This 'Vanity Fair' Trend is Horrible

by Rachel Simon

One of the most striking things about the cover of this year's Vanity Fair Hollywood Issue is what's missing — namely, black actors. Sure, Selma star David Oyelowo makes the cut, but he's the only non-white actor in the entire 10-person lineup. It's a disappointing image, especially considering how many other deserving people of color the magazine could've included —and even more so because for several of the white actors, this wasn't even their first time being honored in the annual issue.

Of the 10 people shown in the 2015 edition, five of them — Reese Witherspoon, Amy Adams, Sienna Miller, Eddie Redmayne, and Felicity Jones — have starred in previous Vanity Fair Hollywood covers, from Redmayne's debut just two years ago to Witherspoon's first inclusion way back in 1999. The repeats themselves aren't the issue, as the cover is meant to highlight the "brightest stars" of a certain year, an honor a successful actor could easily inhabit twice. Rather, what's problematic is the fact that Vanity Fair has chosen to give space to the same (white) people it's featured in years past instead of honoring new (non-white) individuals.

Especially considering that the magazine easily could've done both. In the 21-year history of the Hollywood Issue, the number of people featured on the cover has ranged from three to 15. There's no reason why this year's Vanity Fair couldn't have included the nine white actors they did, including the repeats, in addition to several non-white actors. The issue would've stayed within the magazine's standards, and made progress for diverse representation in media at the same time.

Yet the Hollywood Issue chose to highlight just one person of color, and unfortunately, it's far from the first time Vanity Fair's failed to highlight the industry's diversity. With the exception of 2014, when half of the stars featured were non-white actors, nearly every year of the issue's publication has been nearly completely white. The average number of people included on a Hollywood Issue is 10; with rare exception, almost every issue featured no more than one or two people of color, and some had none at all.

But as for repeat actors, the celebrities allowed to star on the cover for multiple issues? 24 actors have been given that opportunity, including several who were featured three times— and of that group, only three (Kerry Washington, who is black, Penelope Cruz, who is Hispanic, and Rosario Dawson, who is of mixed race) have not been white. Vanity Fair seems to have no problem giving white actors the chance to star on their cover time and time again, but when it comes to people of color, the magazine's rarely allows them the chance to appear even once.

The issue of diverse representation in media is nothing new, of course. Countless articles and studies have been devoted to the lack of non-white actors in movies, television, magazines and more, and recent events like the all-white Oscars have brought the topic to the forefront of conversation. Yet it's still distressing when an outlet like Vanity Fair, a magazine with a strong reputation and an undeniable influence, chooses to augment the problem instead of working to fix it. Last year's wonderfully diverse cover was apparently just an anomaly; Vanity Fair, it seems, would rather feature the same white actors again and again than highlight the people of color who need — and deserve — the representation most of all.