Photo of a series of Vogue magazines by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

Last week in a leaked internal email to staff, Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour stated the company has “not found enough ways to elevate and give space to black editors, writers, photographers, designers, and other creators.” Wintour apologized for her actions during her 32-year tenure and stated that Vogue will “do better” moving forward. This apology came after the rise of the Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd. Wintour wrote that “it can’t be easy to be a Black employee at Vogue, and there are too few of you,” acknowledging the lack of diversity within the magazine, but promising the company wants to change. Wintour’s internal company response came amid the #VogueChallenge circulating on social media. The challenge started when student Salma Noor tweeted an alternative Vogue cover featuring a photo of herself with the caption, “Being black is not a crime.”

Beverly Johnson, the first black model on the cover of Vogue in 1974, spoke out against the magazine and the fashion industry as a whole for failing to properly address ongoing racism. In a June 16th Washington Post Op-Ed, Johnson wrote that her debut on the Vogue cover in the 1970s was meant to bring in change within the industry, but she instead received “significantly lower compensation” than her white peers and was “reprimanded for requesting black photographers, makeup artists, and hairstylists for photo shoots.” She suggested that Wintour’s involvement with Vogue and Condé Nast makes her “the most powerful person in the world of fashion” with the ability to hold her peers accountable, but Wintour has not acknowledged the systemic inequalities until the recent leaked statement.

Johnson then proposed the Beverly Johnson Rule, which would require at least two black people be “meaningfully” interviewed for “influential positions” within the industry. She stated that the rule is necessary because “brands have not invested in Black designers, have not retained and promoted talented Black professionals and often have excluded Black people altogether.” Johnson suggested that the fashion industry “pirates blackness for profit” while “excluding black people and preventing them from monetizing their talents.” Forty-six years after the Vogue cover, Johnson stated she wants to go from an “icon to an iconoclast” to fight an ugly part of the beauty business. Although Wintour apologized to Vogue employees, Johnson says that actionable steps within the industry are necessary, including the Beverly Johnson Rule.

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

Anna Wintour admits to ‘hurtful and intolerant’ behavior at Vogue – Page Six – 6/9/2020
Anna Wintour has admitted that Vogue has been “hurtful and intolerant” — and not done enough to promote black staff and designers. In an emotional note to staff, Wintour wrote: “I want to start by acknowledging your feelings and expressing my empathy towards what so many of you are going through: sadness, hurt, and anger too.

André Leon Talley says Anna Wintour’s Vogue memo ‘came out of the space of white privilege’ – Fox News – 6/12/2020
Vogue’s former editor-at-large André Leon Talley threw shade at fashion doyenne Anna Wintour who apologized in an internal email for “mistakes” made in her 32-year tenure in not doing enough to elevate black voices on her staff and publishing images and stories that have been racially and culturally “hurtful or intolerant.”

First Black Vogue cover model Beverly Johnson: The fashion industry must fix its racism – USA Today – 6/16/2020
Johnson appeared underwhelmed. “Wow — after three decades, fashion’s leading arbiter has finally acknowledged that there may be a problem!” she wrote. She adds that Wintour, arguably the most powerful person in the world of fashion, has enough power to “ostensibly allow her to hold her peers in fashion accountable for making structural changes.” To help steer the industry toward being more diverse, she’d like for fashion, beauty and media industries to adopt a new rule for inclusive hiring.

The first Black Vogue cover model slams ongoing racism in the fashion industry, proposes rule to ‘meaningfully’ consider Black representation for executive positions – Insider – 6/16/2020
Beverly Johnson, the first Black model to appear on the cover of Vogue magazine, slammed the fashion industry, and the fashion magazine in particular, for exploiting Black culture. Johnson wrote an op-ed published in The Washington Post on Thursday that condemned the unequal treatment of herself and other Black people in other parts of the fashion and beauty industry.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

AJ+ on Twitter, 6/17/2020: People are doing the #VogueChallenge online. It’s taken on a new life after Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour acknowledged racism at the company in an email to staff.

Cindy Gallop on Twitter, 6/17/2020: ‘I was the first black model on the cover of French Elle. But my race limited me to significantly lower compensation than my white peers.’ @BeverlyJohnson1 calls on Anna Wintour & @CondeNast to fix the fashion industry’s huge racism problem @washingtonpost

Beverly Johnson on Twitter, 6/17/2020: Vogue’s first Black cover model, Beverly Johnson, calls on magazine for ‘structural changes’ #thebeverlyjohnsonrule

Laurie David on Twitter, 6/17/2020: Such BS from anna wintour. TOO LITTLE TOO LATE @voguemagazine @CondeNast

ET Canada on Twitter, 6/17/2020: Supermodel Beverly Johnson says that racism remains an “ugly part of the beauty business”

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