Systemic Change from Radhika Jones

Radhika Jones — the new Editor in Chief of Vanity Fair — may be promoting actual systemic change in the world of fashion and journalism.

This month, Vanity Fair featured the photography of a Black creator for the first time in its 107 year history. Dario Calmese had shot for the magazine among other major publications prior to this historic shoot; his classical training in the performing arts allows him to use “his knowledge of movement, gesture, and psychology to create complex characters and narratives that explore history, race, class, and what it means to be human.”

The cover, with Viola Davis in the centre, is a necessary example of integrating powerful Black artists into places that have historically excluded them.

The July/August editor’s letter, written by Jones, is an open reflection of art, colonization, and the history of Vanity Fair. She reflected on her academic history, focusing on her exploration of decolonization in England’s former colonies and the process of recognizing primary voices and systems of oppression. These systems continue to exist in Western media and academia, including the structure of Vanity Fair.

Jones noticed the lack of representation in the fashion and pop-culture publication and stated “I was determined to change it when I took over as editor—not just as a corrective measure but because it is my job, and the magazine’s job, to center people who are visionaries, who are moving the culture forward.”

Since her appointment to the position of Editor in Chief in 2018, Jones has featured ten Black cover subjects, leading to the shoot of Viola Davis by Calmese.

Jones’ commitment to featuring more Black creators, especially on covers, may be an indication that Vanity Fair is working to rebuild power structures and promote systemic change in a real and representative manner.
Alysha Mohamed