Why do people care that Kim Kardashian and Kanye West was on the cover of Vogue?
The internet exploded after they were both featured on the April issue of US Vogue, with expressions of disappointment, anger and just an overall sense of ‘Why?’ Have a look below, and you’ll see that thousands of people want to cancel their Vogue subscription because to them, a ‘sacred’ place has been desecrated.
What does this extremism mean, and why is it taking place over a magazine cover?
I admit when I first saw the cover, I was disappointed. This immediately made me feel like a judgmental person. It reminded me of Kanye’s rants and made me ask myself if I have some sort of weird, unconscious racial bias!
But then I asked myself how I’d feel if Lupita Nyong’o were featured on a Vogue cover, and thought ‘NO. It would make my freakin’ day.’ So, I wondered where I felt judgment and disappointment – and why so many others felt the same way!
Let’s Take A Moment
Say what you will about Kim Kardashian, but let’s acknowledge that she is striking; a smart businesswoman who made an empire out of self-branding. She also overcame extraordinary criticism from the press during a difficult pregnancy. After Kanye gave her a wardrobe makeover, she now wears lots of high fashion. Perhaps awkwardly, like she’s trying to be someone she isn’t, but she does wear them.
Why Kim Kardashian/Vogue are an Unlikely Pair
Vogue is not a tabloid. Wintour defended Kim as having ‘guts’ and influencing culture, and I agree. But if that’s the only criteria for being on Vogue and we’re really going down that path, will the magazine feature Honey Boo Boo or the Real Housewives of America next? Even Wintour sounded hesitant to feature them on the magazine in her editor’s letter:
Kim, through her strength of character, has created a place for herself in the glare of the world’s spotlight, and it takes real guts to do that.
I found her defence evasive, given that it did not mention Kim’s style, her place as a role model, or her work. It might have to do with what we see: that the high fashion isn’t really Kim’s own style. It isn’t a reflection of who she is, but what someone else (Kanye) imposed on her. That is kind of antithetical to style, in my books.
Notwithstanding her business savvy, Kim Kardashian is famous for performing her own identity, more or less profiting from personal choices and circumstances. And maybe people are disappointed because they have reservations about that being rewarded, or being aspired to.
Kanye West has been continually screaming that high fashion is racist and prejudicial over the last year; that somehow the industry isn’t giving him a break to fulfil his creative potential. Did Vogue succumb to his complaints? If so, that’s unfortunate. Wintour’s explanation that Kanye did not force her into it sounds like a guilty conscience, as if rationalising a mistake. It’s also a bit suspicious that Wintour wouldn’t feature Kim without Kanye, as if to say that together they deserve the cover of Vogue but not on their own.
it was, I should add, entirely our idea to do it; you may have read that Kanye begged me to put his fiancée on Vogue’s cover. He did nothing of the sort. The gossip might make better reading, but the simple fact of the matter is that it isn’t true.
What do you think? Also, did she just use the word begged?
Why It’s Not About Kim – It’s About Vogue’s Responsibility Towards Readers.
Anna Wintour famously said that:
To be in ‘Vogue’ has to mean something. It’s an endorsement. It’s a validation.
So the first thing we have to understand is that the disappointment is not directed towards Kim or Kanye. It’s directed towards Vogue. It’s about Vogue’s choice of endorsement, and the cultural meaning of this validation.
To understand this better, we need to look at what Vogue (supposedly) stands for.
Vogue: The World’s Most Influential Magazine
Vogue is the grande dame of fashion magazines. The New York Times described it as the world’s most ‘influential fashion magazine’. Arthur Turnure founded it over 100 years ago, so it is deeply steeped in tradition and history. The magazine played a significant role in the 1960s sexual revolution with editorial features. It interviewed Andy Warhol and empowered iconic supermodels like Twiggy into becoming a household name.
Vogue: The Democratisation of Fashion
Anna Wintour led the movement of democratising fashion. The 1988 cover of Michaela Bercu, the gorgeous Israeli model wearing that jewelled Christian Lacroix jacket, still convey bold energy and breathtaking beauty to this day.
With over 20 million readers worldwide, Wintour has been named as one of the most powerful figures in fashion.
Vogue: A Political and Cultural Force
With its social influence, Vogue covered the burqa in 2006/7 (read more here), sponsored Beauty Without Borders, initiated the ‘Runway to Win’ for the 2012 US Presidential election where high end designers made exclusive pieces, and presently hosts the extraordinary Met Ball.
So you see, Vogue is not just a fashion magazine. It means something.
It is an iconic part of our culture, led by an an instinctive editor who has never made concessions or apologies about her vision. That vision has always championed a spirit of liberation and strength. Past covers have featured actresses, models and singers – women with creative gifts and integrity that contributed the welfare or entertainment of people around the world. Recent Vogue covers featuring Michelle Obama and Beyoncé continue to channel this spirit of empowerment.
Those endorsements ‘make sense’, if you will.
It’s All About Timing
Now, I asked myself in what context I would be okay with Kim Kardashian being featured on Vogue. And I realised that this isn’t about being able to sing, or dance, or being a model. It’s about your contribution to others – and what you do with your life to serve them beyond your own ego.
I would not be against Kim Kardashian being featured on Vogue forever. But I’d want for her to aspire to it, and to earn it. If not through creativity, then through philanthropy or social service. Something. Anything that makes her inspiring to others beyond what appears to be fame and fortune catalysed by opportunism and the ego.
Why It’s OK That You Disapprove
If something we value becomes devalued, it is understandable to feel anger from the loss of that value. Feeling disappointment doesn’t immediately mean a presence of bias, but that you have certain expectations. And, cultural arbiters of art and fashion always have a creative/social responsibility to their audience and readers. While it’s Vogue’s prerogative to put Kim Kardashian and Kanye West on the cover, it is also yours to actively voice your objections. Although this might seem like it’s about Kim Kardashian, it’s really about artistic responsibility.
I’d love to hear from you. It’s a controversial topic, so I imagine there are lots of different points of view. Do you agree with my analysis of why people reacted to this cover? What are your thoughts – would you be okay with Kim Kardashian ‘earning’ her Vogue cover in the future? Please leave your comments below!
Sending you boundless love and style,