We all have noticed a new viral challenge on social media. People are posting images of themselves on the cover of Vogue. But how did it all start?
Referred to as the #VogueChallenge, it originated on TikTok in mid-May before taking on a new meaning amid widespread Black Lives Matter movements over the past few weeks. The challenge has gone viral on both Twitter and Instagram, where thousands of Black artists and models are creating their own versions of Vogue covers, thus uplifting Black creatives that have been largely neglected by the fashion industry in all these years.
The movement started as a response to the letter Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of Vogue since 1988, artistic director for Condé Nast and Vogue's publisher since 2013, sent to employees admitting that “Vogue has not found enough ways to elevate and give space to Black editors, writers, photographers, designers and other creators,.. We made mistakes”.
Over the years, Vogue has become synonymous to the fashion industry. Even then, there has been only one Black photographer to shoot a cover in the 127-year history of the publication, and only 21 Black women have appeared on the cover solo, according to Teen Vogue.
But with Wintour’s recent belated acknowledgment of racial disparity in Vogue, brilliant Black creatives are flooding the social media by adopting the iconic Vogue branding imagery. Studio artists, including illustrators and 3-D designers have also joined the cause. They believe that this is a good idea, since it would cut the waste and pollution created by photo shoots and bring in a diverse range of artists that aren’t directly associated with the fashion industry.
Among others, the famous Black artist Texas Isaiah has also seized the moment to highlight intersecting identities as both a queer person and a BIPOC. By placing trans masculine bodies on his rendition of a Vogue cover, he calls for LGBTQ+ representation, envisioning reparations as “hiring Black trans and gender-expansive visual narrators to do the work.”
Some of the artists have given their covers the title Vogue Africa, a magazine that does not currently exist but whose concept Business of Fashion made a case for over two years ago. A Pan-African approach wouldn’t necessarily “deny or reject any individual country or the extraordinary diversity that exists throughout the continent,” as Business of Fashion reasoned. With all the creatives that have surfaced in this Vogue Challenge, the visual proposition for this project is much clearer.
Just because it didn’t happen, doesn’t mean that it never will. The #VogueChallenge has opened new horizons for the black models in the fashion industry. Maybe the day when gender discrimination will be all in the past isn’t far. The Vogue Challenge has been an eye-opener not only for the fashion industry but also for the entire world. Change is only permanent and we hope to see a change in the fashion industry soon.
A graduate student in Journalism and Communications, I am an avid reader, writer, blogger, foodie and movie buff. Based in Kolkata, I am extremely passionate about trekking, travelling, exploring and building new relations every day.