Trans and plus-size models of varying ethnicities will feature on the cover of US Vogue’s September issue, making it the fashion magazine’s most diverse cover yet.
Appearing on the new extended cover are industry icons Bella Hadid, Kaia Gerber and Madonna’s daughter Lourdes Leon, as well as plus-size models Yumi Nu and Precious Lee, trans model Ariel Nicholson, South Sudanese-American model Anok Yai, and Chinese-American model Sherry Shi.
The theme of the upcoming issue is “New Beginnings” and celebrates the models and designers for “challenging definitions of beauty” as well as bringing about “an industry-wide reckoning” over beauty standards.
Becca McCharen-Tran, founder of Chromat, told the magazine that fashion “has gotten the message that casting models from diverse backgrounds is the absolute bare minimum”.
In recent years, US Vogue has faced a reckoning of its own, as editor-in-chief Anna Wintour was accused of racism and of cultivating a racist work environment.
An investigation by the New York Times in October 2020 reported allegations that Wintour had encouraged a “thin, rich and white” standard of beauty within the magazine and as part of her wider influence on the fashion industry.
The upcoming September issue appears to be a bid to address the publication’s problem with model diversity and aims to showcase “the transformation of the model from object to subject”.
“What stands out about the women on this cover is that they’re not reducible to kind; each is a unique superstar with her own story to tell, of which her beauty is merely a part,” wrote Maya Singer in US Vogue’s cover story.
The shift made by designers towards casting models of “whatever size, age, ethnicity or gender” is described as a “revolution”, spurred on by the beauty industry being “democratised” by social media.
But while diversity is welcomed, Ariel noted that “there are limits to what ‘representation’ can do” and added she had been put in a “box” because she is a trans model.
Yumi Nu (right) in an Alejandra Alonso Rojas gown
(Vogue/Ethan James Green)
“Obviously it’s a big deal being the first trans woman on the cover of Vogue, but it’s also hard to say exactly what kind of big deal it is when the effects are so intangible,” she said.
Yumi added: “I guess there’s a part of me that feels labels can be limiting. In an ideal world, maybe we wouldn’t have them.”
The September issue will give readers a look into US Vogue’s office in New York City, with the models posing among editors, stylists and other magazine staff going about their day-to-day work.
On the cover, the models are pictured laughing and smiling together while an editor works on a computer behind them. Gerber wears a blue geometric lace Tom Ford minidress, Yai dons a chain-strap dress by Ralph Lauren Collection, Lee poses in a polka dot Carolina Herrera dress, Hadid wears a sequinned gown by Christopher John Rogers, Shi cheers in a cream Proenza Schouler trouser suit, Nicholson and Nu clap while wearing Christopher John Rogers and Mara Hoffman dresses respectively, and Leon looks on in a silver Michael Kors Collection minidress.