Actress Lupita Nyong’o, who first broke into Hollywood in 2013 for her Oscar-winning role in 12 Years a Slave, is featured on her fourth U.S. Vogue cover for the January issue.
The image, which was revealed on Vogue’s Instagram page on Monday, was met with praise by most, though a few readers wondered, “Lupita, again?”
None seemed bent on disparaging the cover that Swedish photographer Mikael Jansson shot, showing Nyong’o wearing a silver-embellished Christian Dior gown while balancing on a surfboard for the magazine’s wellness issue.
But some raise valid points: Why Nyong’o for the fourth time in roughly three and a half years — a frequency not matched by any other Vogue cover stars? While Anna Wintourfamously started replacing fashion models with high-profile actresses and celebrities on the magazine’s covers in the 1990s, many of the same faces have begun reappearing on the covers over the past decade.
Counting titles dating back to the early 2000s, Rihanna has also had four Vogue covers (the only other black celebrity to have as many) over a five-year period; Beyoncé and Michelle Obama have three each. Sarah Jessica Parker and Charlize Theron have the most Vogue covers — six each — of any actresses, though it took them each more than four years to get to four covers alone.
Cover choices aren’t completely arbitrary. Typically, a cover model is chosen (months in advance) because she’s promoting a new project or she’s trying to bolster or rework her public image. Considering the former, Hollywood studios are often behind the push to promote new and existing actors to megastar status with the clout of, say, a Vogue cover.
“Mr. Benza and Mr. Weinstein were exploiting a longstanding system of favor-trading between the press and the movie business,” wrote the New York Times in its second major Harvey Weinstein story exposing the producer’s “complicity machine.” “Gossip writers need a stream of insider scoops, industry beat reporters need exclusives on the next big deal, and glossy magazines need celebrities who can drive newsstand sales.”
Interestingly, there’s no mention of Weinstein in the new Vogue cover story about Nyong’o, despite the timeliness surrounding the conversation around sexual harassment and the actress’s own New York Times essay exposing her experience with Weinstein. Instead, Nyong’o is promoting her new movie, Black Panther, to be released nationwide in January.
It’s possible that the Vogue print story was completed before Nyong’o published her Weinstein account in the Times, though the digital version of the Vogue cover story certainly could have been amended to reflect the experience. According to professor Charles Whitaker, associate dean at Medill Journalism School at Northwestern, monthly magazines typically work on a three-month lead time, but the “likely scenario” for excluding a discussion about Weinstein in the Vogue story “is that her reps said she’s done talking about [him,] and editors bowed to that. Celebs wield a lot of control when it comes to dictating the topics that are off-limits when they consent to doing these covers.”