Kerry Washington Covers November ELLE So Why The Crickets?

Last month’s ELLE that split the cover with several white actresses and Gabourey Sidibe got a lot of attention. Some of it was positive as many claimed it was empowering for black women to see Gabby on the cover. Some…ahem begged to differ and stated emphatically that not only did the choice of actress but the layout was in fact insulting and damaging to the image of black women.

I personally didn’t appreciate the cover because I thought it was highly unflattering to Gabby. She has had other photo shoots where she’s been styled better – but there’s no mistaking her size. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree about her individual beauty in contrast to established norms, you’d be hard-pressed to find other groups uplifting women who don’t fit into their established parameters. Thus it is a concern when outsiders use their forums to promote an alternative image of women from another group.

The larger argument is of course since there are so few black businesses and we haven’t taken control our image (as well as the ongoing support for denigrating black women) these types of situations are bound to occur. It would be one thing if insiders were controlling large quantities of output across various media entities and threw in a few “alternatives” for the sake of variety and inclusion. An example of this is when edgier fashion and foreign music magazines have touted singer Beth Ditto (who is most excellent by the way).

(M)Essence magazine was never owned by black women to begin with and since it has not been a priority for anyone else to create new titles the resulting dearth is a logical conclusion. Ebony/Jet may or may not be turning things around as they were in financial distress. Beside a few other black-oriented titles there are no other magazines to fill the void in reflecting the needs of an African-American audience.

So, with that in mind one of the other arguments that resulted from the brouhaha was to question why ELLE (and other white magazines) had not put other black women (let alone models) on their covers. Washington’s name was offered as an example of a traditionally beautiful woman whose image enhances instead of detracts.

Usually magazine covers are planned months in advance. I’m not certain whether the decision-makers at ELLE had previously scheduled this succession of covers, if it was a “fluke” or if it was in response to some pissed off black women. Such a prompt response usually does not occur. The irony of sorts is that the ELLE cover isn’t really anything to sneeze at, especially compared to this cover by…you guessed it….Messence. Yikes!

So ELLE finally gets around to adding someone new to their roster of blonde actresses and they’re upstaged by a much better layout from Messence! Look, one thing they get right is photos, lighting, makeup & styling. They do know how to make black women look phenomenal.

Where is the discussion, the angst, the praise or the expressions of an emotion? So many people were invested the last go-’round why the silence? So far there has been near zero buzz and this is supposed to be a positive thing! Where’s the support?! Ah well…

If you want to write a Letter to the Editor THANKING THEM you can send it snail mail to ELLE, 1633 Broadway, NYC 10019 or email Have at it!

14 Replies to “Kerry Washington Covers November ELLE So Why The Crickets?”

  1. Faith,

    I wanted to report back that I just now received a totally unexpected response from my snail mail letter to Elle magazine.

    They sent me a gift package of: a tote bag, a bound journal with the "Elle" inscription, and a copy of the magazine. Well, that's allright! 🙂

    1. Khadijah: That's great news. I've included that as part of the update to today's post. See how responding positively got their attention?!

  2. Thanks Faith. I emailed Ellle and I told them that Kerry on the cover was a wonderful idea and that she looked beautiful.

    1. ak: I think we need to write to ELLE often and let them know we want more of the same -- and not just at that magazine. We also need black women editors. And of course to start our own media entities.

      1. It's high time that black women got together and put funds together or try to raise investments for a classy, designer fashion magazine on the same level as Vogue. A magazine that's not another Messence, but is more polished, grown up, and feminine than Trace or Arise magazines.

        Trace and Arise they have great layouts of different black models all over the world but they still have a hip hop (not as horrible as Vibe) slant or political slant.

        I wonder if Eunice Johnson ever thought to do this when she was alive, but years ago I mean. But she had her hands full with Fashion Fair I suppose but I wonder if any black women or men came up to her looking to see if she would invest in anything that would have been a potential 'black Vogue'? Hmmm…

        1. ak: I love Trace magazine! Their "Black Girls Rule" issue is always stellar. The thing is Trace is rather expensive as physical copies of quality magazines tend to be. As an FYI I also enjoy Wax Poetics. I think Mrs. Johnson's focus on Fashion Fair aside from the necessity probably meant they weren't going to create a second magazine at that time. Yet…it's been 65 years and it seems future planning and expansion took a backseat. Yet…the magazine and newspaper industries have taken a hit from relying on unsustainable business models. It would be great for us to be innovative as well as supportive of viable endeavors. I think we can be. We need more women to be bold but they first have to get their focus and rid themselves of the leeches.

  3. I'm not a reader of Elle, but that horrid Gabby cover was everywhere.

    I could swear at first glance that the cover is a picture of Mrs. Obama. Beautiful either way.

    I get Essence free. If this cover shot is a result of their new Fashion Editor, it cannot be she was hired due to her "qualifications."

    I think Elle decided on this cover after the Gabby reaction. I don't believe in coincidences.

    1. Khadija: Thanks! We should let ELLE know we want more of the same.

      Betty: Yes that Gabby cover got a lot of attention -- a lot of negative attention. I sent Joe Zee a message on Twitter saying I wasn't going to renew my 7 year subscription because I was offended. I don't know if the Kerry Washington cover was a response to the criticis or if it had been planned. It's rare for these magazines to rotate beyond 5 actresses and 3 models these days so to have two black women in rotation 2 months in a row is rare, but Vogue did it with Beyonce and Michelle Obama. Of course a superstar singer and the First Lady are exceptional. On the other hand in Janet Jackson's heyday the white magazines ignored her, but again this goes back to lack of ownership and support.

      Lavonne: You make a good point about how selective black media is in recognizing the beauty of all black women. Beside the contempt for African-Ameican women I was thinking about some of the African models from Sudan like Alek Wek who was championed by the white fashion editors first although her Essence magazine cover from a few years ago was very flattering. I suppose an adequate comparison to "mainstream" would be dominant group's media.

      Tracy: I added the contact information at the end of this post.

      Brooklyn Linda: Welcome and thanks for your comment. Please share your opinion. Don't hold back!

  4. Faith, there are soooooo many African-American women, of every different age, shape, size and hue, who are beautiful and intelligent. The full spectrum rarely gets coverage in the so-called African-American media and gets almost no coverage in the "mainstream" (whatever that is supposed to be) media. Look at all the beautiful legends who have died within the last year. Most of these women remained beautiful until, but where were their covers? We have legends in music, entertainment, business, and all walks of life who remain invisible to the world. I sure hope we rectify that soon. After all, I know Naomi and Halle are beautiful, but I don't need another story on their dating life. Put some other women on covers and tell us the substantive and diverse stories that adds some backbone to those beautiful cheekbones.

  5. I didnt know but thanks -- will be whipping off my letter of thanks today -- she looks great!! No, Brooklyn, I would very much like to hear your opinion -- that nice stuff is so last year!!

  6. I wholeheartedly agree!! You have posed an excellent question. I have an opinion on why I think it's a crickets climate, but I'm playing nice in the sandbox and thus prefer not to hurt very insecure feelings…

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