Hollywood's Changing Face

By Albert Lin

Is the face of Hollywood changing An annual benchmark of star power, Vanity Fair‘s Hollywood Issue, suggests that it may be.

Of the 12 people on the foldout cover, six are Blackthe most nonwhite representation the special issue has had in its 20 years. The previous record was three (in 2008 and 2005, all women in both cases).

Moreover, two of the six12 Years a Slave star Chiwetel Ejiofor and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom star Idris Elbaare on the first panel, meaning they are visible on newsstands even when the three-panel cover is folded. Only five nonwhite people had previously appeared on the first panel of the issue’s cover: Djimon Hounsou in 1998, Thandie Newton in 1999, Penelope Cruz in 2000, Chris Rock in 2007 and President Obama in 2009, when his inauguration superseded the standard cover. (Black actor Don Cheadle was actually Photoshopped out of the Obama cover, which used a two-year-old photo.)

Further, Ejiofor and Elba share the real estate with George Clooney and Julia Roberts, arguably Hollywood’s two biggest stars.

On the second panel are Fruitvale Station‘s Michael B. Jordan, 12 Years a Slave‘s Lupita Nyong’o and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom‘s Naomie Harris, while 42‘s Chadwick Boseman is on the third panel.

The cover has earned praise from around the Internet.

Can we get all the-times-they-are-a-changin’ for a minute” Dodai Stewart wrote on Jezebel. “Vanity Fair‘s 20th annual Hollywood Issue has a three-panel gatefold cover, as usual, but this year, there are actual black people on the first third, i.e. the part you see on the newsstand. Progress!”

Salon’s story was headlined “Vanity Fair’s fantastic, diverse Hollywood issue cover,” with the subhead “This is the best of Hollywood — a diverse array of stars emerging and established, black and white alike.”

The magazine’s epiphany may simply be smart business: According to the Motion Picture Association of America, in 2012 Blacks and Latinos accounted for 37 percent of the 1.36 billion movie tickets sold despite making up just 29 percent of the population, while whites accounted for 56 percent of movie tickets sold despite making up 64 percent of the population. Since 2009, the share of tickets sold to Latinos has increased while the share sold to whites has decreased. (The share sold to Blacks has held steady.)

Vanity Fair has been criticized in the past for the issue’s focus on young white actresses, including the 2010 cover with seemingly an all-white-woman spread. (Rebecca Hall’s mother is of Dutch, Scottish, American Indian and African-American descent.) Other covers (1995, 2002) included a single nonwhite woman.

The magazine also drew fire in January for possibly lightening Nyong’o’s skin in a photo.

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