Report: Journal covers from 2021 have at all times been racially completely different
When it comes to diversity, fashion is known to lag behind other industries. But after the fight for racial justice took center stage last year, things finally started to change in 2020. Fortunately, that change continued this year. At least as far as the front pages in 2021 are concerned. We’ll definitely take it.
We saw a small increase in racial diversity on the covers of 2021 magazines. Although the increase is not quite as big compared to 2019 and 2020, the trend is still in the right direction. This year, too, there was more size and gender diversity on the front pages. Although the age representation took a nosedive. (The break-in has a logical reason, but more on that later.)
Of course, the ongoing pandemic continues to pose challenges. But classic photo shoots celebrated a comeback in 2021 after many fashion publications had to do without them in 2020. Unfortunately, some fashion magazines couldn’t weather the storm. The American Marie Claire, for example, worked exclusively digitally. Because of everything that happened this year, there were fewer cover appearances for models than last year.
Read on to see how the 2021 magazine covers fared in terms of diversity across all categories.
We examined 685 cover appearances in 48 major magazine titles and saw a small increase in representation. This year there were 52.9 percent color models compared to 48.8 percent last year. That is a plus of a little more than four points.
This increase was less than that seen between 2019 and 2020, when the color models increased by nearly 12 points. Nevertheless, this year’s covers were the most diverse that there has ever been. Which is a definite win. Especially since we have finally passed the 50 percent mark.
MOST AND LESS DIVERSE
Vogue India, a well-known face in a wide variety of categories, threw 100 percent color models (17 out of 17). Marie Claire US also had 100 percent variety with three out of three color models before the print magazine was folded. Vogue Taiwan, which previously produced 100 percent color models for six years in a row, was in the red this year with 91 percent color models (10 out of 11).
Dazed had 90 percent color models (9 out of 10), followed by Vogue Arabia with 89 percent (17 out of 19) and Vogue Singapore with 86 percent (six out of seven). Interview with 83 percent (five out of six), Allure with 82 percent (9 out of 11) and Vogue China with 80 percent (12 out of 15) complete the list.
When it came to the least diverse magazines of 2021, several international editions of Vogue topped this less-than-desirable list. Vogue Czechoslovakia was the least mixed group with a disappointing 0 percent (0 out of 14). Followed by Vogue Turkey with 10 percent (1 out of 10), Vogue Greece with 18 percent (2 out of 11) and Vogue Portugal with 19 percent (4 out of 21).
The appearances of plus-size models also received a small boost with 24 or 3.50 percent of the total cover appearances. This was an increase over 2020, when 21 castings were cast at 2.66 percent. It’s been the majority of the plus-size models’ appearances since we started keeping track. It is also noteworthy that 16 of the 24 plus-size appearances mentioned above went to color models.
Precious Lee landed six covers: Harper’s Bazaar US, iD, Vogue Brazil, British Vogue, American Vogue and Vogue Arabia. Jill Kortleve graced the covers of four international Vogue editions (Spain, Russia, Hong Kong and Italy), while Paloma Elsesser landed three Vogue covers (Spain, USA and Poland).
Women over 50 were below the 2020 record, in large part due to the 100 covers Vogue Italia produced for last year’s September issue. Those front pages featured a multitude of women over 50, making 2020 an exceptionally mixed-age year.
In 2021 there were 47 model appearances in old age or 6.86 percent. Although this was a decrease compared to the previous year, it was still higher than in previous years. (Like 2019 and 2018 when it was only 41.) Everyone from makeup artist Pat McGrath to fashion designer Anna Sui to iconic supermodels Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell and Iman earned covers this year.
Campbell appeared on three front pages: iD, Interview and V Magazine. Jennifer Lopez and Salma Hayek also scored three covers each this year. Both grabbed separate covers from ELLE US and InStyle, while Lopez also appeared on Allure and graced Hayek Vogue India.
Viola Davis, Halle Berry, Rita Moreno, Dolly Parton and Madonna each grabbed individual covers. And after the November 2020 election, both Kamala Harris and Dr. Jill Biden on separate covers of American Vogue.
TRANSGENDER / NON-BINARY
Gender diversity has seen a minor bump this year. In 2020 there were 12 cover appearances with a total of 1.52 percent, in 2021 there were 13 cover appearances with a total of 1.90 percent. While this surge was barely noticeable, it has been the majority of cover appearances in this category since we started keeping track. In addition, 11 out of 13 appearances in this category were color models.
Indya Moore led the way with two front pages: Dazed and V Magazine. Vogue Thailand, meanwhile, featured three transgender models – Blossom, MJ and Sunshine – on its June 2021 cover to celebrate Pride Month.
Hailey Bieber, Kendall Jenner and Precious Lee shared the top spot and landed six cover appearances each. Bieber reported on V Magazine, Vogue Brazil, Vogue Paris, ELLE US, CR Fashion Book and Harper’s Bazaar US, while Jenner reported on V Magazine, ELLE US and China, Spain, Germany and Hong Kong Published editions of Vogue. Lee has appeared on the covers of Harper’s Bazaar US, iD, Vogue Brazil, British Vogue, American Vogue, and Vogue Arabia.
Adut Akech, Anya Taylor-Joy, Awkwafina, Billie Eilish, Mica Argañaraz, Mona Tougaard and Zendaya all showed strong performances with five covers each.
Of the top 10 cover models of 2021, six were women in color, one of them also in plus size. As usual, there was a lack of age and gender diversity in the top model rankings.
I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO
In 2020 we were afraid that diversity would decline sharply in 2021 and that the last year was just a coincidence due to current events. While the gains have been smaller this year, we’re happy that diversity has still increased and not as we expected from the front pages of 2021 magazines. In fact, for the first time since we kept track of things, more than 50 percent of cover appearances went to color models.
Although the height and sex were higher than in previous years, they’re still pretty skinny. In addition, the number of women over 50 who appear on the front pages of magazines fell disappointingly between 2020 and 2021.
In 2022 we hope that the general upward trend in diversity will continue. We want to see even more racial diversity on the covers of magazines next year (can we get 60 percent or even 70 percent?). Not to mention clearer diversity gains in terms of size, gender, and age. Let’s keep this push forward and make lasting progress.
With additional coverage from Mark E.
For the purposes of this report, “model” is anyone who appears on a cover, even if modeling is not their job. Color models are categorized as non-white or mixed backgrounds.