The number of magazine covers that debut without some modicum of controversy these days is close to zero, but ELLE's recent Mindy Kaling cover got a particularly loud bashing around the Internet. Kaling's cover was part of a series of four covers also featuring Amy Poehler, Allison Williams, and Zooey Deschanel. While the latter three had color photos and full-body shots, Kaling's image was a close crop on her face in black and white.
Many readers interpreted some not-so-subtle implications from this decision, saying that the reasoning was indicative of racial and body-size prejudice. While Kaling herself tweeted that the photo made her feel "glamorous and cool" (adding "if anyone wants to see more of my body, go on thirteen dates with me"), the leadership at Hearst has mostly stayed mum on the matter, but Robbie Myers spoke out in her monthly editor's letter to defend the choice.
Myers acknowledged the criticism head-on in the second paragraph of her letter, stating that "while the majority of people who responded were pleased that a fashion magazine finally put Kaling on a cover, there was a very vocal minority who thought we’d somehow dissed both Mindy’s body and ethnicity because we shot her in black and white at a close angle," going on to say that hiding Kaling's body is "counter to everything we believe in."
In explanation of the editorial decision to give Kaling such a different cover from her peers, Myers offers the following:
"There was another picture of Mindy, in color, that was cropped right above her knees. She looked good in it, but she’d been shown like that before. At ELLE, we want our cover images to surprise, to reveal a side of someone that you might not have seen, and to convey that she’s more than just a pretty face in a cute dress. In the black-and-white photo, I thought that Mindy looked powerful, beautiful, potent, and sexy in the best sense of the word: When she looks at the camera, you see a woman who’s alluring and in control, a woman who’s not afraid of her own desires."
She cites a few other close-cropped, black-and-white covers of thin, white women as proof that the magazine has a history of this aesthetic. That's the last word on the matter from ELLE, as the rest of the letter focuses on current cover girl Dakota Johnson and a forthcoming partnership with The Face. Ultimately, it doesn't reveal much about the decision, nor will this letter likely change the minds of those who felt strongly that the cover was problematic or in bad taste. But, if you were on the fence, does this additional info change your perspective at all? Let us know. (ELLE)