Vanity Fair’s 2016 Hollywood Portfolio, shot by legendary photographer Annie Leibowitz, features “Hollywood’s fiercest women”: Jane Fonda, Cate Blanchett, Viola Davis, Jennifer Lawrence, Charlotte Rampling, Brie Larson, Rachel Weisz, Lupita Nyong’o, Alicia Vikander, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Helen Mirren, Saoirse Ronan, and (in classic Steampunk chic) Diane Keaton.
A clear step up from last year’s issue, which featured a total of zero women of colour, no one over the age of 50, David Oleweyu was the only black actor and Oscar Isaac the only Latino actor. Neither of which made the front cover of the mag by the way, they appeared on the back of the flip cover.
But this year, it seems Vanity Fair has decided to be a little bit more socially aware, addressing racial diversity, ageism and sexism.
Which is a rather important message since the cover has, perhaps unknowingly, become a reflection of the TV and film industry's current call for diversification.
The women on the cover range in age from 21 (Saoirse Ronan) to 78 (Jane Fonda. No, we can’t believe it either.). There are three women of colour who made a big impact in the industry this year: How to Get Away with Murder’s Viola Davis, Lupita Nyong’o who starred as Maz Kanata in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw who played the love interest in Concussion.
All four of the women on the front side of the cover fold have spoken about diversity issues in Hollywood. Cate Blanchett blames “lazy thinking” for a lack of female leads. Viola has also been vocal about the lack of roles for women of colour. “…Creators, artists, decision-makers” should make sure that women are equally represented in the stories we tell on screen, says Jane Fonda. JLaw also wrote about the gender pay gap for Lena Dunham’s newsletter, Lenny, last year.
But will this cover actually sell? According to these figures obtained by Buzzfeed, magazine covers featuring people of colour tend to sell less. Does this mean that we prefer seeing white faces on magazine covers? Or that we’ve simply been taught whiter is better?
As Viola Davis recently said in an interview after the SAG Awards: “Diversity is not a trending topic.” It’s an issue that’s always been there and will always be there, so we need to address it as often as we can. And with fierce determination for change.