Despite the digital age and the renunciation of all things print, it is still a great honour and a career milestone to be on the cover of a magazine. Amid the fear of the death of print, circulation of the major fashion magazines remain in the millions meaning their reach is extremely wide.
The first fashion magazine to be circulated was Harper’s Bazaar which was described as ‘a repository of fashion, pleasure and instruction’ on the first cover in 1867. This cover featured an illustration of 6 women and displayed their elaborate hairstyles and floor length dresses. Magazine covers have come a long way since then with Vogue displaying the first colour photograph cover in 1932. Overtime, being on the cover became less about your occupation and more about your influence as candidates were no longer restricted to those in the fashion industry; Sophia Leron appeared on the cover of Vogue in May 1961 and was one of the first celebrities to do so. This development merged the worlds of fashion and entertainment and brought a new meaning to being a cover girl.
‘A first Vogue cover is a major landmark in any career… it requires the aligning of stars: an intriguing back story and captivating personal style, to say nothing of a professional CV that is white hot’ states Edward Enninful in his editor’s letter for the April 2019 issue. Cover stars are chosen based on how well they would embody the concept of the shoot as well as how intriguing they are as a person. Fashion is a business and, like any other, sales are of upmost importance. For this reason, the cover star must be carefully chosen and draw people towards the magazine. In addition, a certain level of experience and the ability to handle the aftermath is a requirement. The wide reach of the image means that many people will have a lot of opinions. Whether this be people interested in hiring you, people disliking you or people idolising you, you must be ready to handle all the opinions.
Further, fashion magazines contribute to the beauty standards that are so prevalent in society and thus whoever is placed on the cover is also a symbol of beauty. In a recent YouTube video Naomi Campbell discusses the story behind some of her iconic photos and remarks her first French Vogue cover. She asked to be on the cover and was met with confusion as she was told that they had never put a black girl on the cover, yet she ensured that she was the first black woman to be on the cover. This photo would have meant the world to a young black girl who was not used to seeing someone who looked like her in this capacity. Likewise, the recent Vogue Arabia cover made history by portraying three black hijabi models; Halima Aden, Ikram Abdi Omar, and Amina Adan. Displaying a diversity of women on the cover of a magazine highlights that there are many types of beauty and instils confidence in those that are often marginalised in the beauty and fashion community.
With magazines now having regular publications in many countries, there is this misconception that the cover star must be chosen from the country in which the magazine is in circulation. Whilst this is a sensible idea it ignores the purpose of expanding magazines to other countries which is to enable the people to access fashion news. Vogue India, for example, is not intended to report only on Indian women and Indian fashion but to discuss what is occurring in the industry as a whole. Fashion is a global business and restricting a publication to a specific country would not only limit what can be reported but also who the magazine would appeal to. Whilst I do agree that these magazines can be used to create opportunities, they should be able to report on a wide range of things.
So, what does it mean to be a cover girl? It means you have experience, beauty and above all, that you are progressing in your career.