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Lena Waithe’s cover story for the April issue of Vanity Fair — the first produced under the total control of new editor-in-chief Radhika Jones — opens with a photo of The Chi creator lounging on an unkempt couch while wearing sweatpants and a “Well-Read Black Girl” tee. The image, like the cover, was photographed by Annie Leibovitz.
Unlike the slick, packaged glam of the cover shoots of the Graydon Carter era, Waithe’s profile story is dotted with more candid (and accessible) photos of the Emmy-winning writer/actress/producer in front of her bathroom mirror, in her car, lounging with her girlfriend or taking in an episode of Mary Tyler Moore. J.Lo and A-Rod rolling around their mansion in black-tie evening wear, this is not.
The cover, too, has a more laid-back vibe that feels in line with the honest profile penned by Jacqueline Woodson, a fellow queer black woman writer. Styled by outgoing creative director of fashion and style Jessica Diehl, Waithe was photographed in a plain white oversized tee with the sleeves rolled up. With Leibovitz’s signature romantic, hazy portrait style, the image still maintains the luxe VF feel.
Both the cover and the profile have garnered praise on social media. “This VF cover is historic,” tweeted one follower. “This is the @VanityFair I’ve been waiting for — go ahead @radhikajones,” tweeted another.
The response is a welcome turnaround from the reaction to the March issue starring Jennifer Lawrence, which was criticized for its similarity to The Hollywood Reporter‘s Women in Entertainment issue, which also featured the Red Sparrow actress. Jones stated in her first editor’s letter in the March magazine that it was a “transition issue,” with several pieces inside that were assigned by Carter.
I remember when Vanity Fair’s coverage of upper-mobile black folks was pretty much Dominick Dunne’s dispatches from the OJ Simpson trial so to see @LenaWaithe on this VF cover is historic imo. What an achievement for her and what a way to make a statement @radhikajones! pic.twitter.com/zBxAv5IEig
— Jozen (say Joe-Zen) (@jozenc) March 22, 2018
— Rebecca Shuri She Ready Carroll (@rebel19) March 22, 2018
There’s so much I love about Lena Waithe’s Vanity Fair profile. Jacqueline Woodson wrote it. Annie Leibovitz shot the photos. Lena’s wearing a @wellreadblkgirl shirt in the photos (!!!). And she’s watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show. What have we done to deserve all this goodness? pic.twitter.com/bK9xYgmFgK
— Evette Dionne (@freeblackgirl) March 22, 2018
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