Report: In 2020 there was a significant increase in the diversity of magazine covers

Report: In 2020 there was a significant increase in the diversity of magazine covers

Vogue April 2020: Ugbad Abdi, Adut Akech and Kaia Gerber by Tyler Mitchell; Image: Vogue

This year was different from any other. No wonder that between the ongoing pandemic and the fight against racial injustice, people cannot wait for 2021 to arrive. But before we embark on the New Year, we need to take a step back and acknowledge all of the ups and downs of 2020.

While there was no shortage of lows, 2020 came out with a good thing. An increase in diversity in magazine covers. This year's results are, of course, associated with reservations. Apparently, the pandemic affected the magazines' ability to stage photo shoots to capture the oh-so-glamorous covers we all know and love. So many publications got creative. Some switched to digital editions. Some relied on illustrations or previously unpublished photos. And some even asked their cover motifs to take their own cover-worthy pictures. Note: Digital or illustrated envelopes are not included in this report.

Another thing to note is that many publications reacted to all racist unrest by selecting more diverse cover stars. From models to actors to activists, the magazines have definitely made an effort to broaden their horizons.

Read on to find out how 2020 magazine covers have performed on all fronts of diversity.


ELLE February 2020: Zoë Kravitz by Paola Kudacki ;; Image: ELLE

We examined 791 title appearances in 50 major magazines and found a dramatic increase in representation. This year there were 48.8 percent color models compared to in the previous year of 36.9 percent. That's an increase of almost 12 points. It's important to note that the 2019 number is actually down from 2018, at 37.7 percent, which makes this recovery even more impressive. (This increase has to be seen in the context of everything that happened this year.)

Percentage of non-white cover models in top international fashion magazines, 2014 to 2020


Vogue Korea October 2020: Binx Walton by Luigi & Iango; Image: Vogue Korea

Once again Vogue Taiwan managed to cast 100 percent color models (16 of 16). This is the sixth year in a row that the magazine has made such a feat. Vogue Singapore also came 100 percent (five out of five), as did The Gentlewoman (two out of two). Vogue India, another well-known face in the most diverse category, had 91 percent color models (21 out of 23). Both Vogue Arabia and Vogue Korea scored 83 percent (20 out of 24 and 10 out of 12, respectively).

Vogue Ukraine July / August 2020: Giselle Norman by Leon Mark; Image: Vogue Ukraine

When it came to the least diversified magazines of 2020, several international editions of Vogue made this less respected list. Paper also appears technical, but all but one of its issues were digital and since digital envelopes were not included in this report, its low diversity needs to be seen in context. Vogue Poland and Vogue Ukraine each had 11 percent color models (both one of nine); Vogue Spain and Vogue Russia had 15 percent color models (both 2 of 13).


Vogue Netherlands September 2020: Jill Kortleve by Casper Kofi ;; Image: Vogue Netherlands

When appearing in plus sizes, there was also a slight impairment of 21 or 2.66 percent. An increase over 2019 with 15 castings or 2.01 percent. That means 2020 is the biggest year since we started keeping track in 2016.

Number of plus size, over 50 and transgender models on magazine covers

Jill Kortleve appeared most frequently, landing four covers: Vogue Japan, Vogue Netherlands, Vogue Paris and Americans Vogue . Both Ashley Graham and Paloma Elsesser landed three covers apiece. Graham graced the American Vogue and both the US and British editions of Harper & # 39; s Bazaar . Elsesser appeared on the cover of i-D Vogue Italia and American Vogue .

Harper & # 39; s Bazaar UK July 2020: Ashley Graham by Justin Ervin; Image: Harper & # 39; s Bazaar UK

Another encouraging sign is the fact that of the 21 oversized appearances, the vast majority, 16, went to women in color.


British Vogue June 2020: Judi Dench by Nick Knight; Image: British Vogue

Women over 50 saw the largest increase, nearly doubling the record of 41 cover appearances last year. (It's worth noting that there were also 41 cover appearances in 2018.) We owe Vogue Italia largely to thank for the increase, as the magazine produced a staggering 100 covers for its September issue. Everyone from Pat Cleveland to Patti Hansen to Bethann Hardison received solo covers.

Several actresses over 50 scored covers that year. Angela Bassett, Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman, Halle Berry, Helen Mirren, Salma Hayek, and Sharon Stone, to name just a handful. Both Jennifer Lopez and Viola Davis have appeared on three covers this year. We were also treated to supermodels Christy Turlington and Cindy Crawford.

InStyle December 2020: Viola Davis from AB + DM; Image: InStyle

We have to give Edward Enninful in the British Vogue props to make history with a breathtaking June cover by a then 85 year old Judi Dench. Vogue Mexico also deserves credit for identifying five over 50 title stars with one as transgender in its May / June issue.


Vogue Spain November 2020: Indya Moore by Thomas Whiteside; Image: Vogue Spain

Gender-specific diversity has seen a much smaller increase compared to 2019. Last year there were only seven cover appearances, in 2020 there were 12. That is only 1.52 percent, but at least progress. Especially when you consider that the 2019 number was three points below the 10 of 2018, we are at least back on the right track.

Indya Moore was a leader with three appearances for Vogue Spain, Wonderland and Vogue Italia. Hunter Schafer played on two distinctive covers for Allure and V Magazine . Paloma Elsesser's sibling Ama Elsesser, who identifies as non-binary, was introduced in i-D . Arca, Ariel Nicholson, Janet Mock, Mykki Blanco, Ryan Destiny and Verónica García also each appeared on a cover. It's also a positive sign that most of the appearances were in color models.

Allure September 2020: Hunter Schafer by Daniella Midenge; Image: Allure

In 2020 there were also three drag queen cover appearances. Granted, they were all published with the courtesy of a magazine. Gloria Groove, Pabllo Vittar and Uyra Sodoma all appeared in Vogue Brazil in October.


Vogue Hong Kong February 2020: Bella Hadid by Zoey Grossman; Image: Vogue Hong Kong

Bella Hadid reigned eight magazines this year. The model in question represented Love V Magazine Vogue Japan, Vogue Korea, Vogue Paris, Vogue Greece, Vogue Hong Kong and Vogue Italy.

Irina Shayk also showed a strong performance this year with seven Vogue covers: Germany, Japan, Russia, Great Britain, Czechoslovakia, Greece and Italy. Binx Walton, Kaia Gerber and Zendaya finished third with six players each. Last year's co-top model Adut Akech, Anok Yai and Hailey Bieber round off the list with five cover appearances each.

Vogue Germany December 2020: Irina Shayk from Luigi & Iango; Image: Vogue Germany

Of the eight top cover models of 2020, five were women in color. As usual, size, age and gender diversity were missing in the top model rankings.


Given the great variety this year, we are nervous that 2021 will see a sharp decline. Especially when everything that made 2020 fades to 2020. While we'd like to be optimistic and admit that there have been some encouraging signs (including disability activist Alice Wong on the cover of UK Vogue ), there are so many asterisks attached to this year's dates that there's nowhere left to go but after below.

Despite this ongoing concern, we would like to call on all magazines to take action to continue using diversity in all its forms from now on. Prove to us and the world that 2020 is not a one-year miracle. Let's try to go above 50 percent and prove that lasting diversity across all categories is possible.

With additional reporting by Mark E.

For the purposes of this report, "model" is anyone who appears on a cover, even if modeling is not their profession. Color models are classified as those that are not white or have a mixed background.

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