Why Beyoncé’s “History-Making Cover” is Vogue’s Epic Fail
And ours too
Vogue magazine is having an undeservedly good week, thanks to the “history-making” armor that can only be amassed after riding the coattails of a global superstar, who is the Black woman with a name that demands that level of adherence.
When word got out about Beyonce’s upcoming cover shoot that was touted with all the bloated adjectives, that were supposed to gift her endearingly loyal fans with great expectations — the icing on the cake ended up being a major buzzkill for those of us who’ve retired our misplaced infatuation with brands, that are presently dying a slow and painful death.
The first-ever African-American photographer, twenty-three-year-old Tyler Mitchell was commissioned to capture the dopeness of his riveting subject, who had reportedly enlisted his services as an ode to the necessity of ending the 126-year-old drought that Vogue shamelessly instituted.
While the Beyhive was giddy with excitement and adulation at the sheer audacity of Beyonce’s power and might when it comes to rapturously demonstrating her allegiance to Blackness, and how it can successfully discipline Anna Wintour into submission — some of us were unimpressed with her decision to continue collaborating with a brand that has spent decades rejecting the value of the Black aesthetic.
Vogue magazine is essentially trash. It stopped being relevant awhile ago.
There’s no other way to describe its stalled trajectory, which was solidified the moment Kris Jenner tricked the industry into flatlining on the basis of endorsing the poached characteristics that her daughters have perfected.
But even before Kendall, Gigi and Bella hijacked the viability and durability of beauty and fashion brands on a global scale, there has been an enduring tradition of centering Whiteness, and anything that serves as a valid prototype over the riskier currency of ethnicity.
Former editor-in-chief of British Vogue, Alexandra Shulman left her post amid controversial fare, as she faced the firing squad from naysayers, who accused her of being ceremoniously neglectful when it came to populating her active period with the basics of diversity. But the former competitor and long-time ally of Wintour was unapologetic in her stance, as she laid out the obvious reasons why she was unable to exercise her exploratory tendencies when it came to showcasing Black faces with no value attached.
Her replacement, Edward Enniful, was heralded as the symbol of change in the right direction, and his notable editorial recruit — supermodel Naomi Campbell, who was also quite vocal about her disapproval of Shulman when it came to honoring inclusiveness — seemed to echo the sentiment of how Enninful was poised to tear down the barriers banning Black models from the spotlight.
But months later, there’s very little proof of Enninful’s commitment to dutifully highlighting the worth of models that are every bit deserving of the considerate treatment afforded their White counterparts, but still have to suffer the indignity of their station, which arises from the global practice of conveniently settling on the safer bet of Black faces that are readily recognizable.
Rihanna is currently on the September cover of British Vogue, and her enviable feat is heightened by the fact that she is the very first Black woman to score the assignment of Enninful’s very first and highly-anticipated issue for a fashion-intensive month, that typically attracts the titans of industry, who are usually White ingenues or staples.
It’s a double history-making event, starring two Black women who’ve been on heavy rotation alongside favorites, Naomi Campbell and Lupita Nyong’o. Take those faces away, and you’re left with a gaping hole. That’s why the genius move of pairing Beyonce and Rihanna in back-to-back celebratory fiesta of covers was purposely staged to give the impression that the forecast of mandatory inclusion is steadily on the rise.
But that falsehood is just another blatant distraction from the brutal truth of the matter.
The stunningly damning article in a publication that’s dedicated to the science of photography, expertly dissects how Euro-centric features have been manipulated into a sustaining template for Vogue’s stringent appetite.
You definitely don’t have to submit to extensive research sessions to unearth the fact that basically all of the recognizable brands under the umbrella of “fashion and beauty “— are proudly dedicated to the marketability of Whiteness, with just a sliver of tolerance for certain shades of color.
All of the Black women who are displayed on the coveted covers of noteworthy publications share the prominence of their viable hues, that helps establish their ability to be the “go-to” candidates for what most of you describe as “monumental” or “melaninspiration.”
Lupita Nyong’o is always the odd one out — and her good fortune stems from being the impossibly dark-skinned fetish of editors and cosmetic giants, who embarrassingly chose her as the one and only example of how Black skin can be exceptionally responsive to the senses.
So maybe that’s why we can assess Beyonce’s “history-making” cover as Vogue’s epic fail.
Especially when you consider how the “leaks and rumors” were propped for the benefit of hastily rewarding her with the crown of “wokeness” for scoping out and blessing the young Black photographer with his life-altering moment.
But since Vogue dropped its bestseller, it has been established that it was actually Wintour & Co. that slyly invited Tyler Mitchell, and the newly-minted whiz immediately confirmed the news on Twitter.
So, what’s with the purposed misinformation that seems to be mischievously packaged to undermine the level of influence that would allow for Beyonce’s complete control of a project, that needs her way more than she needs it?
You can just imagine the motivation behind the sudden need to step out of bounds after centuries of relying on the security of Whiteness for the funding of a traditionally exclusive establishment.
For those of us who are unmoved by the epic proportions of this righteous season, it’s almost insulting to witness how White brands are profiting from the exploitation of this era of “diversity,” by strategically utilizing the icons of the community as props to absolve decades of gross negligence and potent disdain for Blackness.
Why is Anna Wintour capable of swiftly garnering a talented up-and-coming Black photographer, just when it matters the most, when she could’ve easily made that call years ago — with a gorgeous Black model, making her debut as the “face of the moment?”
It appears that the meeting of minds decided to capitalize on the predictability of the Beyhive — and how easy it is to assuage the desires of those who can’t resist the opportunity to use her greatness as evidence of our progress — when it’s really just a ploy to blind us from the continued sluggishness of our overall representation.
I’m a devoted fan of Queen Bey, even though my initiation into her fabulousness happened much later in her career. My investment in her bedazzled feats forces me to also pay attention to the episodes when she’s been defeated.
The decent enough cover and lackluster spread in Vogue, is just another indication that she would’ve been better off rejecting the offer from the corporate board of bullshit, that succeeded in using her for temporary cleansing.
The beautiful Black woman whose electric stage presence is second to none — failed to electrify under the tutelage of Vogue’s brightly disingenuous lenses. The camera never lies, and you can’t hide the greedy incentives of those who are only receptive to “history-making” fare when it occurs on their terms.
Even the “interview” seems weirdly distant, despite the grand revelations (as told to Clover Hope) that sound heartwarmingly sincere, but based on the handful of in-person conversations that we’ve been privy to, it doesn’t feel like it really was delivered in “her own words.”
If this is how Vogue treats the most famous Black woman on the planet, then we can expect the future will not be kind to possible contenders.
As most of you indulge in the joyous occasion of the winning covers — circulating with the outlandish claims of future Black prosperity in the spirit of inclusion — people like me are offended by the methods of engagement that still relies on the handful of light-skinned superstars with the two darker counterparts that apply.
Once the dust settles, and our vision returns to normal, it will become clear that #melaninseason is exactly that. A season.
Consistent inclusion without a disproportionate affection for Whiteness and Lightness is not the preferred mode of expression for an industry that still believes in its coherency as the blueprint for trendsetters.
When a revolution happens, it’s usually spurned by the antics of rebels, who are sick and tired of enhancing the worn-out rhetoric of biased folks, that are in positions of power, and therefore able to propel the value of Whiteness at the expense of Blackness.
This means that as long as Black superstars are willing to lend their valuable currency to White institutions that don’t extend that same courtesy to their community-at-large — there will always be a degree of prejudice that prevents the monumental embrace of equality — that won’t only be regulated to the temporary hailstorm of our greatest hits.
When you talk “epic” and “history-making,” there has to be a fundamental shift that signals a permanent residency in the choreographed landscape of progress — that’s almost always summoned by the defiance of ending the shit fest — playing against us with the public relish that demeans the physicality of Black women who look dangerously — Black.
Beyonce is profoundly influential enough to not have to be associated with a powerless brand, that will revert back to the religion of canceling out anything that doesn’t resemble “the faces of fashion,” that have been consistently revered as “White” not “Black.”
It sucks that months from now, we will be treated with legions of issues that have been constructed and produced by an all-White team, who are well-versed in the language of Kendall, Gigi, and Bella — with splashes of White entertainers and the women of color who are in heavy rotation.
While we “vote for everybody Black,” we also need to vote for the success of Black-owned brands that could evolve into everything we need to combat this dependency on White-owned establishments — that were established to keep our Black asses in check — until whenever.
Vogue magazine’s epic fail is also our undoing, as we remain faithful to our abusers until we’ve finally had enough.
When will that be exactly?
Who knows. But when that moment of “snapping out of it” happens — it will be nothing short of epic.