Chiwetel to Chadwick: Vanity Fair’s Most Diverse Hollywood Issue to Date

By  February 03, 2014

One hundred years of Vanity Fair. Twenty years of its Hollywood issue. And now, six faces of color starring in the annual feature, doubly honoring the most-promising acts in Tinseltown while marking the glossy’s most-diverse cover to date.

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Yes, Julia Roberts lapping up with Idris Elba is eye-catching—even covetable. Still, what’s especially novel about this Annie Leibovitz-lensed portrait is that Vanity Fair—often criticized for its lack of cover-star diversity—recorded a refreshing moment in Hollywood history. Of the twelve actors featured in the issue, six are black. Two, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Elba, appear on the actual cover—the one we’ll see on newsstands before finding Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Naomie Harris, and Chadwick Boseman immortalized on the three-panel fold-out. This, folks, is history.

It’s not that Vanity Fair has failed to recognize people of color, particularly black talent, in its Hollywood issues of years past. There was one, Angela Bassett in 1995. Will Smith in 1996; a then-single Jada Pinkett in 1997. Later, Samuel L. Jackson and Don Cheadle in 2003. A pre-Scandal Kerry Washington in 2005. You had to unfold the three-page cover to find their images, though. In 1998, 1999, and 2007, Djimon HounsouThandie Newton, and Chris Rock could be found on the actual front page with their respective contemporaries; however, not a single black actor was counted in its 2000, 2001, and 2010 reveals.

If that isn’t enough context for you, then I don’t know what is.

Roberts, George ClooneyJared LetoBrie LarsonMargot Robbie, and Léa Seydoux also appear in the March 2014 issue, rounding out the most profound performers and “distinguished actors” of 2013. For the elite who go on to Oscars glory, (Ejiofor, Nyong’o, Roberts, and Leto are all nominated), they’ll add to the 135 Oscar nominations and 28 wins earned by inductees to the Hollywood issue.

This cover, though, is a victory in its own right.