Well look at this. Vanity Fair magazine has decided, in a rare move, to feature a Black woman on its cover. Kerry Washington, the “Scandal” lead actress whose star is burning bright appears in her glory submerged in a pool in a white swimsuit.
(She also recently got married, so sincere congratulations are in order.)
Aside from the fact that Kerry herself is stunning on the cover and throughout the inside spread, and the article is probably well written, I scarcely care. My recent post “A Scandal-Free Life” accounts for just a small part of the apathy.
Although Kerry Washington deserves a lot of credit for her hard work paying off, the timing is all wrong and disingenuous. Kerry is really hot this year, thanks to her television work and the film “Django Unchained,” and she should have been featured in February’s Hollywood issue. Instead they decide to honor this woman’s career surge and influence on pop culture by giving her a summer issue. August is traditionally the skinniest on most magazines’ publishing calendars, coinciding with vacation travels. Fewer readers means lower advertising spending and smaller issues. Also, advertisers sometimes hold back for the traditionally fat September issues, when everyone is back from holiday and are focused on fashion again.
But aren’t you being a little sensitive, Paige, you ask, especially when Beyonce was on the cover of the Italian VF (April)?
Well, no. Vanity Fair completely ignored a stellar list of Black Americans for their 2012 covers. I wasn’t expecting some overexposed starlet to lead an issue, nor did I think VF should degrade itself by giving to me “straight, no chaser.” But Barack Obama, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston were all the subjects of lengthy features in 2012, yet they were all tucked inside. Gabrielle Douglas was tucked inside, too, but that was more understandable. They don’t seem to focus heavily on sports figures, but prefer popular American actors, musicians, heirs and heiresses with some kind of mystique. When you pass over all three of the Black Americans with the most undisputed mainstream appeal in modern times, you are absolutely in the wrong. The only person missing from their list of slights was Will Smith.
The most puzzling to me was the June 2012 issue, with Whitney. The feature itself sounded like it was written by someone who never heard of her, and was squeezing this in as a freelance assignment between gigs for OK! and People. Marilyn Monroe, who has been dead 50 years, made the cover because of some previously unpublished–until that issue–nude photos of her. For goodness sake! It’s sad that Marilyn died so young and all, but she was known as more of a sex symbol, not a real actress, and she never won any major awards in her discipline. Unlike Whitney who shared Marilyn’s mixed legacy of substance abuse, but managed to haul home enough awards to fill a small apartment.
That’s how Vanity Fair carries on. They’d to anything to stock the newsstands with a mainstream representation of America, even if it means running a rehashed profiles of late actors like Grace Kelly, Ms. Monroe and obsessing over love letters between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
Now there have been a couple of Black men on Vanity Fair’s cover in recent years–half-naked athletes. Draw your own conclusions.
So once again, I dropped a piece of pop culture because of the narrow way the gatekeepers chose to handle things. I might pick up a copy of August’s Vanity Fair, just to read what Ms. Washington has to say on the chosen topics. She probably doesn’t mention her marriage, because of the lead time on planning those issues. But I know that aside from being diverted by some of her films, which I’ll own up to enjoying, I find less and less that I want to influence me.