FINALLY: Kerry Washington Is The First Black Woman To Cover Vanity Fair In Nearly 10 Years (Why That’s A Problem)

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July 2, 2013 ‐ By Clarke Gail Baines

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Finally. Kerry is giving us life with her Vanity Fair cover, and in a pool with wet hair nonetheless! That’s huge. Yes, some of us DO swim and have the talents deserving of covering even this all-vanilla-everything magazine.

You know, I don’t even read Vanity Fair like that, though I’ve flipped through a few of their issues here and there. But I always knew that the magazine was an authority on pop culture, especially what’s hot and what’s not in Hollywood. And maybe that was what was always so frustrating about the publication. While a force in bringing some of the hottest new stars to the forefront of mainstream view, Vanity Fair has managed to neglect putting a black face on their magazine as if our stars aren’t doing great things, including bringing home Oscars (which we’ve been doing consistently for the last few years).

The last time a black woman was on the cover of the magazine was in 2005 when Beyoncé was taking over the world, and that was basically the blackest issue they ever had because it pointed out the “Kings and Queens” of Hip Hop. Random? Why yes. Two years later, the next black woman to cover was….Beyoncé again, this time with her Dreamgirls cast in Jamie Foxx and Eddie Murphy (But of course, no Jennifer Hudson, despite the fact that she carried that movie). Black men have showed up on the cover, but mostly for sad reasons, including scandal (Tiger Woods) and death (Michael Jackson). As Dodai Stewart and the folks at Jezebel made clear, only stars with blonde hair and blue eyes who star in movies that are based off of young adult books can get on the cover of this magazine, and many others like it. That’s a shame.

So Kerry Washington covering the August 2013 issue truly is a big deal. Especially since they point out that she is clearly “The Most Intriguing Star on The Most Intriguing Show.” Washington has carried films for years now with not only her clear acting skills, but also just a face (you know that beclouded face she makes when she’s unveiled a major secret/tragedy/bad news/some form of ratchetry). A face full of gripping emotion, sexuality and more. It’s that face and her talent which have kept Gladiators glued to Scandal, and have allowed her to find success in both indie films as well as big-budget movies as well.

She’s been “close” to the cover before, appearing in a spread with other rising Hollywood stars on that flap they give to those who are supposed to be on the cover but “don’t fit.” You know the one. It’s usually folded behind the coveted cover, sitting next to an ad for Gucci or Estee Lauder makeup. Raven-Symone, Anthony Mackie, Rashida JonesAdepero OduyeQuvenzhané Wallis, Zoe Saldana, Jada Pinkett Smith and Angela Bassett have all found themselves behind that dreaded flap as fresh faces in Hollywood who were clearly good, but not good enough to Vanity Fair. It seems that they’ve finally had a change of heart, even if just temporarily.

As more and more cover opportunities come in for Washington, from Elle to The Hollywood Reporter, Parade and more, we’re hoping Vanity Fair and other “mainstream” publications will be more open to feature black women on covers in various realms who are doing great things. To think, after all these years there has been no Venus and Serena? No Rihanna? No Michelle Obama? No Gabby Douglas? NO OPRAH? They are some of the most known. To deny the contributions even these few ladies have made out of many to pop culture is to admit you don’t care that times are changing. And with a black president and first lady and a country where minorities are slowly but surely outnumbering white folks, it’s about time more magazines start. Just saying. Kudos to you Kerry!

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  • Gabie Aldrich

    I read everything! I have all types of mags I try not to just read one mag because of who is on the cover. It’s good to learn about other cultures and not close off the others.

  • cb

    Can people STOP sayin “I’m just saying” it is getting on my nerves

  • Yolanda

    Kerry has surpassed Halle Berry as the hottest commodity in Black Hollywood!

  • IllyPhilly

    Good and more Black people should only support those magazines (Vanity Fair, Glamour, etc,) when you see Black faces. An editor said they don’t post many Black faces on those types of magazines because Black faces don’t sell those types of magazines. Prove ‘em wrong and support Kerry. Even with little to no dark people advertised, some Black folk can’t wait to rush out and buy stuff with all those brand names on them by folks who don’t have them in mind.

  • deebeezy

    Alicia Keys and Iman were on the cover in 2007…but you’re right it has been a min.

    • CBaines

      Girl, that was the Africa issue, lol. But you’re right, you’re right. :)

  • Alexa

    As much as I am in love and so proud of Kerry Washington I have to say this…

    I am so over white media/ publication/ hollywood and what they consider “in.” The fact that Beyonce was the last woman of color on their cover ten years ago speaks volumes to me about the media. In 2003 Halle Berry was named “Worlds Most Beautiful Woman” by People’s magazine and nine years after that it was Beyonce. It’s like they’re always throwing black women a bone every once in a while to keep us happy for the time being. Honestly I rather them keep it.

    • http://www.yourtango.com/users/cheekee-baby cheekee baby

      Name the last Asian “world’s most Beautiful woman” I’ll wait. . . . and little known fact Asians represent a larger world population than blacks by far. How come they are so under represented in the media and magazines? Where’s their bone at?

      What’s my point you may ask, when will we move pass the need to have mainstream white media validate us? We are super talented, intelligent, accomplished, and yes beautiful. Whether Naomi Campbell gets a on another cover of Vogue isn’t going to change that.

      • chanela

        right! when i speak about diversity in the media i mean EVERYBODY. it’s true! you don’t see asians(east and south asian),pacific islanders, middle eastern people (unless its a movie about terrorism smh),native americans,or hispanics that don’t look like jennifur lopez and america ferrera.(except for on breaking bad with the character gustavo.)

  • http://www.yourtango.com/users/cheekee-baby cheekee baby

    Maybe this is why:

    “You know, I don’t even read Vanity Fair like that, though I’ve flipped through a few of their issues here and there.”

    They are targeting a different audience that aren’t black women. . . . . The day Ebony has Miley Cyrus on the cover. . . .

    • CBaines

      And that statement has a great deal to do with the fact that they don’t cover very many black entertainers. It’s a cyclical thing honestly. That’s why I said I flip through sometimes, because when I know certain issues have black folks in it, including the Tiger Woods one from years back, the Hollywood issue with Adepero in it, and the Michael Jackson issue after his death, I’ll look at it. But once I realized that they only care about the flavor of the month most months for the covers (Lindsay Lohan, Brad Pitt for the umpteenth time, stars who’ve been dead for years, a la, Audrey Hepburn), I stopped picking up the magazine. And Ebony caters to a black audience, Vanity Fair just claims to cater to those who love pop culture, care about fashion and current affairs, so that should include more people on the cover. Big difference in responsibilities.

      • http://www.yourtango.com/users/cheekee-baby cheekee baby

        So says you. Their editors and managers have found an audience and following that moves their magazines. It doesn’t incorporate enough black celebs to garner your personal subscription and that’s fine. Stick to only purchasing the copies that feature black celebs on the cover I suppose.

        In the meantime my coffee table is covered by Ebony, Essence and yes even some Jet magazines. Every month I get a new one with a smiling black face and that’s good enough for me. I don’t need Vanity Fair to validate black is beautiful and that we have talented sistas and brothas doing the thang.

        • CBaines

          That’s true, we do. And I too subscribe to Essence and pick up Ebony at the store. I understand that we can’t be a part of or on the cover of everything, but when you say you’re about pop culture and our people are starring in successful shows and movies and winning Oscars and dominating sports, it shouldn’t take almost 10 years for someone to get recognized for it when Lindsay has had about three covers in the last few years for doing a whole lot of nothing. They’ve earned it as well. But alas, such is the business. I respect your opinion and we’ll just agree to disagree.

          • http://www.yourtango.com/users/cheekee-baby cheekee baby

            Fair enough. :)

    • IllyPhilly

      Watch a kardashian end up on the cover soon.

      • http://www.yourtango.com/users/cheekee-baby cheekee baby

        They day that happens is the day I cancel my subscription. You can’t be black through osmosis.

        • IllyPhilly

          LMAO.

    • chanela

      i can see that happening soon. i’m surprised that the kardashians weren’t in ebony yet. they are featured heavily on every other black aimed website, might as well.

  • Nope

    I’m divided on this one. Black people are a big part of pop culture as contributors and consumers. But most Black people don’t honestly read those publications anyway. I would actually prefer that more Black faces appear on things of substance and that more Black people were consumers of those things. Far too often we’re worried about the wrong damn things.

No thanks