Every December, we review the hundreds of magazine covers that are released by leading U.S. fashion publications each year to quantify how diverse our domestic newsstands are, and how representative they are of the U.S. as a nation. In 2017, we were disappointed to report that diversity on the covers of 10 top magazines — Allure, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, Harper's Bazaar, InStyle, Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, Vogue and W — declined slightly from the year before: 48 of 153 — 31.3 percent — covers featured people of color*, a 4 percent dip from the numbers we reported in 2016.
We don't normally analyze September issues — those big, almighty fall fashion tomes — specifically. But this year, we thought it may be particularly worth exploring: From Zendaya on Marie Claire to Beyoncé on Vogue, the 2018 September covers are, overall, more racially diverse than in previous years. So, we wanted to let the numbers speak for themselves: How did 2018's American September covers stack up to previous years?
For consistency's sake, we reviewed the covers of nine of the same titles we looked at end-year in 2017. (Due to Teen Vogue's print closure, we omitted it altogether.) Additionally, W switched from monthly issues to volumes earlier this year, and the magazine considers both Volume 4 (on newsstands this month) and Volume 5 (which will be out just before New York Fashion Week) to be its September editions. In the interest of timeliness, we've only included Volume 4 in this analysis.
Of all the covers we reviewed for September 2018, we found that six of 11 — 54.5 percent — featured people of color*, a 32.3 percent increase from the previous year. In 2017, in the same nine magazines, only two of nine — 22.2 percent — September covers starred people of color*; in 2016, four of nine — 44.4 percent — did; and in 2015, three of nine — 33.3 percent did. Percentage-wise, there were almost more people of color* on September issues in 2018 than there were in 2017 and 2015 combined.
Nonwhite* domestic September covers in 2018: 6/11 (Letitia Wright for W; Beyoncé for Vogue; Zendaya for Marie Claire; Kanye West/North West/Saint West for Harper's Bazaar; Tiffany Haddish for Glamour; Vanessa Hudgens for Cosmopolitan)
Nonwhite* domestic September covers in 2017: 2/9 (Adriana Lima/The Weeknd shared cover for Harper's Bazaar; Selena Gomez for InStyle)
Nonwhite* domestic September covers in 2016: 4/9 (Jessica Alba for Allure; Kanye West for Harper's Bazaar; Kerry Washington for InStyle; Rihanna for W)
Nonwhite* domestic September covers in 2015: 3/9 (Jessica Alba for Allure; Demi Lovato for Cosmopolitan; Beyoncé for Vogue)
It's not only the American September covers that are seeing sweeping increases in diversity: Tracee Ellis Ross is on Elle Canada; Lupita Nyong'o, on Porter; Naomi Campbell, on Vogue Paris; Ruth Negga, on Marie Claire UK; Slick Woods, also posing several months pregnant, on Elle UK; Nicki Minaj on Vogue Arabia; Jaden Smith and Helena Howard, on Dazed; and, of course, Rihanna, on a particularly critically acclaimed edition of British Vogue. Meanwhile, back stateside, news and lifestyle publications like WSJ. Magazine cast Adwoa Aboah, Imaan Hammam and Tao Okamoto, each on separate covers.
We would be remiss, however, if we also did not acknowledge the notable lack of Asian representation, age diversity, size diversity and transgender visibility across the board. Questioning this lack of Asian cover models, Fashionista's Tyler McCall referenced "Crazy Rich Asians," "the kind of stunning summer blockbuster — coming out in August! — that should land its stars major September covers." And yet, she asked in a tweet, where are they? "Fashion media should be tripping over themselves for these ladies!"
Thirty-plus percent growth is a significant improvement, especially when compared to the 22.2 percent nonwhite* covers seen the year before. It's a sign that tides are changing, and that, hopefully, major publishing houses are also beginning to understand the power and importance of representation on the newsstand. May this be an everlasting — and not just one-season — commitment, both here in the U.S. and internationally.
Take a look below at what the September covers from 2015-2018 for those nine major U.S. magazines looked like.
Nonwhite* September covers from 2015-2018: 2/4 (Jessica Alba in both 2016 and 2015)
Nonwhite* September covers from 2015-2018: 2/4 (Vanessa Hudgens in 2018; Demi Lovato in 2015)
Nonwhite* September covers from 2015-2018: 0/4
Nonwhite* September covers from 2015-2018: 1/4 (Tiffany Haddish in 2018)
Nonwhite* September covers from 2015-2018: 3/5 (Kanye West/North West/Saint West shared cover in 2018; Adriana Lima/The Weeknd shared cover in 2017; Kanye West cover in 2016)
Nonwhite* September covers from 2015-2018: 2/4 (Selena Gomez in 2017; Kerry Washington in 2016)
Nonwhite* September covers from 2015-2018: 1/4 (Zendaya in 2018)
Nonwhite* September covers from 2015-2018: 2/4 (Beyoncé in both 2018 and 2015)
Nonwhite* September covers from 2015-2018: 2/5 (Letitia Wright in 2018; Rihanna in 2016)
*As with previous years, for the purpose of this story, nonwhite included those of mixed race and of Latinx or Hispanic descent. It's important to note, however, that racial identity is very much a social construct and fluid depending on borders.