Vanity Fair’s ‘Hollywood’ cover has been emphasizing diversity problem for 20 years


Annie Leibovitz

When it comes to diversity in Hollywood, it seems they”re playing by the “two steps forward, one step back” rule. Never is this lack of representation more prevalent than when Vanity Fair puts out the cover of their 'Hollywood Issue' each March. And sadly, 2015 is no exception.

Photo Credit: Vanity Fair

At first glance, you might think “Well, the Oscars are super white this year so obviously the cover would be too,” but look again. Oscar Isaac was granted a spot for his turn in “A Most Violent Year,” which received a grand total of zero nominations. So being on the Academy list was not necessarily a criteria.

This cover is especially perplexing since last year Vanity Fair seemed to have  grasped that we”re living in the 21st century with its most racially diverse 'Hollywood Issue' cover yet. A solid HALF the actors in the picture were black.

Photo Credit: Vanity Fair

It was a small victory yes, but a crucial one. Vanity Fair has been touting their March Hollywood Issue for two decades (with a break in 2009 to feature President Obama). A little digging reveals some disappointing statistics. Most years, Vanity Fair dealt in tokenism with ten covers coming in at exactly one black actor (including 2015). There have been six years where no black actors even made the cut, only THREE that featured two, leaving the 2014 cover as the only time in Vanity Fair”s 'Hollywood Issue' history to showcase more than two black actors at once.

If you cast the net wider to include all PoC, representation of non-white actors increases by a paltry nine (Oscar Isaac, America Ferrera, Rosario Dawson x2, Ziyi Zhang, Salma Hayek, Lucy Liu, Jennifer Lopez, and Benicio Del Toro).

You could say that Vanity Fair is just a reflection of the systematic diversity issue in entertainment, and you”d be right. For every “12 Years a Slave” that wins well-deserved accolades, there”s a “Selma” being shut out.  Because somehow, despite “Selma”'s nomination for Best Picture, Ava Duvernay did not receive a nomination for Best Director, nor did David Oyelowo for Best Actor. Which shouldn't come as a shock when the Academy is hoping no one notices that in its 87 year history, the Academy has only nominated black actors 66 times across all four acting categories, and pitiful 77 times for ALL OTHER CATEGORIES, from cinematography to sound mixing.

But that doesn't mean there aren't actors of color out there all year, every year giving their all in an industry that tends to overlook them.  In an field where snagging spot on one of the most coveted magazine covers means the ability to get projects off the ground, that's quite the handicap. If “Vanity Fair” needed some help, here's a few names that could've made the cut this year.

If they wanted to go big, why not include John Boyega, who is poised on the brink of superstardom? If critical darlings are the name of the game, why not Tyler James Williams for his performance in “Dear White People” as a black man caught between being tokenized by his white classmates and unwelcome by the black community for his sexuality? And let's not forget the ladies. Gugu Mbatha-Raw killed it in a period piece about what is was like to be a bi-racial woman in 18th century England and as superstar Noni in “Beyond the Lights.”

After twenty years of 'Hollywood Issue' covers, it begs the question. Are the people in power even TRYING to fix the discrepancy in racial representation? Because it sure as hell doesn”t look like it from out here.

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