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Was the Recent Vogue Cover The Best Way to Celebrate Black Beauty?

The photographs were taken by Afro-Brazilian photographer Rafael Pavarotti, and the images — published in numerous glossy magazines over the years — are consistent with his visual style of presenting Black skin in an ultra-dark manner. Many online critics felt the images were fetishized and pandering to a White gaze, ironic, considering the editorial team behind them consisted almost entirely of people of African descent. South Sudanese stand-up comic and social commentator Akau Jambo wrote: “This is what they do to South Sudanese models to tell a story about Africa and people are saying we don’t understand the artist’s perspective but you can tell a story and be projecting a false narrative.” A cover is the highest accolade a magazine can give to a subject, and, historically, Black women have rarely been bestowed this honor. Former British Vogue editor-in-chief Alexandra Shulman famously noted in a 2017 interview in the Guardian that unknown Black women on the cover sold fewer copies.