One would have to be residing under a rock to be unaware of the outrage over the Vogue cover of the upcoming April issue. Though, there are those who take themselves too seriously to care, and to them I suggest, quite frankly, that they not continue on with this piece.
“To be in Vogue has to mean something.” That was the declaration of the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, in a 2011 interview with CBS News. Wintour continued on, affirming that, “It’s an endorsement. It’s a validation.” So with that being said, there’s no wonder why mainstream social media exploded last Friday afternoon when the April 2014 cover hit the internet like a nuclear missile.
Personally — bewildered — I recall turning my iPhone to the side in attempt to process what it was that I was seeing. After several months of speculation and rumors, a questionable personality was indeed the cover subject of fashion’s most prominent publication.
Almost immediately, the cover subject ecstatically took to her Twitter account. The poor girl was so thrilled that she tweeted how she “can’t even breath!”
I didn’t typo. She did.
But to understand the backlash over the cover, one would have to understand Vogue. Understand its content, and its 122-year history; though I had predicted on my own Twitter account — “What’s going to be most tragic is that there’s going to be a non-Vogue audience speaking on [the magazine]” — that many would not.
See, there is no question that the cover subject possesses a global brand, and base of followers; that isn’t the issue. The issue is that the makeup, or, representation of the cover subject’s followers goes against the makeup of Vogue readers in nearly every aspect.
In the days since the cover was released, the two bases have clashed — via social media — incessantly, with the cover subject’s followers inadequately labeling Vogue readers as ‘haters’.
Yet, on the contrary, where fans of the cover subject lack understanding is that the concept of hating can’t be applied in this instance, when the anger of the Vogue readers is predicated on their love, admiration, and respect for the magazine.
It’s an entirely different brand of loyalty — the Vogue reader — because one does not subscribe to the magazine, they surrender to it.
What separates the Vogue reader from others is merely the same concept that separates the magazine, itself, from its competitors. It’s what prompted the fictional, yet iconic Jay Gatsby to acclaim that, “She looks like she could be on the cover of Vogue,” of Daisy Buchanan — whom he viewed as the standard. And it’s what inclined Ms. Wintour to assert that, “Vogue is like Nike or Coca-Cola,” in a 2011 Wall Street Journal feature. It’s just a different level of sophistication.
Vogue represents a sophisticated fantasy for its readers — a demographic that may seemingly be comprised of only women and gay men, to the close-minded outsider.
I have long held firm to the mantra that ‘I will never question Anna’. She revolutionized — and arguably — saved the American print magazine industry when she began featuring celebrities on the cover in the 1990s.
This, however, is different. This cover in question isn’t revolutionary, as the cover subject has been featured on countless other publications. But that’s what made American Vogue sacred. That was the embodiment of the ‘mean something’ Ms. Wintour was referring to. Every cover feature that has preceded the current one has culturally — or professionally — brought something to the Vogue table.
So what does this cover subject bring to the table, I ask you? She’s been on film, but is she an actress? Singer, humanitarian, or entertainer — what is her occupation? Hell, since this is a matter of fashion, is she — like her younger sister — a runway model?
To all of the above, the answer is a resounding no.
By placing her on this cover, on the cover, we’re now grouping her with predecessors such as Princess Diana, Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, and Naomi Campbell. And recently questioned about her opinion of the cover, during an interview with Australia’s The Morning Show, supermodel Naomi Campbell stated simply, “I do not want to comment.” Six words that spoke a thousand.
Anna Wintour occasionally reflects on the tale of her very first Vogue issue, in which she featured a teen girl modeling Guess jeans on the cover. “The printers called us up because they’d thought we’d made a mistake,” she said.
One can only wish those printers were around recently, because you definitely made a mistake, Anna.