jessica tholmer
February 04, 2015 10:09 am

Vanity Fair’s Hollywood Issue was released this week, and there has already been some significant backlash.

When the Academy Award nominations were announced back in January, one of the first things people noticed was that not just MOST of the acting nominees were white. ALL of the acting nominees were white. The David Oyelowo snub (for his role as Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma) seemed particularly harsh, and even led to a comment from the actor earlier this week: “We, as black people, have been celebrated more for when we are subservient, when we are not being leaders or kings or being at the center of our own narrative.” A devastating truth. 

Turning back to the mag, Vanity Fair’s Hollywood issue is released shortly before the Academy Awards every year. The issue is highly-anticipated, the cover is (almost always) shot by Annie Leibovitz, and many of us look forward to the old world Hollywood glamour, and the joy of seeing so many of our favorite actors draped all over each other in the signature triptych fold-out.

This year’s cover features a dapper Channing Tatum with Amy Adams slung over his shoulder, and Reese Witherspoon by his side. Adams and Witherspoon don beautiful gold dresses; Tatum is in white.

The cover folds out to feature a variety of other actors, Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sienna Miller, Oscar Isaac, Miles Teller, and Oyelowo. As is typical of the Hollywood Issue, many of the stars gracing the cover were not even nominated in an acting category. Oyelowo, Teller, and Miller are in movies that are nominated, but are not nominated themselves. Isaac stars in A Most Violent Year, which received not a single nomination. Since Vanity Fair tends to feature a variety of actors, even those not nominated for acting Oscars, what would have been the harm in adding diversity to the photo shoot? As it stands Oyelowo and Isaac are the only two people of color on this otherwise dramatically white cover.

As Jezebel so eloquently put it, “Vanity Fair’s Hollywood Issue only slightly less white than the Oscar race.” This should not be the case, particularly in a year that the Academy has received so much flack for their own lack of diversity

This is not nearly the first time Vanity Fair has taken heat about their lack of diversity. In 2010, there was heavy backlash for this cover which featured not one actress of color:

The slight was particularly harsh because it was a year in which Zoe Saldana starred in Avatar, the highest-grossing film of all time, and Gabourey Sidibe was nominated for an Oscar. As Poynter so aptly put it, “Do Vanity Fair’s Hollywood-issue cover choices simply hold a mirror up to an industry that lacks diversity, or should the magazine have been more deliberate about avoiding a whiteout?” The question remains but we have a pretty strong opinion about the answer.

Last year’s Hollywood Issue was a diversity standout. It featured Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o, Michael B. Jordan, Idris Elba, Naomie Harris, and Chadwick Boseman. And even better, Elba and Ejiofor graced the cover (pre-fold out) alongside Hollywood royalty George Clooney and Julia Roberts.

This beautiful cover is yet another reason why this year’s display feels particularly off tune. Bustle summed it up pretty nicely writing, “The magazine could’ve easily added some other actors of color to the mix, but instead, it chose to follow the path of the Oscars by making one of Hollywood’s most pressing issues even worse.” The Fashion Spot also criticized the mag’s choice saying, “Vanity Fair had the opportunity to make a statement on this year’s controversial award ceremony. Instead, it’s reflecting just how white the Oscars and Hollywood at large are. Was there no room for someone like Selma‘s Carmen Ejogo or the buzzy Tessa Thompson on this cover?” 

The fact of the matter is we deserve better, actors of color deserve better, and if Hollywood and award ceremonies aren’t going to step up to the diversity plate than magazines should lead the charge. Please.

It is zero surprise that the Twitter hashtag #OscarsSoWhite was the public’s response to this year’s nominees. The sad reality is it’s more than #OscarsSoWhite, it’s still #HollywoodSoWhite. It’s time for a change.

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