Oslo-based student Salma Noor posted her own version of a Vogue cover on June 2, with the cover line “Being black is not a crime” in support of Black Lives Matter. Noor modeled for the alternative cover herself, with the help of photographer @calvin. Little did she know that the trend would go insanely viral days later—thanks in part to a June 6 internal memo from Vogue‘s editor-in-chief herself, Anna Wintour.
In the memo obtained by Page Six, Wintour wrote that the publication hasn’t done enough to “elevate and give space to Black editors, writers, photographers, designers and other creators,” and that she takes full responsibility for images the magazine has published that were “hurtful and intolerant.” Like the responses from so many other major brands, Wintour wrote that Vogue will do better and that she is “listening.” The internet wasn’t having it.
The #VogueChallenge, inspired by Noor, began showing up everywhere on social media. To join the challenge, users photoshopped an image of themselves onto a Vogue cover, creating a feed of alternative covers that, honestly, should’ve hit newsstands a long time ago: They’re created by a slew of people of color from around the world, with an equally diverse array of artistic perspectives. Some, like singer/songwriter Mello and model Ebonee Davis, collaborated with fellow creatives, including fashion designers, stylists, and photographers to get their final photo.Though Vogue has not commented or engaged with the hashtag by time of publication, British Vogue covered the challenge and editor-in-chief Edward Enninful retweeted Noor’s second cover shot on June 8. Vogue Arabia posted about the challenge a day later.
Since its launch in 1892, the magazine has vastly underrepresented people of color. A black model didn’t grace the cover of Vogue until 1974, when Beverly Johnson was featured. A recent study by The Pudding analyzed the skin tone of Vogue cover models and found that only 3 of 81 cover models between 2000 and 2005 were black. While that has improved somewhat since then, the analysis shows that cover models generally exhibit lighter skin tones. Vogue‘s March 2017 coverhighlighted a “beauty revolution” with seven models who were supposed to represent a diverse group; yet they had mostly light skin tones and were made up of the same quasi celeb models we’ve come to see over the years, like Gigi Hadid.