Diversity on Magazine Covers Widely Improved in 2016

We reviewed 147 covers from 10 leading U.S. fashion publications, and while some titles remained stagnant, the majority saw distinct improvement.
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Maura Brannigan
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We reviewed 147 covers from 10 leading U.S. fashion publications, and while some titles remained stagnant, the majority saw distinct improvement.
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This time last year, we reported a disappointing statistic: That diversity on the covers of 10 leading U.S. fashion publications — Allure, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, Harper's Bazaar, InStyle, Nylon, Teen Vogue, Vogue and Wdid not improve in 2015 from 2014. In 2015, 27 of 136 covers featured people of color* while the year before, 27 of 137 did. It was an improvement, technically, but only from 19.7 percent to 19.8 percent. 

In 2016, however, there have been sizable lifts in cover star diversity across the board. For consistency's sake, we reviewed the covers from the same titles we looked at in 2015 — all 147 of them. And we found that 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. 

Of course, 2016's magazines had their fair share of predictable cover stars like Jessica Alba, Reese Witherspoon and, of course, "Instagirls" Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid, both of whom claimed four covers each. Other glossies thought more independently, like Teen Vogue casting actresses-slash-activists Rowan Blanchard and Yara Shahidi and Elle looking to Hollywood newcomers like Aja Naomi King and Haley Bennett. Then, there were InStyle and Vogue, both of which landed First Lady Michelle Obama (!) as a cover star this fall. 

Teen Vogue featured the most diversity this year by including women of color* on seven of its 11 issues — that's 63.6 percent — with cover stars like Amandla Stenberg, Willow Smith and Simone Biles. InStyle followed, with seven of its 12 covers. Meanwhile, Glamour and Harper's Bazaar posted no change in diversity from last year to this, with Glamour publishing three of 14 and Bazaar one of 11 nonwhite* covers in both 2015 and 2016. (It's worth noting that of Bazaar's 12 cover stars this year, nine were both blonde and white.) Nylon saw the most improvement: In 2015, the glossy featured just one nonwhite* cover and this year, upped it to five. And in terms of age diversity, W and Elle put women like Barbra Streisand, 74, Helen Mirren, 71 and Kathy Bates, 68, on their covers.

We should note that while we didn't consider international magazines, The Fashion Spot did in its comprehensive magazine diversity report, released on Wednesday. In its 678-cover analysis, The Fashion Spot found that the least diverse titles worldwide — "which had no models of color* at all" — were Jalouse, Love, Marie Claire U.K., Porter, Vogue Germany, Vogue Netherlands, Vogue Paris and Vogue Russia. Meanwhile, Vogue U.K. featured only "one model of color*" this year with Rihanna; in 2015, "Jourdan Dunn was the first model of color* since 2013" to appear on its cover.

Take a look below at what 2016 looked like on the newsstand, as well as how these 10 major U.S. magazines did compared to last year and the year before.

Allure

Nonwhite covers in 2016: 5/13 (Demi Lovato, Naomi Campbell, FKA Twigs, Zoe Saldana, Jessica Alba)
Nonwhite covers in 2015: 3/12 (Taraji P. Henson, Salma Hayek, Jessica Alba)
Nonwhite covers in 2014: 2/12 (Olivia Munn, Kerry Washington)

Cosmopolitan

Nonwhite covers in 2016: 4/12 (Jessica Alba, Shay Mitchell, Zendaya, Chrissy Teigen)
Nonwhite covers in 2015: 2/12 (Nicki Minaj, Demi Lovato)
Nonwhite covers in 2014: 1/12 (Chrissy Teigen)

Elle

Nonwhite covers in 2016: 9/26 (Priyanka Chopra, Viola Davis, Taraji P. Henson, Kerry Washington, Beyonce, Leslie Jones, FKA Twigs, Lupita Nyong’o, Aja Naomi King)
Nonwhite covers in 2015: 3/19 (Selena Gomez, Ava Duvernay, Salma Hayek)
Nonwhite covers in 2014: 5/22 (Joan Smalls, Mindy Kaling, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Zoe Saldana, Rihanna)

Glamour

Nonwhite covers in 2016: 3/14 (Serena Williams, Joan Smalls, Demi Lovato)
Nonwhite covers in 2015: 3/14 (Michelle Obama/Kerry Washington shared cover, Taraji P. Henson, Gina Rodriguez)
Nonwhite covers in 2014: 3/12 (Shakira, Jessica Alba, Lupita Nyong'o)

Harper's Bazaar

Nonwhite covers in 2016: 1/11 (Kanye West)
Nonwhite covers in 2015: 1/11 (Rihanna)
Nonwhite covers in 2014: 0/13 

InStyle

Nonwhite covers in 2016: 7/12 (Viola Davis, Jennifer Lopez, Lupita Nyong’o, Jessica Alba, Priyanka Chopra, Kerry Washington, Michelle Obama)
Nonwhite covers in 2015: 5/12 (Kerry Washington, Mindy Kaling, Zoe Saldana, Eva Longoria, Sofia Vergara)
Nonwhite covers in 2014: 1/12 (Jennifer Lopez)

Nylon

Nonwhite covers in 2016: 5/11 (Michelle Phan, Nicki Minaj, Jaden Smith, Tinashe, Alia Shawkat)
Nonwhite covers in 2015: 1/11 (Zoe Kravitz)
Nonwhite covers in 2014: 4/11 (Demi Lovato, Vanessa Hudgens, Jessica Alba, Aubrey Plaza)

Teen Vogue

Nonwhite covers in 2016: 7/11 (Fernanda Ly, Amandla Stenberg, Zoe Kravitz, Willow Smith, Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Yara Shahidi)
Nonwhite covers in 2015: 4/11 (Zendaya, Binx Walton, Imaan Hammam/Aya Jones/Lineisy Montero shared cover, Fernanda Ly)
Nonwhite covers in 2014: 1/11 (Selena Gomez)

Vogue

Nonwhite covers in 2016: 4/12 (Rihanna, Aston Eaton, Lupita Nyong’o, Michelle Obama)
Nonwhite covers in 2015: 3/12 (Serena Williams, Beyoncé, Lupita Nyong'o)
Nonwhite covers in 2014: 4/12 (Rihanna, Kanye West, Lupita Nyong'o, Joan Smalls)

W

Nonwhite covers in 2016: 7/26 (Selena Gomez, Zendaya/Willow Smith shared cover, Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna, Halle Berry, Priyanka Chopra, Kanye West)
Nonwhite covers in 2015: 2/22 (Taraji P. Henson, Jourdan Dunn)
Nonwhite covers in 2014: 4/20 (Oprah, Lupita Nyong'o, Rihanna, Naomi Campbell)

*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. 

Note: This story has been updated to reflect that Penélope Cruz, as a native of Spain, is more commonly identified as white and Spanish, rather than Hispanic.

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