She has the fortune of seeing herself become a legend in her lifetime. Her life exemplifies the old adage that talent, dedication and hard work can launch anyone into the stratosphere and keep same person there.
We write, of course, about Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter, whose ancestry dates back hundreds of years to a slave owner who fell in love with and married a slave. Beyoncé is the cover feature of Vogue magazine’s September 2018 issue.
Her cover is significant for many reasons. Beyoncé is of African-American descent, her father being African-American, and for the first time in its 125-year publishing history, the Vogue cover photograph was shot by a black man, 23-year-old Tyler Mitchell, selected by Beyoncé herself.
This shows a radical shift in Vogue’s policy, in a sense. It took 82 years for a black model (Beverly Johnson) to grace the cover of Vogue, and 97 years for Talisa Soto, a model of Puerto Rican descent, to make the cover.
In all, so far, there have been only five persons of colour to grace Vogue cover since it began publishing in 1892. Naomi Campbell was the very first person of colour in Vogue cover (1989), followed by Halle Berry (2010), Joan Smalls (along with Clara Delevigne and Karlie Kloss, (2014)), Beyoncé herself (2015) and again this year.
Beyoncé, who became famous as a singer in the group Destinys Child, has always strived for racial inclusiveness. In the interview in Vogue, she had this to say of her choice of Mitchell:
“Until there is a mosaic of perspectives coming from different ethnicities behind the lens, we will continue to have a narrow approach and view of what the world actually looks like. That is why I wanted to work with this brilliant 23-year-old photographer Tyler Mitchell.
“When I first started, 21 years ago, I was told that it was hard for me to get onto covers of magazines because black people did not sell. Clearly that has been proven a myth. Not only is an African American on the cover of the most important month for Vogue, this is the first ever Vogue cover shot by an African American photographer.”.
She continued, arguing that until those in power learn to appreciate and adapt to other cultures and perspectives, “they will never have a greater understanding of experiences different from their own. They will hire the same models, curate the same art, cast the same actors over and over again, and we will all lose.“
With the slow but remarkable shift down at Vogue, we are at least seeing progress that will make the world a more hospitable place, every race respected and involved.