The scorching hot August 2013 issue of Vanity Fair features Scandal star Kerry Washington on the cover. About fucking time.
In April 2012, Vanity Fair published a "special TV issue," and while Kerry Washington was on the inside, she was not on the cover. To be fair, Scandal started that same month, so it was not yet a hit.
In January of this year, Vanity Fair's Hollywood issue included a profile of Washington, but again, she was technically not on the cover — her image appeared inside the gatefold; you could only see her face if you unfolded the poster-style cover. Pushing people of color to the side and off the cover is a popular technique that's been employed by Vanity Fair for decades.
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In February, we questioned why Kerry Washington had yet to be featured on a major magazine cover. She'd done Essence and Ebony — great! — but since Scandal was a ratings juggernaut and she'd added an Oscar-nominated film (Django Unchained) to her resume, she should have had more love from the mainstream mags.
In May, Washington was featured on the cover of Elle. As Jenna wrote then, this was:
Nine years after starring in the Oscar-nominated Ray, seven years after her role in the Oscar-nominated The Last King of Scotland, thirteen months after becoming the first black woman to be cast in a lead role in a network drama since 1974, five months after the release of her latest Oscar-nominated movie, the blockbuster Django Unchained, and six weeks after her show topped 8 million weekly viewers
Since Vanity Fair is obsessed with pop culture, politics and current affairs, you'd think that the star of Scandal — a show set within the intricate machinery inside the D.C. beltway and the White House — would eventually make the cover. But the truth is, Kerry Washington's cover is quite a surprise, considering VF's history.
The last time VF had a black woman on the cover was in January 2007. The woman was Beyoncé, and she shared the cover with Eddie Murphy and Jamie Foxx. (There have been black men featured more recently; in June 2010 footballer Didier Drogba (posing with Cristiano Ronaldo) was on the cover; in Februrary 2010 Tiger Woods was featured; in September 2009 the late Michael Jackson was honored. The March 2009 issue had Barack Obama. A small gallery of back issues is here.) To be clear: It's been SIX years since Vanity Fair had a black woman on the cover, and the last time a black woman had a cover to herself was Beyoncé in 2005.
Of course, this isn't exclusively a Vanity Fair problem. This is a Hollywood problem and a Western civilization problem. We may have a black woman married to the President of the United States, but black women are consistently devalued, marginalized and rendered invisible; absent or underrepresented, from fashion runways to Capitol Hill (although when white women in entertainment re-imagine themselves in certain trappings of a subset of black women, they reap financial rewards).
Fingers crossed that this issue of Vanity Fair — which usually has a circulation of over 1 million readers, 77% of whom are female — does some good newsstand sales. Kerry Washington deserves it.