Over the last week, we all have come across pictures of people posing as if they are on the glamorous cover of the Vogue magazine but many are unaware of the fact that #thevoguechallenge is more than just a hashtag trending on the internet. This new trend was first originated on TikTok in mid-May before taking on a new meaning amid widespread Black Lives Matter movements over the past few weeks. The challenge went viral on both Twitter and Instagram, where thousands of Black users are imagining their own versions of Vogue covers.
The movement responds to the letter Anna Wintour sent earlier this week to employees admitting that “Vogue has not found enough ways to elevate and give space to Black editors, writers, photographers, designers and other creators. We have made mistakes too, publishing images or stories that have been hurtful or intolerant. I take full responsibility for those mistakes,” it read. According to Teen Vogue, there has been only one Black photographer to shoot a cover in the 127-year history of the publication, and only 21 Black women have appeared on the cover solo. Now, with Wintour’s belated acknowledgment of racial disparity within the company, Black creatives are centering their bodies and talent by adopting the iconic branding imagery.
With New York fashion week been written off, the Met Gala been cancelled, magazine advertising revenues plummeting and there are scarcely any frocks to shoot since the coronavirus barged its way into the European fashion shows in February there is yet another crisis breaking over Wintour, Vogue and the Condé Nast publishing empire: the reckoning with racism in America, triggered by the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis, that has now spread to all aspects of American life, from publishing to academia to sports.
Few weeks ago, Condé Nast, the publisher of Vogue and other lifestyle glam publications, were criticised for their lack of support to diversity in the workplace and the quality of content they produce. With two senior editors leaving over racial insensitivity, and former employees describing the Vogue workplace as fearful, accounts of discrimination in the New York office of Condé Nast flood out.
There were rumours that Wintour’s position as Vogue’s editor-in-chief, as well as the publisher’s US artistic director and “global content adviser”, could be becoming untenable after several employees spoke out about racial discrimination in the workplace and pay inequities. But on Friday, Condé Nast’s top executive convened a town hall meeting of employees to say that Wintour would not be stepping down. “There are very few people in the world who can have the influence on change and culture, as it relates to the activities that our business has, than Anna,” Condé Nast’s CEO, Roger Lynch, said. “The reason she is here is because she can help influence the change that we need to make, and I know she is committed to it.”
On Monday, Condé Nast reckoned with how the company deals with issues related to race. Adam Rapoport, the longtime top editor of Bon Appétit, resigned after a photo surfaced on social media showing him in a costume that stereotypically depicted Puerto Rican dress. That was quickly followed by the exit of Condé Nast’s head of lifestyle video programming, Matt Duckor, after staffers claimed that Condé Nast failed to feature people of color in videos and did not pay them for appearances. A number of Duckor’s tweets with racist and homophobic comments were recirculated online.
– Rutuja Shinde