Amanda Gorman covers Vogue: she doesn’t curse or post party selfies

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Amanda Gorman covers the May issue of Vogue. Gorman’s star was already on the rise before the inauguration in January, but her recitation of her original poem, “The Hill We Climb,” became “the moment” of the masked, socially distanced inaugural. Her performance was visceral and poignant, especially given the fact that armed insurrectionists had tried to assassinate congressional leaders and overthrow one branch of government just fourteen days beforehand. Gorman has been A-list ever since, scoring public speaking events, doing interviews and now this, the cover of Vogue. The entire piece is worth a read – Gorman comes across as both an old soul and someone very “of her generation” at the same time. She veers between not wanting to be showy versus openly discussing her plans to be president. Boldness, but also that hyper-self-awareness which is very common in Gen Z. You can read her full cover profile here. Some highlights:

She loves astrology. “As a twin, I love being a Pisces, because it’s the two fish,” she said. She and her sister are best friends.

Democratic Party figures: Hillary Clinton, whom she’s known personally for some years. “Such a grandma,” she said affectionately. Other figures of the Democratic Party, whom she chatted with after the January ceremony, were described in similarly familial terms: Barack Obama, dadlike; Michelle Obama, the cool auntie.

A wholesome image. “God, I’m just the most squeaky-clean person,” she told me. The importance of maintaining a wholesome image was impressed upon her by her mother, a middle-school English teacher in Watts…Gorman prefers not to curse, or at least not on the record, but when I did in her company, out of habit, she commiserated with very deep nods. If some stimulus disturbs her cool so profoundly that she must reach for a four-letter word, she spells it out loud, always censoring the vowel, as in “s-h-asterisk-t.”

The pressure of performing her poem two weeks after the insurrection: “Not that no one else could have done it. But if they had taken another young poet and just been like, ‘A five-minute poem, please, and by the way the Capitol was just almost burned down. See you later.…’  That would have been traumatizing.”

What she wrote the night of Inauguration Day: “I’ve learned that it’s okay to be afraid. And what’s more, it’s okay to seek greatness. That does not make me a black hole seeking attention. It makes me a supernova.”

She doesn’t want to look like a token. “I don’t want it to be something that becomes a cage, where to be a successful Black girl, you have to be Amanda Gorman and go to Harvard. I want someone to eventually disrupt the model I have established.”

Making enough money to rent a nice apartment: “I’m trying not to judge myself. When you’re someone who’s lived a life where certain resources were scarce, you always feel like abundance is forbidden fruit.”

She loves fashion, but: “I’m not a BRAND AMBASSADOR or anything!… When I’m part of a campaign, the entity isn’t my body. It’s my voice.” Fashion brands are clamoring to be associated with Gorman. One of the members of her team recently sent out a request that companies stop sending her flowers. The unending deliveries had filled Gorman’s apartment, possibly triggering an allergic reaction severe enough to warrant a trip to urgent care.

Performing “Chorus of the Captains” at the Super Bowl: I asked if she felt ambivalent about writing for the NFL, following its treatment of activist Colin Kaepernick. For Nike, last year, she’d written a manifesto in celebration of the legacy of activist Black athletes. “It’s always complicated,” she said. “I said yes, not even for the money. I made so little money doing that shoot. I did it because of what I thought it would mean for poetry in the country, to have poetry performed, for the first time in history, at the Super Bowl.”

She’ll be president one day: Gorman has said that she wants to be president. She notes that she has the unofficial endorsements of Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama. That’s why you won’t find any “negativity” on her social media, to quote Wicks; any image, of her “at a party” or “in a bathing suit,” that might be construed by future pundits as less than savory. Black women will know this form of adaptation. It’s an accommodation to a scrutinizing eye, and it’s now natural for Gorman. She finds satisfaction in being able to set boundaries.

[From Vogue]

The last part made me a little bit sad because it feels like she’s allowing “respectability politics” to be imposed on her and then just acting like it’s her choice. A woman can go to a party and have fun and still become president. A woman can post a pool selfie and still become president. But on the other side of it… maybe that hyper-awareness of the optics is fine, and maybe it’s just Amanda setting her own boundaries, independent of “what will people think.” Gorman also says that she’s likely turned down $17 million worth of endorsements because she doesn’t always want to align herself with certain companies, or because those corporations try to give her “notes.” She also said something interesting – she was paraphrasing a recent Washington Post profile, and she talked about how, throughout history, poets can become pop stars, they become cultural icons. She’s well on her way.

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Covers courtesy of Vogue.

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23 Responses to “Amanda Gorman covers Vogue: she doesn’t curse or post party selfies”

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  1. Esmom says:

    Stunningly beautiful photos. She is so fascinating and inspiring and it sounds like she has the solid foundation her mom helped build to navigate her superstardom gracefully.

    And I’m glad poetry is being rediscovered. I’ve been going back to my English major roots and reading more of it. It was a Poetry 101 class in college that made me decide to switch to English as my major, but I periodically forget how much I enjoy it. Wishing Gorman all the best.

  2. Nev says:


  3. Bookie says:

    I hope I’m still alive to vote for her when her time comes.

  4. Mina_Esq says:

    On a superficial note, she wears clothes so well. I wouldn’t judge her at all if she got a contract with a designer, but I know that women like me are not who she is concerned about when she makes her comments. I can’t wait to see her growth. And I’m LOLing at her descriptions of Hillary and the Obamas.

  5. Levans says:

    I definitely got the internalizedrespectability politics vibe as well so I hope it is just her establishing boundaries. It reminds me of Maya Angelou and how she stopped cursing and drinking when her mother told her she was going to be someone important. I don’t have the willpower to not curse but Amanda has a better shot at being President than I do!

  6. Midnight@theOasis says:

    Those photos are gorgeous. I love those outfits she’s wearing. Hoping I’m still here to vote for Amanda when she runs for President.

  7. Case says:

    I love that she doesn’t curse because I really don’t either (unless I’ve spilled a drink all over or dropped something on my foot, lol). I’ve always felt like I’m a little weird for being that way!

    She’s just awesome. Wise beyond her years and beautiful. She has a great future ahead of her.

    • Lucy2 says:

      I don’t curse in conversation, never really have. By myself yes (especially driving) but rarely to other people. I guess because my parents are like that too?
      I had a former coworker who couldn’t go five words without saying f**k. In an office setting, it was weird.

      She is STUNNING in these photos, and such an amazing young woman. She seems laser focused, in a great way. I hope she achieves everything she wants.

  8. Wrin says:

    In a world where the hypersexualization of women of color is more the norm than the exception, Amanda is as refreshing as a cool breeze. She appears to be as beautiful on the inside as she is visually and her whole countenance makes my heart smile.

  9. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    She’s ethereal. And I agree with her about her online persona 100 percent. If you want to be seen in a particular light, you must adhere to certain parameters. It’s what I was taught. It’s what I taught my sons. It’s not hard. Less is always more.

  10. Jais says:

    Stunning photos to match her work.

  11. iconoclast59 says:

    What a terrific young woman. I love the dress in the second photo; perfect for a 2nd or later-in-life wedding!

  12. AMA1977 says:

    She makes me smile. The mom in me feels proud of her; I love how she knows her own mind and is quietly confident enough to be who she is and say what she will and won’t do, what she does and does not want. It gives me hope for the future to see young women like her…I want my daughter to have that level of confidence and poise.

    Side note, she looks absolutely gorgeous in every single photo. I canceled my VOGUE subscription half a lifetime ago, but I may just pick up a copy at the grocery store this month in support of this very deserving cover model!

  13. Jewell says:

    I watched her Oprah interview. She presents herself so well.

  14. mel says:

    I love her. I think she’s amazing, but as a black woman also raised in a home focused on hyper-respectability, success and appearances, I feel a bit sad for her. She is in a spotlight that may not allow her to fully BE herself. To explore, to deviate from her (and others) plans for herself, to make mistakes freely, learn, grow.
    I spent close to 40 years doing this before I said enough was enough and started charting my own path.
    Many studies have shown that if you aren’t allow to explore and make mistakes when young, you’ll eventually do it when you’re older. It’s part of the human experience that can’t be avoided. Best to do it when there is less at stake. Unfortunately for her, it looks like she may not have that opportunity.

  15. Otaku fairy says:

    Sometimes women’s boundaries or the choices made about modesty just to keep the peace are going to be in line with respectability politics. It is what it is. The problem is that there are so many people who exploit that by using us as weapons in their one-sided fight against those they want to victim-blame. People are always looking to use individual women to justify conservative beliefs/behaviors toward others, especially with women of color. There needs to be an understanding that the boundaries that some of us set (whether we have woke reasons for them or not) don’t mean that we’re ok with being used to abuse, or to explain why one ‘Has No Sympathy For’ other girls and women. It doesn’t mean we get laughs, pleasure, or self-esteem boosts from the pain and trauma of those who are less modest, or that those inflicting it are doing us favors.

  16. emu says:

    I love her, she’s so cool and so herself! She is still young and who knows what will happen. I’m happy she has received all of this attention from her amazing poem. I have her full book of poems pre-ordered and can’t wait for what she will accomplish.
    It is harder for millenials and gen Z to navigate a public persona, especially if they have been a normal person before with a normal online presence. I get it. I feel like people in general don’t need to post pool party photos anyways, regardless of their future ambitions.

  17. Common sense says:

    This young woman is amazing!

  18. Pix says:

    I love seeing this article on my favorite gossip site! She’s a wonder. Some people are just touched – and you can see that they will rise. She seems to sense that and is living her life according to her own values. I sense she’s looked up to Maya Angelou as a role model. I still haven’t forgiven the Washington Post for their original online obituary of Ms. Angelou. They changed it within hours after multiple complaints, but I will never forget.

  19. Banga says:

    “A woman can go to a party and have fun and still become president. A woman can post a pool selfie and still become president”

    This statement should be true Kaiser, but the fact of the matter is that it’s not.

    How are you still thinking that all doors are open to women, especially black women, in the year of our lord 2021? Don’t be so naive.