A Beautiful Way to Start the Week

Photo: Annie Leibovitz//Vogue

On Monday, Vogue revealed the third of its four January 2021 covers. First came actress Frances McDormand, and then tennis player Naomi Osaka. The latest features model Paloma Elsesser, who looks serene and statuesque in a translucent Michael Kors Collection dress. The shoot was styled by Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, who started out as an intern in the Vogue fashion closet. “This is the first Vogue cover styled by a black woman,” she wrote in an Instagram post on Monday. “This is my first Vogue cover. It was shot by Annie Leibovitz and that’s just about the wildest thing I’ve ever heard.”

Vogue is where I grew up,” Karefa-Johnson continued. “This is a dream I didn’t know if I’d realize and I’m just so proud of myself, and proud of [Paloma], and proud of [Latisha Chong], and proud of [Janelle Okwodu], and happy for the little black girls who can go to the newsstand and buy the worlds most powerful fashion magazine and see themselves on the cover and in the creative team that brought it to life.”

This is Elsesser’s first solo cover for American Vogue. In an emotional video on her own Instagram, she opens up the magazine while video-chatting with her family and bursts into happy tears. (Watching it will likely make you do the same.) In another post, she wrote that the shoot was a “surreal” experience — to work and collaborate with women she “so deeply” admires, and to shoot an American Vogue cover as a “chubby, short, mixed-race womxn who never imagined this would be her reality.”

She also acknowledges the fashion industry’s shortcomings, both in her own post and in an accompanying profile by Janelle Okwodu. “Although my heart swells with gratitude, I am not satisfied,” Elsesser’s Instagram post continued. “I urge fashion to never let this momentum [cease] until seeing bodies and experiences like mine and beyond are no longer radical, no longer different; no longer rare. I want to see bigger bodied femmes, dark skin femmes, disabled people, and all the iterations of identity that have left so many alone in media. I want this moment to render a new year of possibility and a lifetime of hope.”

A Beautiful Way to Start the Week