Oprah Winfrey always graces the cover of her magazine. Each month, a different picture her looks out from newsstands next to the signature “O” of the title; it’s part of what makes the magazine so identifiable. But for the first time in 20 years, Winfrey has given up her cover — the September 2020 issue will honour Breonna Taylor.
In an essay on the O magazine website, Winfrey explains why she has chosen to put Taylor on the cover, writing about how she identifies with Taylor and mourns the plans she had for her life that she never got to see through. “What I know for sure: We can’t be silent,” Winfrey writes. “We have to use whatever megaphone we have to cry for justice.” And Winfrey has a big megaphone and a big platform; she is a voice people listen to.
On the night of March, 26-year-old Taylor was asleep in her apartment with her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker. Three Louisville police officers issuing a “no-knock warrant” kicked in her door without announcing themselves — the wrong house — and Walker fired his gun in self-defence. The officers fired back over 20 times, with five bullets hitting and killing Taylor.
The cover is a portrait of Taylor, created by self-trained digital artist Alexis Franklin. The image is the one that has featured prominently in coverage of Taylor’s death and remembrances of her life — a selfie she took in her EMS shirt. Franklin enhanced the yellow background behind Taylor. Next to her head are the words, “Her life mattered.” Franklin began the process by sketching out her concept on Procreate before playing around with colours in Photoshop.
“Looking at [the source photo], I see an innocence, simple but powerful. It was critical for me to retain that,” Franklin writes in an essay for O. “And there was a sparkle in Breonna’s eyes — a young Black woman posing in her Louisville EMS shirt, happy to be alive.”
The cover comes as the magazine is moving to digital-only, with December 2020 being the last print issue. This means Taylor’s cover will be one of the last for the magazine. So far, there has been no justice for Taylor: one of the officers who killed her has lost his job; the other two are still employed. No charges have been filed.