'Vogue Paris' is featuring its first Black cover girl in five years. Here's why it matters.
As progressive and forward-thinking as the fashion industry claims to be, it remains woefully lacking in diversity. This is an issue that’s highlighted when great moments — like yesterday’s revelation that the gorgeous Ethiopian model Liya Kedebe will grace the cover of this May’s Vogue Paris! — are overshadowed by less stellar news, like the fact that Kedebe is the first black model to appear alone on the magazine’s cover in five years.
Of course, this problem is hardly unique to Vogue Paris: Jourdan Dunn made the cover of Vogue UK this February — but she was the first black model to clinch a solo cover in 12 long years. Add to that, the fashion world’s more tone deaf moments, which include multiple instances of blackface and unadulterated racism by some of its biggest names.
The fashion industry has always made a big deal out of its willingness to embrace those seemingly living in the margins, whether they be transgender, androgynous, plus size, disabled, or people of color. But these important moments, are just that, fleeting moments, which tend to garner a lot of attention at the time, but don’t make up for the sad fact that most of the time these inspiring individuals aren’t featured on covers, runways, or in editorials.
Still, the industry is building awareness about the problem and one of the champions of the movement to diversify the industry is the Council of Fashion Designers of America, or CFDA, which in working with the Diversity Coalition — founded by Iman, Naomi Campbell, and Bethann Hardison — published for bringing more models of color to the forefront. Still, the industry needs to kick its diversity efforts into high gear, and soon: The U.S. alone will be “majority-minority” by 2043 and we want that new generation to see itself represented everywhere. Including newsstands.