Harper’s Bazaar Megan Thee Stallion cover sparks representation debate


A Harper’s Bazaar cover featuring Megan Thee Stallion has been criticised for its portrayal of the rapper, amid continuing debate over how black people are photographed in fashion.

The March issue of the venerable magazine has two covers. The first features Megan Thee Stallion in a black bardot top from Saint Laurent. In the second she wears a black cape from Chanel and earrings from Bulgari.

The images, which see the rapper embracing a minimalist, pared-down look, met with derision in some quarters. Some social media users criticised the lighting, somber mood and general aesthetic.

“Nah this ain’t it – photographer didn’t even know how to capture Megan’s skin correctly … in any of the pics,” wrote one user.

“Hopefully (she) learned a lot from this,” another commented: “If you can’t capture dark skinned women just say that.”

“Y’all clearly need a black creative director on set,” wrote another.

However, in an Instagram post which was later made private, the photographer Collier Schorr said Megan Thee Stallion, who is known for her glamorous looks, worked with her on the pictures.

“A most remarkable experience making pictures with Megan Thee Stallion,” Schorr wrote, “who discussed each picture and edited afterwards with me … total collaboration as it should be to make together new images of her at this moment in her life.”

The rapper, who has modelled for Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty lingerie line and has signed a deal with Revlon cosmetics, told the magazine in an interview her style was evolving.

“I’m realising that I don’t have to be in full glam every time you see me,” she said, “because I’m just getting more comfortable with myself and more comfortable with my skin.”

The shoot was styled by Samira Nasr, the magazine’s first black editor-in-chief. Nonetheless, Harper’s found itself at the centre of the latest controversy around representations of famous black women by fashion magazines.

Last month, Vogue US published a limited number of its Kamala Harris February cover after an online outcry in which a planned cover showing the then vice-president-elect was called “disrespectful” and the photos “whitewashed”.

In response, the editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, said: “It was absolutely not our intention to, in any way, diminish the importance of [Harris’s] incredible victory.”

In August, Vanity Fair was praised for hiring Dario Calmese as the first black cover photographer in its 107-year history, to shoot the actor Viola Davis. But the cover was criticised online when Calmese revealed the pose was a homage to The Scourged Black, an 1863 photograph of a freed slave showing scars from multiple whippings.

US Vogue’s August issue was also criticised, for the way the cover star, the gymnast Simone Biles, was lit and shot.

Last June, when Nasr’s appointment as editor was announced, Hearst, which owns Harper’s Bazaar, posted a video regarding her vision for the magazine.

“As the proud daughter of a Lebanese father and a Trinidadian mother, my worldview is expansive and is anchored in the belief that representation matters,” she said, adding that her goal was to “give all voices a platform to tell stories that would have never been told”.

The Guardian has requested comment from Megan Thee Stallion, Schorr and Harper’s Bazaar.

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