At this point the words “Elle,” “controversial,” and “cover” have been paired together more times than we can count. The fashion magazine has been accused of everything from lightening Gabourey Sidibe’s skin to purposefully covering up Melissa McCarthy’s plus-size frame. If you recall last month’s scandal, Zooey Deschanel, Amy Poehler, Allison Williams and Mindy Kaling were the faces of February’s “Women in Television” issue. Fans were thrilled that Kaling finally got the star treatment she deserved — until they saw her cover. While the other women were shot in color with their bodies on display, Kaling was tightly photographed in black and white.
People were outraged that Elle would try to hide Kaling’s body and ethnicity, essentially accusing the magazine of racism and prejudice against larger women. Like McCarthy, Kaling responded by basically telling everyone to relax. She said she loved the cover and later went on The Late Show With David Letterman to chat about how everyone was raining on her parade.
Now, Elle’s Editor-in-Chief Robbie Meyers has personally addressed the negative responses to last month’s cover.
“The notion that we would try to hide Kaling’s shape or ethnicity is counter to everything we believe in. There was another picture of Mindy, in color, that was cropped right above her knees. She looked good in it, but she’d been shown like that before. At ELLE, we want our cover images to surprise, to reveal a side of someone that you might not have seen, and to convey that she’s more than just a pretty face in a cute dress. In the black-and-white photo, I thought that Mindy looked powerful, beautiful, potent, and sexy in the best sense of the word: When she looks at the camera, you see a woman who’s alluring and in control, a woman who’s not afraid of her own desires.”
The cover really is beautiful, so we can understand the choice. Meyers continued:
“As you can tell from the other covers on this page, we’ve run tight black-and-white shots of Jodie Foster, pop star Rita Ora, Shakira, Elle Fanning, Lady Gaga, and Carrie Underwood, among many others. Not one of them complained that she felt cheated or somehow dismissed by our choice of photograph. Neither did Mindy. She tweeted that she loved it. It pains us all here at the magazine that anyone would accuse us of racism or weight bias. We showcase women we aspire to be: strong, sexy, smart, fun. That is my mission.”
What Meyer’s failed to address was what made this cover so controversial in the first place: the thinner, white women were all given similar covers, while Kaling’s was strikingly different. Granted there would be haters no matter what they did, but if The Mindy Project actress was the only cover star, there would probably be less of them. There doesn’t seem to be any cohesiveness in the choice to have one black and white cover out of four, and I think that is where the confusion stems from.
If I were to be featured in a magazine (a girl can dream), I would be drawn to the photo that I felt I looked most beautiful in, and that is probably what happened here. I doubt this was purposefully planned because if it were, they would have anticipated the outrage. It just seems to be an unfortunate coincidence that ended up stealing Kaling’s well-deserved thunder.