Kanye West has never been accused of keeping quiet when things are important to him. This week, his public campaign to appear on the cover of Vogue magazine with his fiancée Kim Kardashian became reality as the duo made the April cover of the venerated magazine. Vogue editor Anna Wintour, who has reportedly scoffed in the past at Kardashian’s high-fashion ambition released a statement before the cover even hit stands, saying that West was an “agent provocateur” and that Kardashian’s “strength of character” was part of the reason she made a great cover girl.
If Wintour’s reasoning behind the cover was to embrace the digital era with a cover that went viral, she got it. As soon as it hit the web, longtime Vogue readers hit social media to express their disappointment and disgust with the cover choice. Both Vogue.com and Vogue’s Facebook page are on fire with commentary that excoriates Wintour for the Kanye/Kim cover. Several hundred readers are either cancelling subscriptions, have cancelled or vow to never buy Vogue again.
But why the fuss? Magazines, which have been hit hard by the changes in the publishing industry, have to do their best to stay relevant and embracing what their cover line called #theworldsmosttalkedabout cover with the hashtag included is their way of saying times have changed. But for many, the idea that Vogue, the preeminent Bible of fashion for over 100 years, would put Kim Kardashian on its cover is a travesty. At the end of the day, Kim is a reality TV star that came to public attention via a sex tape she did with her then-boyfriend, singer Ray J.
The vitriol heading Kanye’s way doesn’t deny that he, at least, has a viable talent and career, but his public meltdowns have given him the unofficial title of world’s least likable artist. What upsets readers and fashionistas more than anything else is that Vogue has been held up for so long as a brand that showcases excellence. It’s been the example of high style and class for aspirational designers, models, actresses and stylists who would pore over its pages to dream about bright lives or careers in New York, London or Paris. For those outside those big cities, its fabulous photography, sultry supermodels and views into How The Other Half Lived were inspirations to do better themselves.
Up until the last decade, Vogue, and most other fashion magazines featured models on their covers. But after the supermodel era dominated by models with name recognition like Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, Heidi Klum, and Kate Moss, models were replaced with actresses and musicians. Fashion observers can understand why Beyonce, Michelle Obama, Rihanna and Jennifer Hudson, as well as fashion icons/actresses like Sarah Jessica Parker are on Vogue’s cover.
But Kim Kardashian, whose never made the cover of any other high-end fashion magazine (her usual covers are tabloids, let’s be clear) is now Vogue-worthy, what does that mean? What it means is that Vogue has either decided to ride with the times or they’ve made a fatal branding error. Only time will tell. But there is some smoke to the fire (and not just what comes from people burning the magazine). Though racism may play a role in the anger over the cover, as does slut-shaming, there does seem to be a general consensus from Vogue readers that although the Kardashians are part of pop culture, there are some limits to their influence. Despite wearing many different high-end designers, Kim and her sisters have never been considered amongst the entertainment fashion elite, in the same way that say, fashion risk-taker Rihanna, is.
Kim is widely viewed as a woman who, along with her family, are shameless hustlers who have succeeded on one level but have also dragged pop culture down to nauseating levels of tackiness. Rightly or wrongly, this Vogue cover legitimizes a woman who many feel should not be held up as an example and should remain in her lane of dubious celebrity.
The overwhelmingly positive response to actress Lupita Nyong’o, who slayed global red carpets during her Oscar run, shows that many people still favor class over crass. Sadly for Vogue, who for years has set the trends instead of following them, elected for the latter over the former.
Will this cover be the ultimate demise of yet another iconic American brand? That’s yet to be seen. But we think it was a colossal misstep on Vogue’s part. For Kim and Kanye, it’s just another round of the media attention they’re both addicted to. For them, fame is a helluva drug.