By now, it’s no secret that Beyoncé was given creative control over the cover for the September issue of Vogue. In doing so, she not only graced the magazine but also made way for 23-year-old photographer Tyler Mitchell to shoot the cover. Mitchell is the first Black photographer to shoot a Vogue cover in the magazine’s 125-year history, let alone the most important issue of the season.
Across the pond, Rihanna gave us couture flowers and ’90s-eyebrow realness on the cover of British Vogue. This was the handiwork of the publication’s first Black editor-in-chief, Edward Enninful. In his letter from the editor, he doesn’t go in-depth about choosing fashion’s favorite pop star for the cover, but he does say he was determined to create something special for Vogue UK’s most opulent issue. Rihanna is the first Black woman to cover the September issue since its launch in 1916.
Although these stories controlled the news cycle, something amazing happened. Glamour, Marie Claire, Porter, Elle Canada, British Elle, Love, The Sunday Times also featured Black women on the covers of their September issues. EBONY featured the gorgeous and talented Issa Rae, but that’s no shocker—we love us, for real. Still, to be dismissed for decades because, as Beyoncé was told, “Black people don’t sell magazines,” to finally have this happen is epic. Could this be the “Wakanda Effect”?
So why is the September issue so important? According to WhoWhatWear, September is when consumers put away the summer styles and go on the hunt for more exciting fall fashion. It can be a time of reinvention; the brands know this, and the September issue is often two-to-three times fatter with advertisements than other months. Vogue in September will easily outweigh your laptop, and publishers across the board demand top dollar for ad space in what is usually their “fashion issue.” There’s also the “buzz” aspect of it all. The former is why September is important to the publications, and that urgency feeds the news cycle. Mainstream media and trade rags eagerly anticipate who will receive the honor of the September cover. As evidenced by the fervor around this season’s release, fashion mags love giving us something to talk about. By being newsworthy, they are essentially feeding their bottom line. The September issue is big business, and for far too long, publishers simply wouldn’t trust their business to Black beauty.
A magazine’s September issue defines the season, sets sartorial tone, and tells the public what’s in and what’s out. Black people have always been the keepers of cool, so this pairing makes perfect sense, does it not? Rather than considering this historic moment as validation from the mainstream, many of us just take pride in expanded representation. I grew up reading many of the aforementioned magazines only to occasionally see Naomi Campbell, Iman, Beverly Johnson or Veronica Webb on their pages. This month, my daughter can pick up those same magazines and see faces that resemble her own on the cover. Black women are important, we matter, we’re stylish and we’re beautiful. It’s about time that someone besides our own lifted their gaze and took notice of what publications like EBONY have celebrated for generations.
Let’s take a look at September 2018’s season of sisters: