Vogue’s September issue aims for inclusivity: does it work or is it just tokenism?

2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party

Someone mentioned in the comments that there was a rumor going around that Adele would be the cover girl for Vogue’s September issue. If only! Instead, we get this September issue which… it’s not great, let’s be honest. I know what Anna Wintour was going for, truly. I understand the idea behind it, and if even if you don’t understand the ideas behind it, the self-congratulatory cover story beats us over the head with it: diversity, inclusion, no more sizeism or racism! We’re still ageist though, don’t worry!

The “cover models” are Kaia Gerber, Anok Yai, Ariel Nicholson, Bella Hadid, Lola Leon (in the right-hand corner), Sherry Shi, Yumi Nu and Precious Lee. Precious is “the Black model who is not a sample size.” Yumi Nu is “the Asian model who is not a sample size.” Bella is a white-presenting half-Palestinian woman. Kaia is white bread. Sherry is Chinese-American. Anok is Sudanase-American. Ariel is a trans woman. Lola is half-Cuban and half-Italian-American. So, when we take a moment to identify these women and grasp what Vogue is trying to represent, how do you feel? Does it feel like “too little too late”? Does it feel like tokenism? Does it feel like maybe the idea was okay but the execution kind of sucks? Because most of all, I just feel like this is a bad photo for the damn cover. It feels like the only thing uniting these women is youth and slicked-down hair with center parts.

As I said, the Vogue cover article is very self-congratulatory as various fashion industry professionals seem shell-shocked by the fact that they can’t gatekeep their way out of this. They desperately want to make the fashion industry white and thin again and they’re only pretending to be happy with this new turn of events all while feverishly muttering to themselves “but what about the sample sizes?!?!” This paragraph was particular rich:

It is tempting to pan across the faces on these pages and see the shattering of beauty norms: There’s no dominant type, no singular standard for readers to measure themselves against. For far too long, that standard was bone-thin, painfully young, cisgender, and, by an overwhelming margin, white. Such uniformity now seems outrageous, both antiquated and out of sync with a culture rejoicing in the hard-fought visibility of people who mirror the splendid multiplicity of our modern global society. Yet the mind snags on this idea that beauty norms have gone out the window: There is still, of course, currency in being a slim, conventionally pretty white woman, as most-followed female TikTok stars Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae might attest. On Instagram, lingerie ads featuring women with voluptuous fat rolls alternate with others for products promising speedy post-pandemic weight loss. There’s work yet to do on this front.

[From Vogue]

I’m sorry, this is a whole mess. Here’s a cookie for “trying” though. I know you won’t eat it.

Cover & IGs courtesy of Vogue.

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36 Responses to “Vogue’s September issue aims for inclusivity: does it work or is it just tokenism?”

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  1. B says:

    Say what you will about Bella or Kaia, but they’re actually successful working models. WTF is Lourdes doing there????

  2. NotHeidisGirl says:

    Meh. Performative.

  3. Mireille says:

    This comes off too self-congratulatory to me. They should have done this cover 10, 15, 20 years ago if they wanted to make a statement. “Woke” Vogue is hypocritical — they spent generations idealizing the skinny, super tall, white waif as the standard for beauty. No different from the runway. And Vogue should cover all the U.S. women who competed at the Olympics — athletic achievement, fitness, and beauty all rolled into one. Beauty is not just for models.

    • Christine says:

      Agreed. Please, Vogue, tell me again how you are the pinnacle of beautiful women, while making a cover as obvious as possible. We get it, you don’t really like any of us, but you will toss up a cover as some sort of panacea to the inclusive movement that is currently happening. It’s gross, and decades late, for what you think you are, Vogue.

  4. Natters says:

    OMG! That red headed model has Nicole Kidman’s weird clap style! Is this how gingers clap? Lol! Sorry it’s Friday and I needed a good laugh.

  5. Jais says:

    Well aside from kaia and Bella, do any of those women get individual vogue covers throughout the year? If not, then this is kinda superficial.

    • Becks1 says:

      That’s what I was thinking. This is the kind of thing where you need to show, not tell. Don’t tell us how diverse and inclusive you are. Just show us. Feature these women on your cover on a regular basis. Feature them in prominent fashion rollouts in the magazine (maybe they do, IDK, I haven’t read Vogue in forever.) etc. Putting them on a cover WITH Kaia Gerber in a group setting where you can’t get a good look at half of them is just…..performative.

  6. sa says:

    Lola Leon, that’s Madonna’s daughter, right?

  7. Eurydice says:

    I don’t know – it looks like they took diversity and homogenized it. Maybe it’s the hair or that they’re all young, or maybe that they all have the same eyebrows and cheekbones and smile. Like they took a generic template of a female and used a computer to change the skin color, tweak the features a little, make this one heavier and that one thinner – there’s no personality.

  8. MissMerry says:

    3 of them look like they’re just clapping for Lola…and what is with the guy sitting at the computer?! Is he supposed to be doing the photoshopping that fashion magazines are known for? lol

  9. Chana says:

    A diversity issue that doesnt mention at all that Bella is Palestinian and uses her social media to teach people about the occupation? Yeah, this is shallow and self-congratulatory. (Also white-presenting doesnt seem necessary, a ton of Palestinians just look white or have blonde hair)

    Also why is Lourdes there lmao. Has anyone else noticed that every article about Lourdes has to hype her up so hard like “just WAIT until she comes into her own, she has so much to prove!!!” ok I’m waiting..?

    • Khawla says:

      “Also white-presenting doesn’t seem necessary, a ton of Palestinians just look white or have blonde hair”

      That’s because a ton (i.e. a majority) of Palestinians *are* white. And I say that as a Palestine-born and raised Palestinian. American race categories do not work worldwide – they barely work in America, truthfully. It’s super weird and quite disturbing that woke, anti-imperial , progressive Americans are now trying to colonize the way other people worldwide think about themselves by exporting American race categories, a new generation seemingly unable to shake off the habits of their own colonizing American ancestors.

      Also, Bella is also not a Palestinian woman in the way it is being framed here. She is an American woman with Palestinian and Dutch heritage and is thus afforded the grace, space and privileges that people like me and my family and friends, actual Palestinians, are not. It’s a small distinction but important and in no way diminishes her Palestinian-ness, something which is important to her as she is a great American ally and activist for those in her ancestral, and my actual, native homeland. Americans must become comfortable with celebrating their (usually multiple) ethnic heritages but also accepting they and other Americans *are* Americans. Bella seems to do this but others (usually to herald some false international diversity for their own publications) present her equivalent to being a native Palestinian which she is, obviously, not.

      • Chana says:

        “Bella is also not a Palestinian woman in the way it is being framed here” it’s not being framed anywhere in the article, that was my point. You are right that categories like “white” are arbitrary and American, I just didn’t think the author needed to qualify Bella like that.

        I am aware she does not have the lived experience of a native Palestinian person. I don’t expect any true diversity of experiences from western media. But I just think it’s revealing that this very inoffensive fact about her heritage is missing in a self-congratulatory article explicitly about diversity.

      • Eurydice says:

        This is interesting to me because I am Greek, but have blonde hair and blue eyes. People assume that those from the Mediterranean countries should be dark. When I came to the US, my classmates and colleagues thought I looked “ethnic” – now that I’m older, I’m too white. Perhaps even white bread, as Kaia is described.

      • santan says:

        If you think “American race categories’ are ‘colonial’ then why do you claim ‘the majority of ‘Palestinians’ are white” ?

        ‘White’ is just another American race category after all.

        Also Palestinians aren’t white by any definition of whiteness- origin or appearance. You’re claiming that the minority of Palestinians who are light skinned are the majority, which simply isn’t true, most are darker and quite brown skinned. They are Arabic people from Western Asia, not Europe.

  10. Pork chops & Apple sauce says:

    I know Ariel’s mother and I feel her journey has been difficult and amazing. I feel certain Ariel feels validated by being on the cover, no matter whatever else is going on here. I won’t take this away from her.

  11. psl says:

    Bella looks completely manufactured, and Kaia would not have the career she is having if Cindy Crawford was not her mother.
    Lourdes Leon? *rolls eyes* Please.

  12. LolaB says:

    The white highlighter on their chins and at their temples is killing me.

  13. Janice Hill says:

    Vogue did the same thing in the 1990s. It hasn’t changed its approach. When it will regularly feature women of color in solo covers, then it will have changed.

  14. Lory says:

    Too many men on the cover.
    Of course there’s a man in front of a computer editing and dictating how women should look in media. It’s still about the male gaze.

    • Jules says:

      The guy on the computer with his back to everyone totally caught my eye— it looks so odd, and says so much.

  15. Another Anna says:

    This whole cover just screams too little too late to me. The two non-sample size models probably would not qualify as plus size for the purposes of shipping for clothes. If either of those women is above a size 10, I’d be surprised. As a fat woman I don’t see this and feel represented, I see this and think “ah yes, this is the largest size Anna Wintour can force herself to accept.” I’m not impressed and it doesn’t make me any more interested in what Vogue has to say. Ultimately I think Anna Win tour’s leadership at Vogue is stuck in the 90s/2000s.

  16. Christina says:

    Vogue needs to hire some people of color, some American BLACK people, and give them editorial power. Wintour is trying to show that she is relevant and learning, but she won’t listen to the experts unless forced. Rihanna is the biggest star in the world. Why can’t Wintour take advice from her people, and hire people recommended by them?

    Nothing’s changing.

  17. Grace says:

    My favorite quote: “When you’re good, you tell others. When you are great, others tell you.” (looking at you, Vogue.)

  18. Beth says:

    I would have been excited about a cover like this 15 years ago. Now I don’t buy Vogue and don’t plan to start again.

  19. Umm_Kulthum says:

    Pure tokenism. Bella is just as much “whitebread” as Kaia, btw. Both those white models have had cover after cover after cover, while the other models featured haven’t. Vogue may pat themselves on the back but no-one else should. They’re doing the barest of bare minimum and expecting to be applauded for it.

  20. Sleah says:

    Too little too late for the attempt at inclusion. I agree with the other comments regarding lack of covers. The new cover is tone deaf for another reason. It appears to be an attempt to normalize and campaign for “back to the office culture”. Most people don’t want to go back to the office politics , control factors and loss of work life balance. It’s offensive that all the models are “back in the office” Yet Anna is shown via screen / remote in the comfort of home. Hierarchy much? I’m finding those that want to go back to office have issues at home. If you have a happy home you’re more apt to stay productive remotely. A hard pass on this cover.

  21. Lee says:

    How did Vogue let the make-up artist do them like that?!? Lol – I’m crying over that highlighter!!!

  22. Ann says:

    It’s hokey at this point. But I will say my eye was immediately drawn to the young woman in the lower left hand corner. She’s dazzling.

  23. L4frimaire says:

    Why is the back of some guys head taking up space on the cover?Kind of random. Not the best composition and the clothes are a bit bland and lacking direction.