The April 2014 issue of Vogue magazine is apparently creating quite the controversial “conversation” in the world of social media.
This was brought to my attention by Sarah Hampson, an award-winning writer, working on a piece for the Globe & Mail. Thanks to Sarah, I was forced to look on line at the tone of the conversation.
Here’s one example from the Vogue website:
“My Mother subscribed to Vogue for most of her adult life. As a young girl I enjoyed Vogue and it inspired me to dream about being a fashion designer. I remember well Karen Graham, a most famous model, and a article with photos of Jacquelyn Bissit who looked gorgeous in a simple chambray shirt and jeans. I started to learn about all the most prestigious designers and used to sketch their designs as I saw them in photos.
In one issue, you have lowered Vogue from a prestigious magazine to and supermarket checkout stand tabloid. West raps filth. In a song to his Kim is states, when I impregnated your mouth, I knew you’d be my spouse. Kim is famous for and her only talent is her porn tape promoted by her own website today. The tape, done eight years ago, includes a close-up of her VAJJ online for the world to see. These are the people that you have honored by putting them on your cover. This is an insult to the thousands of high fashion models and celebrities that met your high standards that no longer exist. Goodbye Vogue I will never purchase another issue.”
Before reading any further, I took a look at the cover, and asked myself. Is this cover really that shocking? In my view the cover is beautiful. Turns out the image was shot by legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz, and was commissioned by Anna Wintour, like so many times before. Nope, nothing controversial about these two legendary publishing veterans collaborating on a cover.
I then asked myself, was the cover even intended to be shocking? Well, only Anna Wintour knows for sure, but I somehow doubt it was meant to be offensive. The image shows two celebrities (supposedly in love) holding each other tenderly. No twerking. No cheap sexual images. No skin. The cover has much in common with a recent Time Magazine cover on the Royal Wedding. Arguably the Kim & Kanye cover is more restrained and less risque than the Kate & William cover. Tender Snuggle vs. Juicy Wet Kiss.
Did Time magazine cross over some imaginary line when they did the Kate & William cover? After all, a royal wedding is mere pomp and fluff, nothing at all akin to news that is important, like the Watergate break-in or Global Warming. Perhaps some uptight purists and editorial snobs were miffed with the “tabloid-like” treatment of the royals in a “news” magazine. But, chances are more people loved it, and bought it on newsstands, then any cover ever did, or ever will, on Global Warming or corrupt politicians.
Do I believe Anna Wintour was hoping that the cover would help them sell copies on newsstand? Well, I assume so, and I hope so. After all, that is part of the job description of any Editor. No Publisher I’ve ever known has hired an Editor hoping they’d make decisions which would result in purposefully selling fewer copies.
Vogue’s very name suggests that what they will be covering are “style makers”. The Oxford Dictionary describes the word Vogue as: “noun, the prevailing fashion or style at a particular time”. Clearly, for better or worse, Kim & Kanye and Kate & William are indeed fashionable. To ignore that reality would simply be absurd.
So, was this cover choice purely a desperate move to re-position the magazine as a low-brow tabloid? I don’t think so. Getting free publicity has always been part of the task, as Publishers and Editors have employed professional PR staff for decades, with an eye to “getting the magazine talked about.” The only thing that has changed is that now the conversation includes anyone with a gizmo in hand and digits that can text. I think the Vogue brand is not so fragile that this cover can shatter its equity.
I suspect the folks at Vogue are loving all the buzz this cover is creating, and I have no doubt that it will result in increased sales of the magazine. Did they do it on purpose? I hope so. But truth be told, I think they are probably a little bit surprised that it worked out so well.