Covers & Content: May 2017

How diverse were the May 2017 issues of Canada’s top fashion magazines? We report on this every month, taking into consideration the cover star as well as the representation in the fashion editorials. Read on to find out how this month’s issues fared.

The Magazine: Elle Canada

The Cover Star: Evan Rachel Wood

Perceived Appearance of Cover Star: White

Does the magazine appear to feature any models of colour in the editorials?: Yes, there were two fashion editorials in this issue. One starred in thin, mixed-race model, and the second featured one thin, white model.

Does the magazine appear to feature any plus-size models in the editorials?: No.


The Magazine: FASHION

The Cover Star: Jourdan Dunn

Perceived Appearance of Cover Star: Black

Does the magazine appear to feature any models of colour in the editorials?: Yes, there were two fashion editorials in this issue. One starred in thin, mixed-race model, and the second featured one thin, white model.

Does the magazine appear to feature any plus-size models in the editorials?: No.

Covers & Content Annual Review 2014, Part 1: Elle Canada

2014 has come to a close, so it’s time to look back on every issue printed this year by Canada’s three top fashion magazines: Elle Canada, Fashion, and Flare, to see how diverse they were overall and compared to last year.

This review will be divided into three parts (one for each magazine), just like we did last year. Posting will be done alphabetically, so Elle Canada is up first!

For a review of this project, please check out the FAQ page here.


Elle Canada, what happened to you this year??


Last year, Elle Canada came in second for most cover stars of colour, and this year they had ZERO cover stars of colour exclusively. A note should be made though–yes, Kayla Clarke made an appearance on the August 2014 cover BUT there are three serious caveats to consider:

1. She did not star solo on the cover, but was one of three models on the cover.


2. As you can see from the cover, she appeared as part of a Token Diversity Cover, which may be considered akin to a Token Diversity Spread (Token Diversity Spread: When a fashion magazine books/uses an ensemble of models, including some models of colour or models representing other minorities in the fashion world like plus size models or visibly older models, but are careful not to allow the minorities chosen to make up the majority of the spread or the majority of models chosen.)

3. She (nor any of the other models for that matter) did not get an in-depth interview or accompanying story to go with her cover. The three models shared a one paragraph-long interview.

This is pretty shocking, as Elle Canada had 4 cover stars of colour last year, and its competitors, Flare and Fashion both managed more cover stars of colour (we’ll get there, don’t want to spoil the total yet). Tsk, tsk, tsk.


The January 2014 issue of Elle Canada was a Whiteout Issue, starring Cate Blanchett on the cover, and contained two fashion editorials, both starring one thin, white model each. This issue stood out as it contained an interview with Jenna Talackova. Incidentally, she would have been a great cover star for Elle Canada–take note, editorial team.


The February issue was pretty slim, Kate Mara starred on the cover and it had no editorials, only a trend/runway report.


Scan 3

Above: Scan from editorial “Top Ten” in Elle Canada March 2014.

For the first time this year, Elle Canada returned to a fashion magazine classic and had a model star on the cover, Logan, who is Canadian. Unfortunately, this didn’t do much for diversity as Logan appears to be thin and white. There were three editorials this month. Two of these editorials were status quo, starring one thin, white model each. The third editorial starred four black models, representing the first time this year Elle Canada booked models of colour for an editorial. Something interesting to note though about this editorial:

1. It was the first and only time a female model appeared entirely nude in a shoot throughout Elle Canada‘s publishing year.

Scan 4

 Above: Scan from editorial “Top Ten” in Elle Canada March 2014.

2. It is interesting that four black models had to share a spread when immediately following, two white models got to star in their own spread.


April was a blah blah basic Whiteout Issue, starring Emily VanCamp on the cover, and two editorials both starring one thin, white model.


elle canada may 2014

Above: Perhaps this model is sulking because the issue she was in, May 2014, just missed the mark of being a really great, feminist issue.

Damn, too bad the May Elle Canada was a Whiteout Issue, because it was otherwise Elle Canada‘s most feminist issue of the year! It literally had an article on fashion and feminism (which, you know, is kind of what we’re all about here at The Closet Feminist). This issue also focused on female artists like Winnie Truong which was really cool (for more on women, art, and fashion, be sure to check out our Inspired by Art Herstory column). Lastly, it featured a Kelis interview, and she’s badass. Interestingly, both Elle Canada and Fashion featured brief interviews with Kelis this year to discuss her latest album, Food, but neither decided to give her a cover story. The May cover, by the way, featured Rose Byrne.


June was yet another Whiteout Issue, starring Emma Roberts on the cover, and had two editorials, both featuring one thin, white model each.


Scan 5

Above: The weird, second “cover” featuring Ashley Graham in Elle Canada‘s July issue.

The July issue of Elle Canada was kinda….weird. It was another Whiteout Issue, and Gisele was the cover star, but then they did this odd second cover, immediately behind Gisele’s starring top ‘plus’ model Ashley Graham.

The pull quote on Graham’s “cover” reads, “Everyone wants to talk about plus size models right now.” Ironically (and sadly), Graham’s interview is super-short. To add insult to injury, this issue has two editorials, but there isn’t a ‘plus’ model in sight, as both feature one thin, white model each.

Lastly, it seems Graham’s cover is a classic controversial cover–we can’t really see her face or her body, which is a fatphobic trick magazines seem to use when they have a ‘plus’ cover star.

Given all this, the July issue seems like the biggest #fail of the year for Elle Canada, not to mention its the FOURTH Whiteout Issue in a row.


Scan 6

Above: A scan of one of the two pages that the three models shared. Honestly, it’s a bad picture of all of them. Way to phone it in, Elle Canada.

Now we come to the August issue, which has already been torn apart in the opening comments. Technically, it breaks Elle Canada‘s streak of Whiteout Issues, but just barely. As mentioned, there were three cover stars, Canadian models Pamela Bernier, Sophie Touchet, and Kayla Clarke. The models, however, do not get an editorial nor a full length interview, the three of them share a paragraph-long interview.

Weirdly, there is one editorial this month, and while it gets points for showing off the creations of Canadian designers, it stars one thin, white model. This is kind of odd, because they clearly had Kayla Clarke in their studio at one point, why not just book her for this shoot instead?



Above: Grace Mahary stars in “Mod Love” in Elle Canada September 2014

And now we come to the September Issue of  Elle Canada, which is any fashion magazine’s biggest issue of the year. Thankfully, it is not a Whiteout Issue. It starred Mia Wasikowska on the cover, and had three editorials. The first starred Canadian Model (and woman of colour) Grace Mahary exclusively, yay! The other two editorials were status quo, featuring a single thin, white model each.


October saw to another Whiteout Issue, featuring Drew Barrymore on the cover. Despite having three editorials this month, Elle Canada decided to not book a single model of colour, as all three starred one thin, white model each. Booooo!



Above: Hereith Paul stars in “Evening Star” in Elle Canada November 2014.

Masters of Sex star Lizzy Caplan landed the November cover of Elle Canada. This issue had three editorials, the first starred one thin, black model, the other two were status quo editorials.


Apparently committed to finish off their super-status quo year, Elle Canada closed out their publishing year with Hilary Duff on the cover of their December issue. There were two editorials, both starring a thin, white model each. Talk about anticlimactic!


Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 1.43.41 PM

Above is a table of how each 2014 issue of Elle Canada fared in terms of diversity this past year.

Elle Canada put out twelve issues this year, though only featured a cover star of colour. Of these twelve issues, seven of them were Whiteout Issues.

They did twenty-six editorials total this year. Of these, none featured a ‘plus’ size model. Three editorials total featured models of colour.

Bottom line, Elle Canada, you are a great magazine, but we know you can do better, you did last year! If you’re stuck on building a more diverse publication, The Closet Feminist humbly recommends you consider the following celebs as cover stars for 2015:


Jenna Talackova

Lupita Nyong’o

Laverne Cox

Janet Mock

Jourdan Dunn

FKA Twigs

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (she really loves fashion!)

Alexa Chung

Jamie Chung


Mindy Kaling


Rebel Wilson

Nicki Minaj

Kerry Washington


Melissa McCarthy

Lucy Liu


Stella Jean

…just to name a few amazing ladies we’d love to see land a cover story of your magazine.



Jezebel Has Crunched the Numbers, NYFW is Still Really White

We fill in the gaps of Jezebel’s biannual report on the number of white models who participated in New York Fashion Week, and make a few notes of our own.


Above: Victoria Beckham‘s much-praised Spring 2014 collection. Note the lack of models of colour.

Thank goodness for Jezebel and their ongoing project of meticulously counting the number of models of colour who are hired for New York Fashion Week, completed by their reporters Phoenix Tso, Callie Beusman, Tanisha Love Ramirez, Kate Dries, and Dodai Stewart (names are important, give credit where credit is due). Their latest report, based on the NYFW shows for the Spring 2014 collections that were just under two weeks ago shows that white models made up 79.89% of all models sent down the catwalks. Jezebel says this is a number that has changed very little since 2008.

Their efforts are not to be mistaken with Bethann Hardison’s project to diversify the runway, which we did a four-part series on last week. Hardison took an even bigger project on, looking at all of the Fall 2013  fashion shows not just in New York, but London, Milan, and Paris as well, openly calling out designers who did not hire black models for their shows. Her results were released on Sept. 6th.  Between Hardison and Jezebel’s efforts, both projects show that fashion week has a serious problem with racism.

Let’s take a closer look at Jezebel’s report.

Hardison’s Concerns with Colorism Addressed? 

In our 2nd instalment of our four-part series in response to Hardison’s project, we noted that Hardison seemed to be concerned with colorism more than anything, noting that not all “models of colour” could be represented by Asian models, there needed to be a diversity of skin tones as well.

Jezebel’s project also looked at skin tone, and this year found that for the Spring ’14 shows at least, representations of black and Asian models were pretty even: 8.08% and 8.1%, respectively.

Who is Still Missing from the Catwalk?

Lots of ethnicities, actually. Jezebel made notes on black, Asian, white, and Latina models, but admit that they saw almost no (or in some cases none at all) models who appeared to be of South Asian, Native American, or Middle Eastern descent.

Also, we know this report is focused on race, but it  should be noted that of course there were no plus-size models to be seen anywhere. Eden Miller made headlines for having the first plus-size line shown at fashion week, but apparently only six looks total were shown and no one is talking about it after the fact (it could be possible that the clothes shown were just plain really bad). Plus-size models for fashion week aren’t entirely without precedent–Beth Ditto opened Jean Paul Gaultier’s Spring 2011 show.

What about Mixed-Race Models?

Jezebel admitted that they went by skin tone only to determine whether or not a model was a model of colour, and that they didn’t have the time to investigate the backgrounds of all the hundreds of models that walked the NYFW shows. Reading the presence of mixed-race models therefore might become a bit dicey.


Above: Yumi Lambert was the first model of colour to appear in the Christopher Kane Spring 2014 show.

Our editor Emily Yakashiro gives the example from London Fashion Week–in the Christopher Kane show on Monday, 23 white models were sent down the catwalk before the first model of colour appeared–#24, Yumi Lambert, who is mixed-race (she’s one quarter Japanese). Lambert could have easily passed as white to the untrained eye given the circumstances of that particular show, but Jezebel included Lambert in their NYFW report, noting she walked in 13 shows. Yakashiro further suggests it might be a “takes one to know one” kind of a situation, being mixed-race herself.

Keepin’ it Cutthroat with Models of Colour

Jezebel made note of a disturbing trend where casting agents for shows are hiring the same few models of colour over and over again, opting not to hire any fresh faces for their shows.


Left to right: Jourdan Dunn, Grace Mahary, Senait Gidey

This is really problematic for a few reasons:

1. If they keep hiring the same few models of colour, it would seem that these models like Grace Mahary, Cora Emmanuel, and Malaika Firth automatically become these token celebrities representing All Black Women in Fashion; they can’t simply hire other black models for shows unless they are similarly presented, suggesting that models of colour have to work twice as hard to earn and keep their spot at the top, while white models just have to walk in the door.

2. Hiring the same models of colour over and over again keeps competition especially cutthroat. For instance, if we know Calvin Klein wants only one black model, the competition for this coveted spot would be between the three models mentioned above, as well as Chanel Iman and Jourdan Dunn. This is a prime example of systemic sexism and racism; it shows how women are constantly pitted against one another, being forced into competition rather than wanting to establish a supportive, helpful community.

3. Repetitious hiring is tokenism and keeps with the status quo, it is like casting agents can’t even be bothered to seek out new talent. It’s like they assume a fashion show’s audience care and interest in models of colour maxes out after a while and so they don’t even try to find new models, so they throw in the One Black Girl Everyone Likes Already to keep the audience thinking that yes, there is diversity even if its conducted in the most transparent way.

4. It puts an enormous amount of pressure on models of colour to represent their race. This is a problem white models never have to deal with. For example, Marine Deleeuw isn’t The White Model the way Joan Smalls is The Black Model. As mentioned in #1, these models become The Black Women of Fashion, and become pigeon holed in a way that a white model never would.

Designers who are doing Pretty Good


Above: A look from Jeremy Scott’s Spring 2014 show, which was relatively quite diverse. Sorry, we’re not sure who this model is, if you know her name let us know!

Jezebel reported that designers who had, ” a respectable roughly 30 percent or more models of color or more,” included:

Anna Sui

Pamella Roland

Jeremy Scott

Dennis Basso

Vivienne Tam,


Rachel Comey

Alice + Olivia

Ohne Tietal

Tracy Reese

Thom Brown

Diane Von Furstenberg

Zac Posen

Designers who are Still Really Committed to their White Supremacy

Despite these strides forward, Jezebel notes that, “there were plenty of designers who featured a distressingly low number of models of color [sic]”, further explaining that, “these designers often had models of color showing between zero and three looks a presentation. Many boosted their numbers only because of a select black or asian model who wore more than one look.” The guilty designers include:



Kate Gallagher

Sass & Bide

Wes Gordon


Theyskens’ Theory

Yigal Azrouel

Band of Outsiders

Victoria Beckham

Jen Kao

Jill Stuart



Racism & The Runway, Part 3: Bethann Hardison’s Campaign and #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen

This is Part 3 of a four-part series on Bethann Hardison’s campaign to diversify the runway as seen on her website Balance Diversity. Read Part 1 here. Read part 2 here.

Currently, all eyes are on New York where Fashion Week is making its biannual splash. This year has gotten off to an especially explosive start with news of Bethann Hardison‘s campaign to diversify the runway which has included calling out specific designers on their racism.

Racism is shocking and unacceptable no matter what. But we are especially shocked to see that the Fall 2013 RTW shows of some of the fashion world’s best known feminists are on Hardison’s list of racist designers.

Or are we that shocked? After all, the crux of the incredibly timely and necessary twitter campaign of #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen  (initiated by Mikki Kendall) was hinged on the poor and unfair treatment of women of colour within the feminist movement.


Above: Cora Emmanuel was the only black model in the Prada Fall 2013 RTW show.

With Hardison’s infamous list, we can see that Prada and Victoria Beckham have both made the list. Miuccia Prada is a longtime and well-known fashion world feminist, yet the collection in her name was sadly deemed racist by Hardison’s standards. Indeed, the show had three Asian models, and one black model among the dozens of white models.


Above: Fei Fei Sun is one of a few Asian models, and the only models of colour to appear in Victoria Beckham’s Fall 2013 RTW show. This show had no black models.

Victoria Beckham also made the list. Despite being praised on this site twice (here and here) as a feminist fashion designer, it seems that she has a lot to learn about intersectional feminism and anti-racism.

So #SolidarityIsForPradaAndBeckham then, no?

Also of interest is the fact that Diane von Furstenberg is President of the CFDA. Hardison’s letter of racist New York-based fashion designers was addressed to her, and with such an esteemed position, it will be interesting to see what von Furstenberg does with this information. She is, after all, a feminist herself, and we’re encouraged that her Spring 2014 collection shown yesterday was in fact relatively diverse: of the 38 looks shown, 15 were shown on models of colour.


Above: The 90s supermodels pack, including Naomi Campbell.

Furthermore, is anyone else disappointed that no white models, even ones with a lot of clout, have come forward as allies to black models and models of colour? Someone as popular as Lindsay Wixson, Jessica Stam (who was in Prada’s Fall 2013 show), or Cara Delevinge could surely threaten to drop out or some other engage in some other act of protest unless a show hired more models of colour? Naomi Campbell has often spoken of how much the camaraderie of her fellow 90s supermodels has meant to her when she was experiencing racism back in the day as the lone black model. So who the heck is sticking up for Chanel Iman, Jourdan Dunn, and Cora Emmanuel? Apparently no one. #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, indeed.


Racism & The Runway, Part 2: Bethann Hardison and Thoughts on Colorism

This is Part 2 of a four-part series on Bethann Hardison’s campaign to diversify the runway as seen on her website Balance Diversity. Read Part 1 here.

By: Emily Yakashiro

There is a part of Bethann Hardison’s activist campaign letter that caught our eye in particular. Now, the whole letter and initiative is spectacular, and puts an important issue where it should be: at the forefront, in all the headlines, etc. The letter she sent to major fashion organizations such as the CFDA and BFC is here:

Eyes are on an industry that season after season watches fashion design houses consistently use of one or no models of color.

No matter the intention, the result is racism.

Not accepting another based on the color of their skin is clearly beyond “aesthetic” when it is consistent with the designer’s brand.

Whether it’s the decision of the designer, stylist or casting director, that decision to use basically all white models, reveals a trait that is unbecoming to modern society.

It can no longer be accepted, nor confused by the use of the Asian model.

-from Bethann Hardison’s letter, read more here.


As you can see from the highlighted section, her comments on Asian models are particularly intriguing. Robin Givhan identifies Hardison’s campaign as being specifically concerned with black models, as does this piece on The Atlantic Wire, and while Hardison’s letter above does not specifically mention black models, it may seem that she is not so concerned about the use of Asian models.

This is not the case. In the Huffington Post, Hardison is quoted saying,

“Please don’t give me an all black show,” Hardison said. “This is about diversity — all nationalities, races, colors and skin tones being equally represented.”

-Hardison, article here.

Upon further reflection, it seems that Hardison is talking about colorism (a term coined by Alice Walker) as well as racism within the fashion industry (if you’re not familiar with colorism go read Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye right now).

Consider this: Proenza Schouler, Céline, Lanvin, and The Row all had Asian models in their runway shows for their Fall 2013 collections, but no black models.

Chanel and Hermès had some Asian models, and but just black model each for their runway shows for that season.



Above: Image of Cora Emmanuel found here.

Rochas had one black model (Cora Emmanuel above)– and incidentally the only model of colour chosen for their runway presentation of their Fall 2013 collection. Even then she was only sent down the runway once by our count (and there were 40 looks shown).

All of these designers were mentioned in Hardison’s letters. We chose to highlight these designers in particular because all of them were considered highlights of the Fall 2013 season by…

It would seem that, as Hardison has pointed out, that Asian models are often chosen to be the models of colour representing in shows by designers who are especially hesitant to use models of colour racist. It is almost a knee-jerk, default reaction. Can’t you just see designers and casting directors sitting around and thinking, “Oops, shoot, there are no models of colour on this list. We’ll throw in an Asian model so we look more diverse.” Yes, it is tokenism, but there is also colorism at play here.

It is not a coincidence that Asian models are cast as the preferred “models of colour” over black women. The Asian models cast in the shows mentioned above all have fairly light or pale skin–by and large, the Asian women chosen do not have darker complexions or tanned skin. In other words, there is a degree of whiteness present that comforts the colorist eye at first glance. “Asian” in a model seems to have become a sinister code for “as close to white as we can get and still hire a model of colour.”


For example, with the shows mentioned above, if you click on the “show all looks” button so that you can see a list of thumbnails of all the looks shown, an undiscerning eye might assume that Proenza Schouler, Céline, Lanvin, and The Row had entirely white models.  To wit: look at this one shot of Soo Joo Park above in the Chanel Fall 2013 RTW show–she has blonde hair, and her face is partially obstructed by the collar of her coat. Now, as woman of Asian descent interested in feminism and anti-oppression, I’ve become somewhat obsessed with Asian presences (or absences) in the fashion world. If I did not have this ‘radar’, I might not immediately realize the difference with this picture in its thumbnail format, and would have assumed she was white. There is an ‘aesthetic’ at work here with Soo Joo Park’s look in this show that plays right into the preference for apparent whiteness, yet Chanel would still be lauded for having models of colour in their show.

Now, of course, there is nothing wrong with Park dyeing her hair blonde. And, obviously, Park is a woman of colour. But I would not have had these same issues if it had been Chanel Iman wearing this look, and I think whoever was casting director for this Chanel show was definitely counting on these factors.

Clearly, Hardison is on to something: being Asian in appearance works as a weird sort of white privilege in the fashion world; even in the whitest of shows an Asian model still manages to get a booking (albeit just one Asian model oftentimes). We haven’t heard that Wang Xiao and Soo Joo Park are competing for one spot in a show as part of the “one Asian girl” policy in the way that Chanel Iman and Jourdan Dunn hear that a show “already has one black girl.” Indeed, there are far fewer black models (if any at all), not to mention there aren’t any South Asian models, no Native American models, no darker-skinned Latina models.

It is also interesting to quickly note how complex the conversation must get for models who might be mixed-race; if one is white and ________, the whiteness would always be rewarded and the colour oppressed (at least that has been my personal experience as someone who is of Irish, Scottish, and Japanese descent).

Overall, Hardison’s seemingly random comment points out to the perfect storm of racism, tokenism, and colorism plaguing what seems to be the entire fashion world.






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