When Vogue revealed that Beyoncé would grace the cover of its September issue, we were all saturated with excitement. Not only had it been four years since the superstar had given a media interview, she was about to occupy a space traditionally reserved for slim, white women. “I was told that it was hard for me to get onto covers of magazines because black people did not sell”, she shares in her tell-all interview.
As if seeing Beyoncé break her silence and an invisible barrier in the process isn’t enough reason to celebrate, it is now clear that next month is set to become a landmark month in the fashion magazine industry. Beyoncé will be joined by a host of other black women gracing the September issue of our most popular glossies.
Rihanna’s face will cover British Vogue and Zendaya’s will be on Marie Claire. Lupita Nyong’o will grace Porter and Tiffany Haddish, Glamour. Tracee Ellis Ross will cover Elle Canada, whist Slick Woods will be on its UK version. In short, September 2018 is set to make history. The September issue has always had prestige attached to it. Autumn/winter collections are revealed, and magazine sales spike as a result. This is a known fact in the fashion industry, so much so that an American documentary entitled “The September Issue” was released in 2009. The fact that seven mainstream publications have chosen September as the month to show off black women, on both sides of the pond, proves that they believe in #blackgirlmagic. It is an attack on the very idea that black women don’t sell.
Not long ago, we were mourning the lack of inclusion in the media. Back in 2016, a Guardian article bemoaning the lack of BAME faces on our magazine covers exposed that “of 214 covers published by the 19 bestselling glossies [in 2015], only 20 featured a person of colour”.
Fast forward two years, women of colour are becoming harder to ignore. From Wakanda’s fictional Dora Milaje army, to our very own princess, Meghan Markle, and the release of Slay In Your Lane by Black British Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené, black women, in all their authenticity are slowly but surely moving front and centre into the consciousness of society. Next month’s magazine covers are adding to the collective voices advocating for more diverse representation.
We all know that whilst it’s the covers attracting the attention of millions, it is what’s on the inside that counts. In her bare all interview, Beyoncé touches on intimate details of her life, including motherhood, body image, her relationship with Jay-Z, and breaking generational curses. Whilst women everywhere will identify with parts of her story, what she has to say about widening the platform to include the voices of minorities will resound with black women. “Until there is a mosaic of perspectives coming from different ethnicities behind the lens, we will continue to have a narrow approach and view of what the world actually looks like. That is why I wanted to work with this brilliant 23-year-old photographer Tyler Mitchell”, she recounts.
But whilst the celebration continues, let’s not forget the average woman who does not have the platform that the Beyoncés, the Lupitas and the Zendayas do. The women who work hard every day to be afforded the same respect, salary and opportunities as white men. Official statistics expose the shameful truth. Whilst BAME only occupy 0.7% of the UK’s most influential positions, minority ethnic families earn up to £8,900 less than their white counterparts. What we would like to see is for the winds of change to also sweep through boardrooms and ministerial cabinets.
Despite the lack of equality black women face by virtue of their race and gender, it is heartening to see our favourite glossies take a stand against the status quo. Society as a whole might have a lot of catching up to do, but at least The September Issue has taken the much-needed step in the right direction.