2016 Was the Year U.S. Fashion Mags Upped Cover Diversity

In 2016, seven out of eleven Teen Vogue covers featured nonwhite women: Amandla Stenberg, Simone Biles, Willow Smith, Zoe Kravitz, Gabby Douglas, Yara Shahidi and Fernanda Ly all faced forward on newsstands — a jump from its four out of seven covers in 2015. Per a recent Fashionista.com report, Teen Vogue is not the only fashion publication to improve its cover diversity this year.

Fashionista looked at 10 U.S. fashion magazines: Allure, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, Nylon, Teen Vogue, Vogue and W — the same titles whose cover diversity Fashionista compared from 2014 to 2015. “The results were not encouraging.” Numbers raised from 19.7 percent to 19.8 percent.

This year, “52 of 147 covers — or 35.3 percent — starred people of color*, as compared to 2015’s 19.8 percent. That’s a 15.5 percent rise.”

(The asterisk led to this disclaimer: “*As with last year, for the purpose of this story, nonwhite included those of mixed race and of Latino or Hispanic descent. It’s important to note, however, that racial identity is very much a social construct and fluid depending on borders.”)

Where international publications are concerned, The Fashion Spot reports that “29% of cover models were women of color” — a “fairly respectable” 6.2% increase from 2015.

These are important improvements, but there is still so much more room for growth overall when it comes to diversity in the industry (which includes race, size, gender, sexuality and their untangle-able intersectionality). According to The Fashion Spot, racial diversity was down at Spring 2017 NYFW compared to Fall 2016. Body diversity, though better-represented than past seasons on the Spring 2017 runway and in the media, is still problematic for non-straight-size shoppers.

Diversity is not a trend, it’s a global reality, and this is a global industry. Readers, shoppers, fans, followers all want to see themselves — on covers, inside publications, on runways, on blogs. In terms of representation, change is happening. Here’s looking forward to 2017.

Related: Five Women of Color Get Real About the Fashion Industry.

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  • Lanatria Brackett Ellis

    I am excited about this as it is well over due. Diversity is not and should not be considered as a trend. Heavy promotion of one over races leaves an impression of one race or color or ‘standard look’ being more desirable or superior. Growing up as a black girl in the south, I could name on one hand faces that look like mine on magazines.

  • Lilli

    “Diversity is not a trend, it’s a global reality” THANK YOU!

  • doublecurl

    The first line sits kinda weird with me….7 out of 11 being women of color seems like a pretty ideal ratio! But then that’s followed with that it’s “a 27.3% improvement”. That makes it seem like we still need a lot more improvement to reach a goal of diverse representation when in reality Teen Vogue is kinda already there, right?

    • Amelia Diamond

      7 out of 11 nonwhite women made Teen Vogue covers in 2016. (63%) In 2015, the number was 4 out of 11. (36%) The difference = 27 percent, but perhaps weird language. Modified it to make it more clear. 7 out of 11 is an amazing ratio!

  • Its a shame that in 2016 we still have to highlight this. I would have hoped by now this would have been the normal in much the same way it is the norm for white people to be on this covers. These brands(and magazines) want our money but can’t be bothered to advertise with people that look like us? It’s a damn shame. 2017 is fastly approaching, they clearly still need to get their shit together!

  • Caro A

    7/11 YES TEEN VOGUE DON’T STOP !!!!!

  • Emmanuelle

    I really feel amongst all these magazines, it’s Teen Vogue who is most interesting in its approach on diversity. It’s really inclusive, I was really impressed by what they did digitally with the Indian girls in America. Though I am not American, I found it really touching. I really believe Teen Vogue is paving the way, and that they did an amazing job hiring Elaine Welteroth as the editor-in-chief. Also, reading Teen Vogue seems so much deeper than reading Vogue lately, is it only me having this impression?