There’s a new viral challenge on social media, and it’s uplifting Black creatives that have been largely neglected by the fashion industry. Called the #VogueChallenge, it originated on TikTok in mid-May before taking on a new meaning amid widespread Black Lives Matter movements over the past few weeks. The challenge went viral on both Twitter and Instagram, where thousands of Black users are imagining their own versions of Vogue covers.
The movement responds to the letter Anna Wintour sent earlier this week to employees admitting that “Vogue has not found enough ways to elevate and give space to Black editors, writers, photographers, designers and other creators.” According to Teen Vogue, there has been only one Black photographer to shoot a cover in the 127-year history of the publication, and only 21 Black women have appeared on the cover solo. Now, with Wintour’s belated acknowledgment of racial disparity within the company, Black creatives are centering their bodies and talent by adopting the iconic branding imagery.
Studio artists, including illustrators and 3-D designers, offered their contributions as well. It’s not something modern fashion magazines do often — although Vogue Italia published a series of illustrated covers this past January to promote sustainability — but it’s a good idea, since it would cut the waste and pollution created by photo shoots and bring in a diverse range of artists that aren’t directly associated with the fashion industry.
Queer Black artists like Texas Isaiah also seized the moment to highlight intersecting identities as both a queer person and a BIPOC. By placing trans masculine bodies on his rendition of a Vogue cover, he calls for LGBTQ+ representation, envisioning reparations as “hiring Black trans and gender-expansive visual narrators to do the work.”
Some of the artists have given their covers the title Vogue Africa, a magazine that does not currently exist but whose concept Business of Fashion made a case for over two years ago. A Pan-African approach wouldn’t necessarily “deny or reject any individual country or the extraordinary diversity that exists throughout the continent,” as Business of Fashion reasoned. Instead, it could operate like Vogue Arabia, which launched in 2017 and covers Arabic-speaking countries from Saudi Arabia to Egypt to Lebanon. The Vogue Challenge makes the visual proposition for such a project that much more clear.
In other words, maybe it could happen! And maybe, just maybe, this is all the proof that Condé Nast and Vogue need to finally start being more inclusive of Black creatives.