We gotta give it to Elle magazine. Placing Gabby Sidibe on their cover was bold. Amid my own disgust with this cover, we must remember that, as the brilliant Harriette Cole pointed out, “Elle has been the general-market book most likely to showcase Black talent.” But their recent dismissive and defensive response to people’s concern about Gabby’s skin lightening and hair is problematic and slightly disappointing. Elle‘s Editor-in-Chief, Robbie Myers, told E! that people want to make something out of nothing. Myers statement reads:
“It’s not a controversy. What’s so sad about it is that people have not looked at anything else but this. There’s an incredible portfolio inside that Joe [Zee] and Carter [Smith] shot . They haven’t looked at it. People want to make something out of nothing. It’s sad the legitimate news media picks up on this. It sort of boils down to this. At a photo shoot, in a studio, that is a fashion shoot, that’s glamorous, the lighting is different. The photography is different than a red carpet shot from a paparazzi.
We absolutely did not lighten her skin. Retouching is when we take a piece of hair and move it out of her eye, so you can’t compare a picture on a press line from what you do in a studio, where your job is to make them look beautiful. This is their controversy. We’ve seen these things before. I am sad that no one has cracked the magazine and looked at it. We gave her a cover, and she loved it.”
But if you look on the March cover of Ebony magazine, (directed by Harriette Cole) it’s clear something went wrong with the Oscar-nominated actress’ lighting on the recent cover of Elle. According to Cole, lighting Gabby’s half Senegalese deep ebony skin, like any darker skin, can be tricky. But the former Editor-in-Chief of Ebony contends they got it right. And they certainly did. Not only did they nail Gabby’s lighting—featuring the star in her whole glory with a full cover shot—they styled her hair immaculately.
Much talk online alleged that the Elle cover was a set up. Many of us questioned why Elle magazine, one of the most prestigious and bankable prints on the globe, would do such a awful job with one of Hollywood’s rising stars.
Allison Samuels over at Newsweek had a fascinating perspective to share. Samuels questions why Elle would feature the actress at all.
Samuels wonders why Gabby has generated so much press from magazines covers, articles, and show-hosting assignments when more seasoned, and recently Oscar-nominated, African American actresses like Taraji Henson and Viola Davis have only covered traditional Black prints. Samuels says:
“The magazine [Elle] released a statement defending Sidibe’s cover and described the actress as an exuberant young lady changing the world. Really? And exactly how is she doing that, with just one film under her belt?”
Samuels asks is Gabby receiving so much mainstream media praise because her plus-size beauty presents no threat to traditional beauty? “It’s a beauty so completely opposite from the White world’s ideal of attractive that is feels safe to give her all the kudos in the world.”
What do you think about Elle’s response and Samuels’ perspective? Sound off!