Vice President Kamala Harris has made history. As the first women Vice President, the first Black Vice President, and the first South Asian Vice President, she has given American politics the diversity the people have been asking for. In celebration of all of Harris’s firsts, Vogue magazine gave Kamala Harris the cover of their February issue – but not without receiving a fair share of backlash for editing the image of Harris that they chose to use.
Although Vogue wanted to jump on the progressive train by celebrating Harris, they lightened the vice president’s skin tone, which shocked readers and fans of the fashion-forward magazine. Now, Vogue has been stumbling to regain its footing following the audacious decision to change Harris’s skin color for the magazine cover.
Vogue featured Harris in two cover variations. The first showed the vice president standing before a pink backdrop in a pants suit with Converse sneakers. The second image showed Harris wearing a powder-blue suit while standing before a gold background. Both images portrayed her as a powerful and fashionable woman – for which she has been recognized in the past – but the photo editors at the magazine made the mistake of lightening the vice president’s skin color to appease the white standard of beauty.
The magazine tweeted the dual images of Harris and captioned the images with “Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is our February cover star! Making history was the first step. Now Harris has an even more monumental task: to help heal a fractured America—and lead it out of crisis.”
However, Vogue found itself in a pit of despair shortly after publishing the tweet because people quickly noticed that they’d lightened Kamala Harris’s skin color to make her appear more white.
People accused Vogue of “whitewashing Harris” to appeal to the white standard of beauty while degrading their own standards in the process.
New York Times contributor Wajahat Ali commented: “What a mess up. Anna Wintour must really not have Black friends and colleagues. Looking at her face, I can only imagine the interior monologue: ‘Wow. The cover of Vogue. This will be great — wait, did you take a shot? Really? Why? I was just relaxing. Wait, what? We’re going with this as an option? Well…uhhh.’”
He continued: “People, I’ll shoot shots of VP Kamala Harris for free using my Samsung, and I’m 100% confident it’ll turn out better than this Vogue cover. We can shoot it in my yard using natural sunlight, and it’ll still be better.”
Vogue denied lightening Harris’s skin color in a statement obtained by the New York Post.
Last year, Vogue’s editor-in-chief, Wintour, wrote a letter obtained by the Guardian admitting “mistakes” for publishing photos and articles that were insensitive to people of color.
In the letter, Wintour wrote: “Vogue has not found enough ways to elevate or give space to Black editors, writers, photographers, designers, and other creators. We have made mistakes, too, publishing images or stories that have been hurtful or intolerant. I want to take full responsibility for those mistakes.”
Do you think Vogue changed the way Kamala Harris looked for the cover?
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