The numbers don't lie: Though we saw six major mainstream magazine March 2015 covers featuring bold-faced black female entertainers, last year, only 14% of major fashion mag covers featured women of color.
According to census numbers, non-white minorities — black, Asian, Hispanic, etc. — make up at least 37% of the population. American fashion magazines are doing a poor job of reflecting America's diversity.
This month alone, Lupita Nyong'o smiles on Lucky; Viola Davis is stunning on Entertainment Weekly, Gugu Mbatha-Raw's cool gaze graces Town & Country; Tracee Ellis Ross rocks Essence, Rihanna smolders on Harper's Bazaar and Kerry Washington's all wind-in-the-hair on InStyle.
But the reason we're so excited about these magazine covers is because they are rare. A woman of color on the cover of a major mainstream fashion magazine makes waves, since we see WOC so infrequently.
We decided to look back and see what progress (if any) has been made over the last year — and which magazines are actually doing their hand in promoting diversity.
Focusing on the major mainstream fashion magazines, we counted how many women of color graced covers last year. And of the six publications that featured black female stars for March 2015, we determined when was the last time such a thing occurred. The numbers may surprise you.
Number of WOC featured on cover: 4 — Rihanna for March, Rihanna and Beyoncé for the Met Gala supplement in May, Lupita N'yongo for July, and Joan Smalls for September.
Number of WOC featured on cover: 3 — Joan Smalls for January, Mindy Kaling for February, Rihanna for December
Magazine: Harper's Bazaar
Number of WOC featured on cover: 0
Number of WOC featured on cover: 1 — Jennifer Lopez for April
Magazine: Vanity Fair
Number of WOC featured on cover: 2 — Lupita N'yongo and Naomie Harris for March (although they were not on the front flap)
Number of WOC featured on cover: 2 — Shakira for February, Lupita N'yongo for December
Number of WOC featured on cover: 3 — Kerry Washington for January, Zoe Saldana for February, Solange Knowles for August
Magazine: Marie Claire
Number of WOC featured on cover: 2 — Lupita Nyong'o for May, Zoe Saldana for August
Number of WOC featured on cover: 1 — Chrissy Teigen for June
Number of WOC featured on cover: 1 — Aubrey Plaza for September
Magazine: Teen Vogue
Number of WOC featured on cover: 1 — Selena Gomez for December 2013/January 2014
OF THE SIX MARCH 2015 PUBLICATIONS THAT FEATURE A WOMEN OF COLOR COVER STAR, WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME THEY DID SO?
We examined the publications that feature a WOC on their March 2015 cover (Lucky Magazine, InStyle, Town & Country, Entertainment Weekly, and Harper's Bazaar — with the exception of Essence, as it is a black women-oriented magazine) and looked to determine when a WOC graced their covers last. We discovered the following:
It's been 1 month since the magazine's last WOC cover star: Nicole Warne for February 2015
Magazine: Town & Country
It's been 38 months since the magazine's last WOC cover star: Shala Monroque for January 2012
Magazine: Entertainment Weekly
In a surprise move, Entertainment Weekly placed Taraji P. Henson and Terence Howard, stars of the runaway hit Empire on the March 6th cover, just a week after a cover with How To Get Away With Murder star Viola Davis hit newsstands. Before Davis' cover, it had been 7 months since the magazine's last WOC cover star, Danai Gurira for September 5, 2014.
Magazine: Harper's Bazaar
It's been 31 months since the magazine's last WOC cover star: which incidentally was also Rihanna for their August 2012 issue.
It's been 20 months since the magazine's last WOC cover star: Salma Hayek for July 2013
While the internet was abuzz over Rihanna's March 2015 Harper's Bazaar cover, what's interesting to note is that the last WOC the publication featured on their cover was Rihanna, almost 3 years ago. They couldn't find anyone else? Like, what was Beyoncé doing? Jeez.
Lucky magazine is definitely proving itself to be committed to diversity; most likely in an attempt to reflect the younger audience the brand is hoping to attract under the helm of EIC Eva Chen. Only three issues into 2015, the publication has already featured two women of color on the cover.
Meanwhile, Town & Country has had a three year lapse in between WOC cover stars. Just let that sink in.
InStyle incited a kerfuffle with its "whitewashed" cover of Kerry Washington. The only thing more disappointing about this cover bungling is that it had been 2 years since another WOC had been featured on the cover.
What these numbers don't tell us, however, is whether magazines are truly closing in on the gap on representation. Is media anywhere closer to reflecting a more diverse American readership or is this battle a sliding scale of progress and regression? Only time will tell. What is certain is that these numbers are bleak and need to improve.
*UPDATED: Corrections to graphs and data have been made to reflect accuracy.*
Images via Vogue, Elle, Harper's Bazaar, InStyle, Vanity Fair, Glamour, Marie Claire, Lucky, Cosmopolitan, Teen Vogue, Nylon, Town & Country, Essence, Entertainment Weekly.
Marjon Carlos is a style and culture writer for Fusion who boasts a strong turtleneck game and opinions on the subjects of fashion, gender, race, pop culture, and men's footwear.