Imagine a scenario in which a powerful, self-made, self-possessed woman deigns to follow the orders of a much-less powerful, egomaniacal foreigner and crash-diets herself to aesthetic "acceptability" so she can appear on the cover of an American magazine available to the public for, at most, 4 weeks. That scenario is exactly what happened when Oprah Winfrey was asked — and agreed — to appear on the cover of Vogue's October 1998 issue. As the story goes, Winfrey spent months whittling herself to Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour's exacting standards so that she would look acceptable in a Steven Meisel-photograph for the cover. "If you want to be on the cover of Vogue and Anna Wintour says you have to be down to 150lbs - that's what you gotta do," Winfrey told the BBC, adding, tellingly, "I didn't think for one moment 'Now I am going to be a Vogue model' nor even did I think I could hold that weight."
The Vogue cover turned out well, as many remember: Oprah looked hot. But there was something spooky beneath the Vogue image's Meisel-perfect, glossy veneer; namely, the idea that even a woman who had made her fortune validating women's strengths, hopes and dreams — and becoming one of the most powerful people on the planet in the process — would so eagerly and willingly help to perpetuate the "cover lie" of a medium that has made its mark by invalidating women's strengths, hopes and dreams with an endless parade of stories on how to be thinner, sexier, trendier, and — ugh — better in bed.