Ever since news broke that Edward Enninful was taking over at British Vogue, we've been inundated by a whirlwind of staff updates — and controversy — via trade publications and Instagram posts alike. As he assembles his dream team, which sees supermodels like Kate Moss transition from in front of the camera to behind it, the industry has closely watched Enninful's moves to see which staffers would survive the remodel, and which veterans he'd replace them with. But the latest headline comes from contributing editor Naomi Campbell herself.
In an Instagram post that carried more shade than Monday's solar eclipse, Campbell shared a photo (taken from the September issue of the magazine) of the British Vogue staff under ex-editor-in-chief Alexandra Shulman, pointing out — by sort of not pointing out — that the staff of several decades was severely lacking in the diversity department. "This is the staff photo of @britishvogue under the previous editor #AlexandraSchulman. Looking forward to an inclusive and diverse staff now that @edward_enninful is the editor 🌍🇬🇧👩🏼👱♀️👩🏽👩🏾👵🏿let's hear your thoughts?" she wrote.
After appearing on British Vogue's December issue in 1987, breaking a dry spell of women of colour since 1966, Campbell would go on to be featured by the glossy upwards of 10 times. Simultaneously, back in 2007, Campbell pointed out how rarely Shulman featured her on their covers. And then, it was fellow black British model Jourdan Dunn who broke yet another of the magazine's racial dry spells when she appeared on the cover of the February 2015 issue, a whole 12 years after Campbell fronted their August 2002 edition. Needless to say, British Vogue has missed out on featuring what Campbell calls "black beauty" for decades, save for a feature here and there, so her drawing attention to the all-white Vogue staff doesn't seem so malapropos, does it?
Most of her fans seem to agree. But the most important conversation is actually happening in the comments. A discussion between @cdunne1 and @gospel.of.matthew dives even deeper into one of the reasons the pages of Vogue have been so white for so long: It's a product of its own nepotism. "Bring on diversity yes, and also let's get rid of this culture of nepotism that so blatantly plagues Vogue, the industry it's in, and other industries," ex-journalist @cdunne1 writes.
"Even some of the hottest models and actresses of colour atm come from famous parents or parents in the relative industries. Give talented, hardworking, non-connected people a chance to prove themselves. and they would all be 'a daughter of my friend's friend' etc. This world needs to be opened up to true talent, not just people they know aka Samantha Cameron's sister as Dep Ed!" User @gospel.of.matthew added: "it's about fairness. This picture just looks so wrong. Its not representative of the world we live in and certainly not London! Imagine if @iamnaomicampbell had been overlooked by Beth Boldt as she walked home from school via Covent Garden just because she was black? Now look at Naomi, arguably the most iconic model of all time. We just want fairness, nothing to be given to us, just to be considered."
The two go on to discuss the differences in how America and Britain treat race. In America, @gospel.of.matthew finds that, despite racial tensions, most people of colour are represented across more platforms than the rest of the world might think. But in Britain, race is as much a matter of class as it is a product of the troubled history that precedes it.
"In the UK they still try to maintain this image of a white utopian Britain of a bygone era. I always said from way back that there'd sooner be a black American president than a black British prime minister and I was right," @gospel.of.matthew explained. "America is race/money obsessed and Britain is class/status driven. In the US their isn't a class system, you either have vast amounts of money or you don't, but there's always that thing called the American Dream that ANYONE can aspire to. Such a thing I don't think exists in the UK. The Grenfell Tower fire really highlighted how desensitised people in the UK have become towards poor people. In any case I'm really grateful to Naomi for having the guts to even post something like this because look at the conversation she has started!"
And the conversation goes on, and on, and on. To be honest, we hope it does. Campbell is totally valid in pointing out the elitist, whitewashed ways of the industry, as photos like this point out what that looks like, and how it sidesteps the opportunities of people of colour and different backgrounds outside of the Vogue pedigree. It's admirable to see someone of her status and fame using her platform for some serious good. Oddly enough, the picture sits underneath a header that reads "VOGUEnotices." Well, evidently they don't. But they will now.