Well, It’s Official

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by Leandra Medine
January 15, 2014
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Lena Dunham covers Vogue and Twitter practically explodes

I’m glad we’re not playing that game where you’re expected to take a shot every time Lena Dunham’s February Vogue cover is mentioned because you’d probably find yourself too inebriated to read this dispatch, which I’ll call the lucky number 101st nod to the aforementioned.

The rumors were true — she does cover the February issue and on it, she wears a buttoned-to-the-collar polka dot jacket. Eyes big and brown, she appears ready to attempt to explain why Charlie left Marnie over grilled pizza.

The spread features Dunham’s Girls co-star, a stoic Adam Driver, in three of the five shot-by Annie Leibovitz photos. In one, Dunham wears a pigeon above her head. Is it livestock? Or is it Maison Michel? A similar question arises when considering her Rochas feathered yellow footwear (are the shoes the victim of a recent Sesame Street amputation, or simply made by the anterior designer?). She looks spectacular — arguably better — in Céline than Philo’s own models do. This is an enormous coup as far as I’m concerned, but then again, were we to expect anything less than an aspirationally beautiful and put-together Lena Dunham from a seminal Vogue spread?

My real point of difficulty begins when considering the implications tethered to her cover.

Vogue is a magazine that unapologetically and in a streamlined, predictable-in-all-the-right-ways manner sells a lifestyle. Reading Vogue is not a pick-up-what-you-like-discard-what-you-don’t experience. It is an all-encompassing account that appeals to over one million readers (as evidenced by its current circulation of 1.25 million copies sold monthly) who have been carefully and strategically fed the concept of the Vogue Woman.

This woman experiences fashion not through the lens of a shopper who simply listens and puts into practice what she is told, but as an intellectual with the ideals of an individual who regards her body and that which she uses to cloak it as a critical detail that paints her projected personality. That her understanding of fashion allows her to cultivate a projected personality is another function of her character. She is independent, learned and curious outside the margins of fashion. Ask for her political opinion and she should retort with the same candor and passion that she might when discussing Jil Sander’s departure from her fashion house. Ostensibly too, she maintains the figure of a first class model.

What the traditional Vogue Woman is not is particularly funny. She’s not likely to be a flaming narcissist either, but if so there’s some self-awareness and attempts at course-correction. She’s not a bad friend, she doesn’t traipse through Brooklyn in dirty grey t-shirts long enough to be dresses, and she’d never have missed her first book’s deadline. Therein lies the disconnect.

Of course, the antithesis of a Vogue Woman described above isn’t Lena Dunham — it’s the character she created and embodies on Girls, Hannah Horvath. But divorcing one from the other isn’t as easy as a set of annulment papers. As the leading lady in her breakout series, Lena and Hannah have become so publicly intertwined (why, after all, would Driver be featured as a prop in the spread otherwise?) that it’s difficult to see the artist outside of her art.

Which is probably why long form articles like Vogue’s are so engrossing — we get a better sense of Ms. Dunham (just in time, too; Hannah’s becoming intolerable). And what’s more, a sense that she could, in fact, be the next iteration of the Vogue Woman. One who is equally as aware and inspirational in the realms of art, fashion and culture, but is also funny, human and vulnerable.

February’s Vogue cover makes me wonder: which side of the coin will this affect more comprehensively — the magazine or the lady?

Edited by Kate Barnett

REPLIES
  • bumblejeaniepie

    Bravo!

  • http://eileentheooer.blogspot.com/ Eileen

    Ah signature Leibovitz works!!! I like the subtle Venus of Urbino reference in that bedroom photo. I feel like American Vogue definitely focuses on ladies (or people in general) involved in different realms of art a lot often than other Vogues. I think that’s what makes it stand out against the others & I really enjoy that.

  • Christina Oh

    I’m a Lena Dunham fan so I’m very glad to see her in Vogue. Though Dunham’s Girls character isn’t necessarily a fashion plate, she is (her character and her real sefl) incredibly artistic, interesting and compelling (and sometimes controversial). Who better to feature in a fashion-forward, cutting edge publication like Vogue?

    http://www.christinasstyle.com

    • anon

      Vogue is cutting edge?

  • Alice

    Every time Vogue chooses to focus on a real woman, with problems and imperfections (that she’s not desperately trying to conceal), I mentally clap my hands. It is not that Vogue should consider “normal” girls in the sense that it has to be relatable; on the contrary, Vogue should portray a dreamy lifestyle that we can aspire to. Nevertheless, who is to say that organic food and perfect hair is the norm… Girls like Lena are able to break the monotony that is the “Vogue woman” and it’s refreshing

  • monkeyshines
  • cupcake6

    I’ve been reading Vogue since i was 12 – a long long time ago. I like to see all kinds of people. I imagine not everyone is perfect no matter what they present and as times evolve so should this ideal. I think its welcome.

  • https://www.etsy.com/shop/amatoriaclothing Amatoria Clothing

    I thouroughly enjoyed your writing. The photos are magnificent. She has never looked better. It seems like she has trouble finding clothes that fit her personality and work with her body type in real life. Even though these outfits may be over the top, they just look right on her.

  • Bodil Huisman

    So happy about this, she rocks it!!

    Love Bodil,
    http://www.Bodil-Lois.com

  • Sarita Williams

    I haven’t read the article yet, but after looking at the photos I have to ask, “What’s the artistic concept of Adam Driver’s presence?” Is it that you can’t have one without the other? Are they depicting Hannah and Lena as indistinguishable from each other? I would’ve preferred to see her sans Driver in the photos, but regardless, she does look amazing.

    • agoraphabulous

      Driver is *hawt*. No one is like “Why are there super models with Jimmy Fallon?” re: the cover of Vanity Fair?

  • http://www.dreaminlace.com/ DreamInLace

    What a poignant article and you definitely do raise great points. Because I do respect and commend Lena, I’m happy to see her recognized. I only hope it can lead to a separation between Hannah and Lena, because you’re right: Hannah is not Vogue. She is not the hardworking, quality, classic and beautiful woman that little girls aspire to and consider ‘Vogue’. She’s really the antithesis of what Vogue represents.

    It’s an interesting choice for a cover, but definitely no surprise. I’ve really struggled as a fan of vogue in the past year or so, and this leaves me even more perplexed. It’s great to see them trying to work in a new direction, but I don’t want it to compromise the values of Vogue.

    *ends ramble*

    xoxo
    Kelly
    http://www.dreaminlace.com

  • agoraphabulous

    I truly believe that the cover shot is a not-so-subtle nod toward another Manhattan auteur: Woody Allen. Not that she doesn’t look lovely. But it’s a kooky, angsty pose that I’m almost certain has been aped by Woody over the years. Heck – it’s the classic “Take My Wife Please!” punchline pose.

  • http://thehauterebel.blogspot.com/ Leslie

    I’m a huge fan of Lena’s and think she’s a great writer. I think it’s hard for most to differentiate between Lena and the character on “Girls.”

    http://thehauterebel.blogspot.com

  • ilianavillafan

    is lena dunham comedy?

  • Quinn Halman

    Disclaimer: I’m not an expert at Vogue’s aesthetic

    Honestly, I don’t see why this has to be a big or medium deal. Over the past couple of years, Lena Dunham has become a household name through the popularity of her show, her confidence in herself, and personality. So to me, when someone is intelligent, confident, and unique, she too is a “Vogue woman”. Furthermore, GIRLS IS critically acclaimed, my mom watches it and so do her friends, coworkers, and daughter. All these women also read Vogue (some maybe just flip through it) so to me it only seems a bit late that she’s getting this cover. And quite frankly, she may just be the voice of our generation, or, at least a voice in a generation.

  • Mojo

    She looks amazing–and I’m glad Vogue features Dunham. Moreover, it reminds me of what a good makeup artist, stylist, photographer, and some photoshopping can do to transform any of us into the “Vogue woman.”

  • http://madamecouture.blogspot.com/ Emma Hager

    Lena’s so hot.

  • Lucy

    Lena encompasses the fantasticality (sorry for the made up word) of modern womanhood. She is intellectual, artsy, aspirational and definitely human!!! Leandra, if you could put anyone on the cover of vogue, famous or not, who would it be?

  • carrotsandcandysticks

    I love seeing a woman who has a personality that is quirky and honest and embodies an alternative type of beauty than what we usually see in anything media related. I love that Lena (she calls me by my first name too) is not afraid to redefine cool and also love that vogue honored that. It shows the magazine understands this new shift from unattainable perfection to real-girl awesome, and just how appealing that is. I’d so much rather aspire to be the truest version of myself, which is what Lena exudes, than to try to be stick thin with flawless skin (but hey if that’s the true you, you go girl).

  • J

    I find it sad and obnoxious that Vogue gets applause and admiration for putting a “real” woman on the cover of their magazine. I fully appreciate the amusement and generational appropriateness that is Girls, but this editorial and the sycophantic aura around Vogue in general is getting hard to bear. Even Leibovitz seems to be expressing obvious boredom and defeat in her photos (and I’m a big fan of Leibovitz). First, the photos are so painfully edited and doctored they look worse than Anna Wintour’s face (if that’s possible). The style seems forced and limp. THIS is supposed to be the cutting-edge fashion-art fusion of our time? Well, kill me now because if the only “wow” moment is the fact that she is normal woman’s size, then I live it the worst editorial era ever. It’s clear that Vogue is fast becoming outdated and stagnant, blandly and mundanely pretentious, and completely alienated from anything that is truly inspirational (all these directly apply to Wintour as well as, of course), but I am even more disheartened by the development that Dunham is caving into this blasé and superficial elitism along with the rest of them.

  • http://www.creamstop.com/ Mademoiselle C.

    I think a Vogue Woman can come in different shapes & sizes. Lena Dunham is as much a Vogue Woman as Kate Moss!

    Mademoiselle C. xx

    http://www.creamstop.com

  • asha

    As to the understanding the difference between Lena and Hannah I don’t think the angle or the facial expression on this particular cover is helping. Here she looks like this confused-quirky-slightly clueless-innocent mod’ish teenager when in fact she’s a strong independent adult woman who seems ambitious and hard-working in contrast to Hannah. I do love her eyemakeup and I don’t mind Lena being on the cover.

    Personanlly, I would have liked the cover to be more high fashion. The prada or the celine outfit would have been so much better. I don’t buy magazines because of the celebrities featured but becauce of the fashion in itself.

  • http://24hourfindings.blogspot.com/ Amiee

    I don’t know who I love more in these photos… Lena or Adam Driver!

    Lena shows what a real woman can do with hard work, belief and a cracking personality…. Bravo!

  • Matt

    “One who is equally as aware and inspirational in the realms of art,
    fashion and culture, but is also funny, human and vulnerable.” – I love you Leandra! That’s all!

  • Alba B.

    Looking forward to see you on the cover (sorry direction) of Vogue (usa) soon!!!
    abdsign.blogspot.com

  • http://jessjoycej.wordpress.com/ Jessica Joyce

    That’s definitely something to think about, and so eloquently put, I might add. However, I will just say that I do enjoy the photos, having not read the article yet.
    Your Friend, Jess

  • http://Naomipicks.blogspot.com/ naomi martin

    I miss the days of the supermodel. keep her inside the issue for sure. This isn’t about Lena perse but I really could do without one magazine – at least Vogue – not turning into another Instyle magazine…

  • http://newbornfanatic.wordpress.com/ Newborn Fanatic

    Before I delve into this, I really gotta watch that show!

    http://newbornfanatic.wordpress.com

  • Gabi

    Does anyone else LOVE Adam? I do. I love him.

  • swashi

    Does this bring in broader definitions of womanhood or just pile another throw pillow of impossible expectations on women? I find the idea of becoming a Vogue Woman to be totally exhausting and unattainable (much like having a clean apartment or perfectly organized closet). I prefer brilliant female comedians, such as Gilda Radner, Tina Fey, Janeane Garofalo, and I do like Lena Dunham. So, hopefully, this is totally empowering and creates a new way for women to be themselves and play to their strengths in life.

  • Emma K
  • thestylistdepot

    Love it!! She ‘s so talented , and yes different from a Vogue usual cover model… a bold choice which makes Lena more glamourous and Vogue more edgy. And as a Parisian working in fashion, I agree that she wears Celine better than most Celine clients!!
    http://www.thestylistdepot.com

  • AH

    you write so well. *thumbs up emoji*

  • Everythingisnormal

    I’m sorry, but isn’t this sort of a straw man argument? Or maybe the article is written euphemistically, stating, in short, that excessive photoshop is alright because Vogue produces the “Vogue Woman”.

    Let’s return to the real problem of the issue and not focus on the public understanding of Dunham. This article is not even a defense of Vogue; it simply doesn’t address the initial controversy.

  • alina
  • gaby

    so what you’re saying is…you think lena dunham is intolerable and the fact that vogue would feature such a heifer is not only heinous but insulting? don’t retract it in the last paragraph then…

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