who create magazine covers – models, photographers, hair and makeup artists – are typically freelancers and contractors, hired quickly and employed on a temporary basis. Long-term personnel changes require more time and effort.

Even as black leaders rose to the top and shifted content in a new, more inclusive direction, they were often unable to recruit new hires or delete inherited rosters and start over. And because fashion has long ruled out marginalized voices, the Black talent pipeline has not evolved for years.

“When it comes to black leaders stepping into these roles, many people expect change overnight,” Ms. Ogunnaike said. “It won’t happen overnight.”

Chioma Nnadi, Vogue’s digital director and top Black editor, described it as a “slow and steady journey.”

“Radical change is actually gradual, and it takes a long time to change the culture of a company or of an industry,” said Ms. Nnadi, who took her job last September after six years as the website’s fashion news director. said. “To make lasting change there cannot be a checked and forgotten box until there is another crisis or another flash point in the news cycle.”

Ms. Ogunnaike and Ms. Nnadi work for different publishing companies – each with their own variation luggage — they sometimes feel similar pressure by operating in traditionally white institutions.

Lindsay Peoples Wagner, who was appointed editor of The Cut in January, described in an article. “A certain type of pressure to always do the right thing at all costs comes from being one of the very few Black leaders of a broadcast, and the high wire can feel like hanging over a pool of piranhas. ”

That’s the problem as companies continue to grapple with their own internal culture more than a year after being called out for their shortcomings: Black leaders have the expectation that they alone will drive change. “I think the responsibility of finding answers and solutions should not fall on people of color,” Ms. Nnadi said.

new organizations Black in Fashion Council (founded by Ms. Peoples Wagner) and 15 Percent Pledge they demand accountability from well-known brands and work to elevate Black industry professionals. But Black leaders say it’s white institutions that must deliver on their commitments to change.

Ms. Ogunnaike asked the white allies, ‘What do your efforts for diversity, equality and inclusion look like in your field as a white person?’ I would love to be asked,” he said. “The burden cannot be solely on people who have not created these racist systems from scratch.”

The top tiers of magazine headlines — titles with “chief”, “manager” or “director” attached — remained predominantly white, with a few strong exceptions. For example, under Edward Enninful, editor-in-chief of British Vogue, more than half of the last 17 cover models were Black; under her predecessor, Alexandra Shulman, just two black women Solo covers have been awarded in 25 years.

But outside of these mainstream fashion headlines, Black editors have had big assignments. Influential British independent magazine Dazed hired Ib Kamara as editor-in-chief in January. Beauty magazine Allure placed Jessica Cruel in the top spot in August.

This year also saw the massive rise of Black models. During the last 12 months of the covers, one of the most in-demand models from any racial background was Precious Lee, who was featured in the pivotal September issue of American Vogue.

This year I also saw “the first cover with my real name on it,” Ms. Lee said. can give From Harper’s Bazaar, a magazine she associated with “all those old pictures of skinny white women” growing up.

Ms. Lee is a Black model from Atlanta in clothing sizes 14 to 16. american woman but it is usually classified as plus size in fashion.

While the relevance of magazines has been questioned over the past decade, Ms. Lee still believes cover images are important. Historical documents that reflect social changes and define the public’s perception of beauty.

“This is something I’ve been fighting for since I started modeling,” she said. “For me it was always about transforming the images we see of Black bodies, especially African American women, in a non-traditional dimension.”

Ms. Lee also fought for more Black talent during her photo shoot: people who understand how to light up, put on makeup and hairstyles for Black women. In cases where she came to a set that didn’t have “ICH staff on the glam team,” she said, “I had to put my foot down and say, ‘I’m not shooting with these people.’

“I never want to be involved in something that doesn’t have a large team,” Ms. Lee continued. “It just doesn’t make sense. I actually think that’s why I’ve been modeling for years, and people might think I’m a new face. Maybe if I was a little more worried about ‘doing’ back then, without ‘doing’ in a way that I felt was right for me – not holding on to what I felt was right. “Maybe it was. It could have been earlier.”

Longtime hairstylist Lacy Redway said her black clients had similar fights to get hired for a cover shoot because they felt comfortable in her hands. She said that prior to 2019, the only magazine she had consistently worked on a cover shoot with an all-Black crew was Black women’s magazine Essence. While working for other broadcasts, he was sometimes the only color person on set.

“It can make you feel lonely,” she said. “Someone may not understand your point of view or understand the challenges you are raising.” For example, a photographer unfamiliar with box braids may not know that it will take more than two hours to style them.

Recently hired to make braids. W September cover“Because this is also an all-Black team, the photographer didn’t give me any trouble as to how long it would take,” he said.

like other black talentMrs. Redway said she saw a surge in her business last year, attributing it to magazines or advertisers responding to the call or fears of being cancelled. But things haven’t diminished over time, he said, which is a promising sign that change is permanent.

“I wish it didn’t have to come from a power source,” he said. “I want it to finally feel more real, the reason these opportunities are for Black and color artists is because they deserve the opportunity.

“The time has come.”


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