Taking Cover

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It’s no secret that our favorite glossies recycle the same three or four Black female celebrities. We find Rihanna, Halle and Beyoncé on constant sporadic rotation. We think, “Not again!” But then convince ourselves it’s “progress” because at least we got one cover this month. Don’t get us wrong. We love to see our fellow brown sisters grace these covers. They’re all stunning and talented, so more power to them. But it’s a slap in the face when only this handful of women receives recognition. It’s as if the rest of Black Hollywood isn’t worth noting.

A cover is one of the major deciding factors in what makes a magazine sell. So there’s no mystery as to why mags with a predominately White readership select mainly Black celebs who have a “mainstream” or crossover appeal (i.e. White folks know who they are and approve).

While strides have been made (this year Whitney Houston and Jennifer Hudson appeared on InStyle and Gabourey Sibide graced V and Elle), predominately White magazines have generally delivered Black covers that aren’t up to par with their White counterparts. The recent controversy over Gabourey’s poorly styled October Elle cover is the perfect example.

We urge mags to take a leap of faith, even when a Black celeb doesn’t pass a cover test. (Almost all magazines do cover testing, often for every issue. They test their covers with multiple storylines, images, and celebs.) After all, shouldn’t magazines strive to be ahead of the curve? It is crucial that they feature more Black women on their covers—and hire a styling team that has experience with Black hair and skin. We doubt any reader browsing a newsstand, regardless of race, would pass up a cover that had fierce styling and makeup. Not to mention that it’s a complete bore for Black and White readers alike to see the same celebrities appear on cover after cover.

It’s time magazine editors and creative directors step up to the plate. It’s time they deliver. It’s time we (yes, you and me) call them to action! COCO has already done the homework. Here are 12 fabulous and cover-worthy women that are both relevant and relentless:

Solange Knowles

She grew up in the shadow of her multi-platinum older sister, often overlooked as the awkward younger sister. Now the singer-turned-DJ is embracing (and flaunting!) her true eclectic style and has truly come into her own. And her personality and music are as bold as her fashion sense. Her fashion-forward spreads in Honey, Refinery29 and FashIzBlack magazines left us drooling for more.

Lauryn Hill

Remember her iconic Rolling Stone cover? Well it’s time for another one. After a much too long hiatus (for her fans at least), the soulful songtress is re-emerging. This summer she performed at the Rock the Bells Festival series and the Harmony Festival. Imagine our excitement when her unreleased song “Repercussions” was leaked. The five-time Grammy winner has even confirmed that she’ll begin recording again. An epic comeback is on the horizon.

The Simmons Sisters

These young fashion mavens are the perfect role models for women of all ages—Vanessa and Angela Simmons, daughters of the legendary hip hop group Run DMC member Rev Run, are classy and fun. Despite their entrepreneurial success (the playful color and designs in their clothing and accessory line Pastry is a hit among tweens and teenage girls), fame hasn’t gone to their heads. MTV has confirmed that there will be a third season of “Daddy’s Girls.” We suggest that they be cover girls the month the show premieres!

Anika Noni Rose

The singer and actress became known for her Tony Award winning performance in the Broadway play Caroline, or Change, and her starring roles in the films “Dreamgirls” (beside Beyoncé Knowles and Jennifer Hudson) and “The Princess and the Frog” (as Disney’s first Black princess). In November, she’ll appear in the Tyler Perry film “For Colored Girls” based on Ntozake Shange’s Award-winning play, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf, which is already receiving Oscar buzz!

Marsha Ambrosius

She was part of the dynamic duo Floetry. When the talented pair separated, their fans mourned. Now as a solo artist (and with a killer new look), she’ll debut her album Late Nights & Early Mornings in late October. The six-time Grammy nominee is without a doubt cover-deserving.

Zoë Kravitz

A hybrid of pure rockstar and hotness, Zoë’s budding acting career has taken off in overdrive. She continues to land numerous roles in indie films, TV series, and on the big screen. Her modeling and music careers have also taken off. In addition to appearing in various magazine spreads, she was the face of Vera Wang’s Princess fragrance and T by Alexander Wang. Zoë also lends her sultry vocals to rock band Elevator Fight.

Jurnee Smollett

The fourth of six siblings (all in the entertainment biz), Jurnee proved she had major talent at an early age in the critically acclaimed drama “Eve’s Bayou.” She went on to co-star with her brothers in the comedy “On Our Own” and later made appearances in several sitcoms. We got a glimpse of her on the big screen again when she was cast in the Denzel Washington-directed “The Great Debaters.” More recently we’ve seen her on the ABC drama “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Friday Night Lights.” The 24-year-old has also been dedicated to fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa.

Kerry Washington

Best known for her roles in “Ray” and “The Last King of Scotland,” the L’Oréal spokesperson has also left her mark on Broadway, in the controversial play, Race. She will appear in “For Colored Girls” beside Anika Noni Rose and others. We covet her red-carpet style, flawless makeup and poise.

Esperanza Spalding

The multi-instrumentalist is best known as a jazz bassist and singer, and for her mixing of musical genres. She has had several notable performances, including the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony and Concert. The 25-year-old Oregon native was personally selected by President Obama. We can already see her stunning cover: Esperanza in an haute couture gown. Her fluffy fro floating over her bass . . . We’d buy it in a heartbeat.

Keke Palmer

Her rapid rise to fame began in 2006 with her starring role in “Akeelah and the Bee.” She currently stars as the title character in the Nickelodeon sitcom “True Jackson, VP” and is now finishing up her new album. Don’t let her sweet appearance fool you. The girl can blow! Her album is scheduled to drop in November. In addition to her vocals, we love her youthful but pulled-together style. Keke launched a Wal-Mart fashion line last year, consisting of jumpers, dresses, jeans and more.

Shingai Shoniwa

The Noisettes front woman has distinctive voice and style that fits perfectly with the eclectic sound of the UK indie rock band. Their music—a unique blend of rock, jazz, electro punk, blues and pop—has led to two critically-acclaimed albums What’s The Time Mr. Wolf? and Wild Young Hearts. Sometimes we can’t tell if we’re mesmerized more by her vocals or her breath-taking beauty (that skin, that bone structure, that hair!). Oh, wait. It’s both!

Thandie Newton

The striking British actress has had numerous of notable roles. She wrung our hearts in films like Beloved, Crash and The Pursuit of Happyness. And reminded us of her sultriness in Mission: Impossible II, The Chronicles of Riddick and more. She will appear in For Colored Girls beside Anika Noni Rose, Kerry Washington and others.

Who else would you like to see on a cover and why? Sound off!

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Now write in to the editors of your favorite magazines and tell them! They read emails from their readers and take them to heart, trust us. Here are the email addresses of the main gatekeepers at some of the major fashion magazines. Copy and paste the email below (or use it as a template and add your personal touch). Don’t forget to write in the name of the magazine, the name of your favorite Black female cover-worthy celeb and your personal info at the end. Let’s spread the word!

Subject: Important Reader Request – More Diversity on Covers

Dear Editor,

As an avid reader of __________ magazine and an African American woman, I have long been a fan of the trends, shopping and styling tips, spreads, designers, and merchandise that you feature and I would love to continue supporting your magazine. I have one request: Support us back. I ask that you feature more celebrities of color on your covers. When you put them on your covers, you tell us (your Black readers) that we matter as readers and that you acknowledge and value us. You tell your other readers (of different shades and backgrounds) that we, Black women, matter and are worth noting. Depict us in ways that represent our multifacetedness. I would love to see someone as talented and beautiful as __________ grace your cover. We are more than Rihanna, Beyoncé and Halle. We are more than the lone cover on the overcrowded newsstand. We are more. We deserve more.

Your loyal reader,

Your Name, City, State, Age

The Masthead (Source: Mastheads.org)

Allure, Editor-In-Chief, Linda Wells, [email protected]

CosmoGirl, Editor-In-Chief, Susan Schulz, [email protected]

Cosmopolitan, Editor-In-Chief, Kate White, [email protected] or [email protected]

Elle, Editor-In-Chief, Roberta Myers, [email protected]

Glamour, Editor-In-Chief, Cynthia Leive, [email protected]

Harper’s Bazaar, Editor-In-Chief, Glenda Bailey, [email protected]

InStyle, Managing Editor, Ariel Foxman, [email protected]

Lucky, Editor-In-Chief, Kim France, [email protected]

Marie Claire, Editor-In-Chief, Joanna Coles, [email protected]

Nylon, Editor-In-Chief, Marvin Scott Jarrett, [email protected]

People StyleWatch, Editor in Chief, Susan Kaufman, [email protected] or [email protected]

Teen Vogue, Editor-In-Chief, Amy Astley, [email protected]

Vanity Fair, Editor, Graydon Carter, [email protected]

Vogue, Editor-In-Chief, Anna Wintour, [email protected]

W, Editorial Director, Patrick McCarthy, [email protected]

– Audra E. Lord

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  • mina

    Great Idea!! I’ll be sending this to Nylon especially. They have such a horrible history of putting women of color on their magazine.

  • Von

    I write a similar letter that’s used when it’s time for renewal. There are one or two that I’ll keep because they show a diverse age group of women, but the rest will receive my letters stating my reasons why I don’t feel that I should be renewing my subscriptions. This letter could also serve as a movement to get American magazines to consider using more women of color on the covers and inside of their magazines and for designers to feature a diverse group of women in their advertisements. There’s power in a collective front to create change that is truly necessary. Celebrities are fine to a certain degree and many women of color give them a free pass when they feature who happens to be the celebrity du jour on the cover. Personally, I prefer to see models instead of all of the celebrity covers. On an international front it seems that the celebrities that many deem to be not as popular or underrated as their peers are appearing on the covers of many international magazines. America should be taking notes instead of using the popularity factor in determining who gets a cover.

  • DH

    Angela Bassett, Lizz Wright, Gabrielle Union, Regina King….