Is Vogue Putting All Of Its Diversity Into One Issue Every Year?

Photo: Courtesy Vogue.
Last week, Serena Williams was revealed as Vogue's April 2015 cover star. It's the tennis pro's second cover, her first being a joint shoot with Hope Solo and Ryan Lochte in June 2012 to coincide with the Summer Olympics. She's also the first woman of color to grace the fashion magazine this year. But, she's far from being the first woman of color to appear on its April cover. Look through the Vogue archives and you'll see a striking trend. In the last 10 years, seven out of 10 April covers have featured a person of color. That's not just women of color, as two of the cover stars happen to be men — Kanye West in 2014 and LeBron James in 2008. The remaining April stars are First Lady Michelle Obama (2013), Jennifer Lopez (2012), Rihanna (2011), and Beyoncé (2009). Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen, who starred alongside James in 2008, covered the April 2010 issue. (It's worth noting that the 2008 Gisele/James cover drew controversy for allegedly perpetuating racial stereotypes.) By comparison, March covers have featured just four women of color in that same time period, amounting to a less impressive 40%. But, what is it about April? The answer might lie in the fact that April happens to be Vogue's Shape Issue, which accounts for the inclusion of athletes like James and Williams. A source at Vogue, however, said the theme didn't always impact the cover star. Instead, much of it is down to timing and a celebrity's availability. Kanye West and Kim Kardashian's April 2014 wedding shoot made sense as the couple was tying the knot in May. Obama's tight schedule dictated her April placement. But, critics might point out that combining a non-model body and a non-white woman — two underrepresented groups when it comes to fashion magazines — into one image is a two-birds-with-one-stone approach to inclusivity that feels remiss. It's important to note, though, that Vogue has featured POC outside of its April Shape issue. In 2014, the magazine broke its own record for featuring people of color on its covers (Rihanna, Kim and Kanye, Lupita Nyong'o, and Joan Smalls), compared to just two (Beyoncé and Michelle Obama) in 2013. Smalls was also the first WOC to grace the coveted September issue since Halle Berry in 2010.  If it hopes to match or exceed that record this year, it'll have to hurry — there are only eight covers left.

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