Vanity Fair magazine is being lauded for the decision to feature actress and writer Lena Waithe–an up-and-coming black, openly lesbian woman–on its cover.
In a note to readers, Vanity Fair’s new editor Radhika Jones wrote: “When I thought about the kind of person I’d like to see on the cover … I thought about Lena Waithe—a member of the new creative elite remaking entertainment for her generation.”
Film director Ava Duvernay tweeted praise for the choice at Jones, hailing the cover as “something bold”, game-changing and exciting.
Dear @RadhikaJones, You’re changing the game by centering this game-changer on the @VanityFair cover. You’ve done something big here. Something bold. I’m excited by you. And grateful for this powerful image of our sister warrior, the great @LenaWaithe. Who we hold so dear. Brava. pic.twitter.com/l2hOssvgo8
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) March 22, 2018
Best known for her role on the Netflix comedy series Master of None (winning an Emmy in 2017 for writing the show’s Thanksgiving episode), 33-year-old Waithe also produced Dear White People and Step Sisters, created and executive-produced Showtime’s The Chi, and is the writer-producer of the forthcoming TBS television pilot Twenties—about a queer black woman and her two straight friends making their way in Hollywood. She also appears in Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, out this month. Her Emmy win was the first by a black woman in the Comedy Series Writing category.
The Vanity Fair story’s author, Jacqueline Woodson, writes: “Many of the people in my own queer world would have blinked past [Master of None] had it not been for Waithe’s character. For so many of us who have not seen an out Black lesbian front and center this way, her arrival is a small, long-awaited revelation. Her arrival is our arrival.”
Of the accusations of sexual misconduct made in an online article against her friend and Master of None co-star Aziz Ansari, Waithe told Woodson: “At the end of the day, what I would hope comes out of this is that we as a society . . . educate ourselves about what consent is—what it looks like, what it feels like, what it sounds like. I think there are both men and women who are still trying to figure it out. We need to be more attuned to each other, pay more attention to each other, in every scenario, and really make sure that, whatever it is we’re doing with someone else, they’re comfortable doing whatever that thing is, and that we’re doing it together. That’s just human kindness and decency.”
— VANITY FAIR (@VanityFair) March 22, 2018
Waithe was shot for the magazine by celebrated portraitist Annie Leibovitz, in a series of candid moments—at home making eggs for her girlfriend, doing her hair, relaxing on the sofa—in a departure from the magazine’s usual devotion to glamour.
“The things that make us different, those are our superpowers,” Waithe told the Emmy Awards audience during her acceptance speech, after thanking her “LGBTQIA family”. “Every day when you walk out the door, put on your imaginary cape, and go out there and conquer the world. Because the world would not be as beautiful as it is if we weren’t in it.”