I am here for all that Edward Enniful’s appointment promises to those of us who believe media and the creative arts can change our world for the better.
The shade was so real in late August when Naomi Campbell’s deliciously manicured finger graced the screen of her phone to press ‘post’. She sent a message that the sun is melting the snow storm that is the current Vogue editorial staff team. The gleaming mundanity of a rooftop shoot where untroubled smiles announced that there is nothing radical to be missed with the now former editor-in-chief, Alexandra Shulman’s goodbye.
Underneath the photo Naomi posted on Instagram the caption reads:
“This is the staff photo of @britishvogue under the previous editor #AlexandraSchulman. Looking forward to an inclusive and diverse staff now that @edward_enninful is the editor. Let’s hear your thoughts?”
The old order is beaming in their blissful unawareness of the pulsating diversity of modern multicultural London in the streets below where hijabs, box braids, afros and weaves of the highest quality float gracefully down an Oxford Street that belongs to us all.
I have seen an army of people come for Queen Naomi Campbell over the years, but she will only read you for filth for mighty good reason. Alexandra Shulman needs to “check her lipstick” as well as her white privilege after this. The white supremacist legacy she is leaving behind doesn’t really deserve to be remembered. She held on far too long without any real gumption or daring. On a BBC Radio 4 interview, she rounded off a brief question about diversity in fashion with a paltry and deflective answer, stating that Man Booker prize winning author Paul Beatty’s desire to be known as an ‘American writer’ rather than an ‘African American writer’ resonated with her. This quite awkward sweeping under the rug is so lumpy with denials and dismissals that it is quite perilous to walk across.
Naomi Campbell graced the cover in August 2002 and it wasn’t until February 2015 with Jourdan Dunn that a model with some real melanin was allowed to slay again. Yes, Beyoncé and Rhianna were given some shelf space during that time, but how many mediocre white women have been given the endorsement of a Vogue cover? In fashion, it is still very much true, as Papa Pope reminded a tearful Olivia in Scandal, that “you have to be twice as good to get half as far”.
Edward Enniful is set to come swashbuckling in like a modern Toussaint Louverture with an order of degentrification for the hordes of landed fashionistas. Their Mulberry bags are too soft to serve as protective shields. The significance of Edward Enniful’s appointment cannot be overstated — a black gay man is at the helm of a Condé Nast titan. The black excellence of Naomi Campbell and Edward Enniful is a vindication of meritocracy. We are not allowed to win, unless we have proved one hundred times over that we are deserving.
If Enniful’s ingenious approach to this year’s Pirelli calendar is anything to go by, Vogue readers will finally have their appetite for color, innovation and cutting edge fashion satiated with a healthy dollop of ironic humor. There are so many British women of color waiting in the wings for their covers: Philomena Kwao, Munroe Bergdorf, Leiomie Anderson, Freida Pinto, Gemma Chan. The often-quoted myth that women of color do not sell covers has been disproven. We sell them and we buy them. We spend more than anyone else on beauty and our beauty is undeniable.
Yet the rationalist in me calls for temperance. If we have learned anything from The Obama Era it is that one person can only achieve so much and the backlash will be right on time and savagely rabid. Edward Enniful can’t make London into Wakanda but Angela Basset, Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira are needed for a spread for the release of Black Panther in 2018. Visions of afro futurist utopias sustain us and are always ripe for the camera’s gaze.
The magazine industry has profited from the practice of internships given to graduates with parents who can afford to finance the lives of Beckies who declare war on gluten and are fueled by soy lattés. As Heidi Klum says on Project Runway “In fashion, one day you’re in, and the next day you’re out.” Well, as far as Alexandra Shulman was concerned, whiteness was always in. Perhaps with Edward Enniful at the helm and Naomi Campbell, Pat McGrath, Steve McQueen and Adwoa Aboa as editors, we may have a publication that helps propel our society into the future like Elaine Welteroth is doing with Teen Vogue.
I am here for all that Edward Enniful’s appointment promises to those of us who believe media and the creative arts can change our world for the better. We are constantly told that change can and sometimes must be done from the inside. I am holding my breath. I’m also smiling with my eyes and arching my back. This time, I do hope Vogue notices.
Featured Image: Maddie Barker, Creative Commons