Is This The Most Diverse Vanity Fair Cover Ever? We Asked An Expert

05 February 2014

This week Vanity Fair was feted for having the most diverse cover ever in it's history for it's much anticipated annual Hollywood issue.

Shot by Annie Leibovitz, the gatefold's format was the same – artfully staged tableau, limbs interlinked, serious dresses - but there was a notable difference. Of the 12 actors, six were black: Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), and Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave), Idris Elba (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom), Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station), Naomie Harris (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom) and Chadwick Boseman (42).

This is a marked change. Of the past ten covers, the most has been two. Two! But what does this mean? Is this the end of years of the magazine's much-criticised 'whitewashed' covers? Is this a giant leap for racial diversity in the media and Hollywood? Has Hollywood really changed? Or is it simply the fact that some of the best films of the year - 12 Years a Slave, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Fruitvale Station – mean 2014 is a good year to be a black actor in Hollywood? We asked an expert

Kiri Kankhwende, Special projects at Media Diversified (an organisation which ‘tackles the lack of diversity in UK media and the ubiquity of whiteness’) believes it's a start, but there is still a long way to go.

'My view is that it's great to see six people of colour on the fold-out cover - with two of them visible on the actual front that is seen on the news-stands (Idris and Chiwetel). In addition to the men, it's wonderful to see Lupita Nyongo'o and Naomie Harris there, as black women. The fact that this is the Hollywood Issue is significant; it reflects the films that are out at the moment which not only have people of colour in lead roles but also directors such as Steve McQueen behind the camera. It is interesting that three are Brits - and there has been a lot of discussion about why so many Black actors have to cross the Atlantic to find success lately. 

Also, while this is great, it's just the start. Hollywood is lagging behind TV in having people in colour in roles that can only be played by people of colour - eg stories about Slavery, Mandela. There are lots of TV shows with diverse casts doing very well at the moment such as Sleepy Hollow, which show that diverse casting is popular and lucrative. Part of the reason Vanity Fair is doing this is because it won't hit their sales. This is progress. However it's just the start. Where are the Latin American, Asian American, Native American cover stars (and leading men and women in Hollywood?) This is great, but we've still got a way to go'.

But what do you think? Let us know what you think in the comments below...



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