I just listened to a Tell Me More broadcast on the lack of representation of women of color on magazine covers. It stemmed from a FB post by Jada Pinkett Smith asking whether or not magazines that are traditionally geared towards women of color should start putting white women on their covers. I get that she was trying to start a dialog. I also get that what I am about to say is in actuality a different question (sort of). But the only thing I kept thinking while listening to broadcast was, “How about the lack of representation of women of size of any color?”
Women come in different shapes and sizes across the spectra of skin color, ethnicity, etc. Why are they so under-represented in the dialog and on covers of magazines?
A few years ago, Queen Latifah was on the cover of Glamour. She looked great. Everyone made a huuuge deal that a woman of size was on the cover.
My thought at the time was: She looks more like me than any of the models usually on the cover. She is curvy and voluptuous and terrific.
On today’s show, one of the things the guests kept talking about was how girls and young women of color look at these magazine covers and never see anyone who looks like them except when Rihanna, Beyonce, FLOTUS, Sofia Vergara, Jennifer Lopez, or Penelope Cruz are on them.
I just kept thinking that regardless of skin color, these girls and young women likely see no one who looks them anyway. We don’t look like the airbrushed “skinny-fied” cover models regardless of the color of our skin, hair, eyes, etc.
I would love to see all women represented. I really would. One of the best ways to do it is not just to have a wide variety of skin colors represented, but also a wide variety of sizes (short, tall, thin, heavy, small, big, whatever).
When Lizzie Miller’s photo (see below for the link) appeared in a Glamour magazine issue, countless women wrote in to say how happy and grateful they were to see it there. “Finally, a woman who looks like me,” was the sentiment.
What I don’t understand is why magazine have such a time understanding that this is what women look like (and yes, I do understand the marketing angle here. I just don’t think it will be ultimately successful as more and more women release the notion that they need to strive for the unreachable). We don’t want some sort of bizarre, unattainable ideal. We want to see models who look realistic – good, sassy, courageous, fierce, fun, and realistic. Everything else feels fake. On some level, we all know it (even if many of us still try to achieve that unattainable goal. We keep forgetting the professional makeup artists, personal trainers, Photoshop geniuses, and fashion consultants that help these women look the way they do). I hope magazine editors figure it out and begin to represent women as we are not as some strange concoction of photoshop, makeup, and lighting.
It will sell them more magazines.
Personally, I don’t look at the models at all anymore when I am reading a magazine. I look at the cut, color, and style of clothes. And, horror of horrors, I read the articles!