TheFashionSpot releases its annual Magazine Cover Diversity Report at the end of each year, covering major fashion magazine covers. The online community of designers, stylists, and industry influencers tallied 678 covers from 48 top international fashion publications, from InStyle to Harper’s Bazaar and the international editions of Vogue, to determine which are featuring more diversity than ever before, who is lagging as the industry progresses and just how much further fashion must go in representing plus size, people of colour, older (50+) and transgender models.
TheFashionSpot, like many of us, had high hopes for the year’s magazine diversity ratings. And while the numbers don’t quite do justice to the state of the industry at large, they’re far from discouraging.
Here are some of the key findings from the 2016 report
1. Of the total 679 cover appearances, 482 included white cover stars and 197 included people of colour.
VOGUE INDIA APRIL 2016, TEEN VOGUE FEBRUARY 2016, PAPER SEPTEMBER 2016; IMAGES: COURTESY
To put it more plainly, 482 white models graced the covers of popular fashion glossies in 2016. Meanwhile, only 197 non-white faces stared back at us from newsstands. Several magazines managed to book exclusively white cover stars, among them industry darling LOVE. To make matters worse, the quarterly hasn’t featured a cover model of colour in at least three years. Vogue Germany, Vogue Netherlands, Vogue Russia, Harper’s Bazaar U.S. and Porter also limited their covers to white models.
Vogue’s British edition didn’t do much to address its inclusivity problem this year. While its well-meaning editor-in-chief, Alexandra Shulman, dedicates herself to the topics of body positivity and “realness,” the mag continues to gloss over the matter of racial inclusion. Rihanna was the only nonwhite person to front the publication in 2016. Last year, supermodel Jourdan Dunn was the first model of colour since 2013 to earn a solo cover. In fact, over the past 14 years, only six models of colour have merited stand-alone British Vogue covers. Seems like an easy fix for an industry leader keen on setting forth “broader definitions of physical beauty”.
2. Of the year’s 679 cover model appearances, a whopping six (or 0.9 percent) belonged to women size 12 and above.
VOGUE U.S. MARCH 2016, ELLE U.S. JULY 2016, COSMOPOLITAN AUGUST 2016; IMAGES: COURTESY
Of course, diversity isn’t limited to race. How did the year’s magazines fare when it came to body type? In a word, miserably. Of the year’s 679 cover model appearances, a whopping six (or 0.9 percent) belonged to women size 12 and above. Ben Watts shot Ashley Graham for Cosmopolitan’s groundbreaking August cover. “Queen of Hearts” Adele blessed Vanity Fair’s December issue and American Vogue’s March edition. To coincide with their Ghostbusters release, Leslie Jones and Melissa McCarthy covered ELLE’s July issue. That same month, How to Be Single star Rebel Wilson fronted Marie Claire U.K.
That said, as Fusion writer Marisa Kabas pointed out, Wilson’s cover was less a celebration of the comedian and more an exercise in obscuring her face and physique as much as possible. “She’s barely visible beneath long sleeves and a swoop of voluminous hair,” remarked Kabas. (It’s also worth mentioning that Marie Claire U.K. booked no nonwhite cover models in 2016.)
3. Transgender models were the least represented group, accounting for 0.7 percent of all cover bookings.
ELLE U.K. September 2016, Dazed Spring 2016, Marie Claire Spain March 2016; Images: Courtesy
Magazines are, by nature, products of popular culture. In the interest of piquing curiosities and selling issues, cover stars are often chosen based on their upcoming movie releases, the scope of their social media following and their overall buzz factor. Thus, in a year that’s seen more transgender individuals grace the small screen — and the catwalks — than any in recent history, one might expect to see a reasonable number of transgender cover stars.
Transgender models were the least represented group, accounting for 0.7 percent of all cover bookings. Four of the five total appearances belonged to It model and Transparent star Hari Nef.
4. Women aged 50 and above graced the covers of popular fashion publications 34 times in 2016, accounting for 5 percent of all bookings.
THE 2016 VANITY FAIR HOLLYWOOD ISSUE; IMAGE: COURTESY OF ANNIE LEIBOVITZ FOR VANITY FAIR
Women age 50 and above graced the covers of popular fashion publications 34 times in 2016, accounting for 5 percent of all bookings. This formidable showing was helped along by Vanity Fair’s comprehensive Hollywood Issue, for which Diane Keaton, Helen Mirren, Viola Davis, Charlotte Rampling and Jane Fonda all posed. Older models of colour were not forgotten either and it seems the fashion industry is finally taking notice of its older (more affluent, more devoted to print) base.
5. The most in demand covers stars may be at the top of the list but they’re certainly not topping the height charts!
2016’s list of the 10 most coveted cover stars is disappointingly light on diversity. It was the year of the Instagirl. The Top 10 included Gigi & Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner and Edie Campbell.
Contradictory to the common misconception that all tall women are model material, the Top 10 most sought after cover stars in 2016 had a height range of between 5’4 and 5’10 (1.66m and 1.79m).
Cover Image credit: Models backstage at Chromat’s Fall 2017 runway show. Photo: @chromat/Instagram