Lack-of-progress report: Magazine cover models were mostly white this year

We’ve seen many women of color do some pretty amazing things this year (not to mention every year), so why are they STILL so underrepresented in the media? Specifically, on magazine covers? The fashion industry is clearly struggling with diversity when it comes to magazine cover models, and it’s not OK. The Fashion Spot checked out 44 major print magazines from 2014 from all areas of the world, and came up with some shocking statistics*:

  • Out of 611 covers (including magazines with multiple covers), white models appeared 567 times.
  • Women of color appeared only 119 times.
  • Magazines that used exclusively white models include Harper’s Bazaar U.S. U.K.Vogue U.K., Vogue Netherlands, Vogue Paris, Vogue Ukraine, Vogue Russia, Teen Vogue, Numéro, LOVE and Porter. 
  • Vogue Japan had only 3 of their 14 covers featuring women of color, and only ONE of them was of Japanese descent.
  • Vogue Korea used women of color only 4 times, as opposed to white models who appeared 13 times.
  • Vogue U.K. has not had a woman of color appear solo on their cover in 12 years. TWELVE. YEARS.

Here’s what those stats look like:

And it isn’t just women. Even PEOPLE magazine’s 2014 “Sexiest Man Alive” is white.

But it’s not all disparaging. Let’s give credit where credit is due: Glamour magazine named Lupita Nyong’o as their “Glamour Woman of the Year” and gave her a beautiful cover. That’s a good step in the right direction. We’ve also seen Kerry Washington make the rounds, covering Allure and Women’s Health. So, yay for that.

Also, we’ve seen some progress from last year to this year alone. For example, in 2013, Maxim featured zero women of color on their covers —that’s right, zero. This year, they had 2. So good for Maxim.

On the other hand, we’ve also backslid. Teen Vogue had more women of color last year on their magazine covers than they did this year. Half of the models were white, and half were not. Sadly, that’s changed this year, in which all models were white. Harpar’s Bazaar also went backwards in a similar fashion.

Maybe some of you are wondering, why does this matter? Why is this is important?

Because it’s important to see diversity on magazine covers. It may seem to some like it’s “not a big deal” but it is. Kirsten West Savali of XoJane sums it up better than I can:

It’s so frustrating to see these small steps towards diversity when they really should be leaps. So what can we do?

Well, we can buy magazines that feature women of color on the cover. That’s how we can show our support —with our money. Because the word is that editors believe that women of color do not sell magazines. Let’s prove those editors wrong. Green is the one color editors have no problem with, right?

*note: they define “model” as anyone who appeared on the cover, so this includes actresses, musicians, etc

Images: Harper’s Bazaar U.S., The Fashion Spot