British Vogue’s editor-in-chief Edward Enninful proposed a different kind of cover for the magazine’s June 2020 issue. It didn’t feature models, celebrities or any other type of public figure. Instead, amid the Covid-19 pandemic and the growing Black Lives Matter protests worldwide, released three covers that highlighted workers on the frontlines of this global crisis: a Muslim supermarket employee, a white community midwife, and a Black London overground train driver.
The covers propelled a worldwide social media movement called the #VogueChallenge, where both creatives and glossy fans posted their own version of a Vogue cover. More than a creative challenge it’s a chance to highlight Black, Indigenous, Asian, Latinx and other races and ethnicities around the world, who’ve been historically overlooked by fashion and beauty magazines.
For the Latinx community, the challenge offers a glimpse of what our magazines could look like if the industry shed its anti-Black, monolithic standards of Latinidad.
The media industry is facing a much-needed reckoning right now, as current and former employees make allegations of racist practices in newsrooms across the country. So far, the toll seems to just get started. Refinery29’s co-founder and global editor-in-chief Christine Barberich announced last week she was stepping back after Black and POC employees took to Twitter to reveal their stories working for the company. Bon Appetit’s editor-in-chief resigned after a photo of him dressed up as a Puerto Rican for Halloween emerged on social media. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s top editor resigned after the newspaper published a tone-deaf column with the headline “All Buildings Matter” amid the Black Lives Matter protests.
And the movement might be coming for the behemoth of behemoths, Vogue. Last week, rumors swirled that the magazine’s top editor Anna Wintour would be stepping down after decades at the glossy. For years, Vogue has been under scrutiny as the media and fashion industries become more democratized, shattering the magazine’s knack for luxury, exclusivity, and whiteness. A recent report by The New York Times revealed a culture where BIPOC employees “struggled to be heard” and “faced ignorance and lazy stereotyping” at Condé Nast, where Wintour is the artistic director and global content advisor.
This reckoning has yet to make an impact at Latinx and Hispanic magazines. But the allegations of racism have still surfaced.
Latinx media has largely stayed the same for decades – both in the US and in Latin America – often promoting a monolithic perspective of what Latinidad means. The models and celebrities covered are mostly white, while inclusion and diversity are paraded as a trendy term that promotes a “we are all a human race” kind of approach instead of deconstructing the colorist and racist narratives that permeate our communities.
“Hey, remember when, at a big Latinx focused publication, we had to fight to get Afro-Latinos centered,” writer Priscilla Rodriguez tweeted. “Only to be met with tons of pushback and the idea that there is no such thing as race because we are all humans?” (Rodriguez did not disclose the publication she called out.)
Other writers and producers chimed in the conversation, calling out Latinx-focused publications for tolerating and promoting racist practices in both editorial and company culture. Some of the allegations include editors being “racist toward Black talent on set,” overwhelming workload, low pay, and tokenizing of Black celebrities and employees. (Editor’s note: Some of the allegations were made by Andrea Devoto, who’s part of Emperifollá’s team.) This pattern is most noticeable on the covers. Since June 2019, People en Español has published 13 covers. Only two featured Black or Indigenous Latinx: Yalitza Aparicio and Prince Royce.
Yet, editors like Vogue Mexico’s Karla Martínez de Salas are offering a new approach. Since taking over the magazine, Martínez de Salas has highlighted Indigenous cultures and Afro-Latinidad across Latin America and the Caribbean. In 2018, Vogue Mexico published its first headline in Mixteco, when the magazine put Academy Award nominee Yalitza Aparicio on its cover. The following year the magazine put rarámuri runner María Lorena Ramírez on its October 2019 cover. Martínez de Salas also celebrated Afro-Latinx identities with a cover featuring all Black Dominican models.
The recent uproar also inspired publicist Danielle Alvarez to create her own channel, Unfiltered. The space is meant to be “an anonymous support group where untold stories can be shared.” After listening to many black and brown women share their stories across Twitter and Instagram, TBP felt that this support group was very much needed,” Alvarez tells Emperifollá.
The Peruvian-American publicist made her own allegations of tokenization against Refinery29, which launched its own Latinx-focused vertical last month. Alvarez took to the company’s Instagram page, saying, “Can I just say something as the Latinx beauty publicist here. Please stop featuring my brands in Latinx roundups only. Don’t leave it for the Latinx editor to feature my brand. Stop it. These cute little roundups – I’m over it.” (Editor’s note: Alvarez is a close contributor of Emperifollá and has been featured on our site.)
While these moves are unprecedented in Latinx media, they are just the tip of the iceberg to the possibilities of a truly multicultural, multilingual, multiracial, and multiethnic coverage.
Enter the #VogueChallenge, where Latinxs are positioning themselves as icons of fashion, beauty, and culture as a mock cover of one of the most legendary magazines in the world. It’s making us all understand that Vogue – and all other magazines, really – would have looked like this all along if its editors, photographers, writers, creative directors, and executives were as diverse as the communities a glossy aims to represent.
At Emperifollá, our goal has always been to highlight and celebrate the multiplicity of Latinx communities (yes, in plural). We are always conscious of our blindspots as a team of non-Black, white-passing Latinx – something we are aiming to change. I started this magazine as a small project without envisioning that it could become what it is today, but as Emperifollá grows I’m committed to having a more diverse team of contributors that allows us to have a truly inclusive coverage of what Latinidad is. On our website, we look to cover the identities and pluralities that are missing from the traditional Latinx-focused coverage, including Afro-Latinx, Asian-Latinx, Muslim-Latinx, and gender non-binary. And that umbrella will only keep expanding.
But as this reckoning continues to make waves in newsrooms across the country, it’s important that Latinx publications are held accountable. Only then will we all show the realities of our communities.
Editor’s Note: This is an ongoing conversation for us at Emperifollá and our community to continue dismantling white supremacy, combating racism and encouraging cross-racial solidarity within the Latinx community. Please feel free to comment below, slide into our social media DMs, or reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.