Brexit isn’t the only big change afoot in the U.K.
For its January 2020 issue released later this week, Cosmopolitan U.K. has eschewed from the usual go-to actresses and singers that frequently appear on the covers of many a magazine, often giving the feeling of déjà vu.
Instead, the British publication chose “Queer Eye” personality Jonathan Van Ness, who identifies as nonbinary, to be its first solo non-female cover face since Boy George appeared in December 1984.
Revealing the news via his Instagram account, the grooming expert posted a picture of the cover, where he is dressed in a peach Christian Siriano tulle gown matched with Nike sneakers and sports socks, with the caption “My Body Is Ready.”
Among the first to congratulate him was plus-size model Tess Holliday, who appeared on the cover in October 2018, writing, “We are both Cosmo U.K. cover stars now.”
In an e-mail, Claire Hodgson, editor in chief of Cosmopolitan U.K., told WWD that the magazine wants to represent its “diverse and beautiful” readership, spark conversation and shake things up.
“Being a Cosmopolitan cover star is about who you are. It’s about having a story to tell. It’s about breaking new ground. It’s about opening up and letting the reader in,” she said.
Hodgson went on to describe Van Ness as “warm, funny, opinionated, kind and brave” — all qualities that resonate with Cosmopolitan U.K.’s audience. “He is encouraging people to love who they are, which is at the heart of what our brand stands for — we could all do with a little more self-love in our lives.”
The move by Cosmopolitan U.K. begs the question if its U.S. counterpart and other mainstream magazines will follow suit and branch out more when it comes to their choice of cover faces.
There has already been some progress, with Cosmopolitan South Africa tapping Laverne Cox as its first transgender star in 2018. That was hot on the heels of French Vogue, which in March 2017 chose Brazilian transgender model Valentina Sampaio for its cover. Most recently, Vogue Mexico featured Estrella Vazquez, an indigenous transgender women who mixes gay male and feminine identities, in partnership with British Vogue.
But there is still much that needs to be done and there has been some stumbles along the way. In 2017, American Vogue had to apologize for a “gender fluidity” cover story featuring Gigi Hadid and then-boyfriend Zayn Malik. It faced criticism for appearing to highlight them as faces of the gender fluid community, with which neither identifies.
“The story was intended to highlight the impact the gender-fluid, nonbinary communities have had on fashion and culture,” the magazine said in a statement at the time. “We are very sorry the story did not correctly reflect that spirit — we missed the mark.”
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