Two months into quarantine, I reluctantly hopped onto the TikTok bandwagon and downloaded the app with hopes of curing my ‘bored in the house, in the house bored’ symptoms. I grew up in the era of Vine, a social networking short-form video platform where users shared six second-long, looping video clips. Originally, I had disregarded TikTok as I thought I was too old and wise to contribute to a culture dominated by bleach-haired Gen-Z teenagers desperately trying to become Internet famous, one Renegade dance at a time. Soon enough I became addicted, going as far as learning how to channel my inner VSCO girl, discovering what a tennis bracelet meant and suffering many failed attempts of throwing it back. TikTok, an app with an audience of over 800 million users is not only known for their catchy dances but its plethora of challenges which have swept their feeds.
Most recently, the #VogueChallenge has risen in popularity among the latest trends, in which creators share a collage of pictures mimicking a model pose or artistic edits with the “Vogue” magazine title at the top. The mock editorial covers have now transitioned throughout Instagram and Twitter. Even major celebrities and public figures, from Lizzo to YouTube beauty guru James Charles, have created their own take on the challenge.
It makes us all wonder—what’s the point? What is everyone trying to express behind all of these covers?
My first impression was that it was a marketing tactic for influencers and aspiring models, to showcase their best pictures in an effort to try getting a foot in the door behind the world’s most renowned fashion magazine. In fact, fashion macro-influencers such as Chriselle Lim and Jamie Chua have thrown themselves into the trend, with their luxurious, professional blog photos closely mimicking Vogue’s past archives. This seems like a pretty valid argument because well, it’s unequivocally every one’s dream to be featured on the cover of Vogue once in her lifetime—right?
But I quickly learned that the #VogueChallenge is more than a hashtag.
The challenge has become more and more prevalent among members of minority and LGBTQ communities who are coming forward to share their perception of what Vogue covers should look like, along with the themes Vogue regularly fails to portray. Vogue has been a magazine championing white privilege throughout its countless editions, the glossy pages mostly featuring skinny, beautiful, Caucasian models. Anna Wintour, the famed Editor-in-Chief of American Vogue for the past 32 years, has been widely acclaimed for her impact on fashion influences across the nation. However, although she’s had the power to change inclusivity and diversity within the fashion runways and editorial spreads, she simply chose not to. She most recently made a public statement apologizing for any inadvertent promotion of racism, citing her commitment to providing more inclusivity and diversity within the Vogue offices and within the pages of her fashion encyclopedia. In a way, the #VogueChallenge promotes a continuous amplification of the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Many TikTok users aren’t simply posting with the hashtag for social media clout or to feature on the #fyp pages but rather, as a response to Anna Wintour’s ill-fated apology. It raises awareness that the world of print media publishing needs to modernize and change in response to the racial justice movements occurring across the country.
As television companies and musical artists have stood in solidarity with BLM, as well as to remove any derogatory implications targeted towards the Black community, magazines and digital social networking communities must commit to doing the same. In an industry where two of the largest publishers (Condé Nast and Hearst) are owned by prominent white male businessmen, the magazines with the biggest financial backing such as Vogue or Harper’s Baazar have been run by white women in executive roles, for decades. Although magazines catered to the minority class do exist, they rarely, if ever, receive the same financial backing as of Conde Nast and Hearst, or equal publicity.
Anna Wintour, among other privileged editors, must come together to change the historical stigmatization and underrepresentation of minority and LGBTQ communities. Change is happening around the world, and changes in print media need to happen right now. The #VogueChallenge is just the beginning.