It’s not remarkable that Serena Williams is on the April cover of US Vogue, despite what you might think. Yes, the styling is remarkably minimal: teal Rag & Bone dress, singular bracelet, hair fizzing with movement and a suggestion of makeup on her grand-slam scowl, very gently Photoshopped if at all. And, yes, she is black. But it’s also her second cover – she faux-jogged in a gold swimsuit on the June 2012 issue with US athletes Ryan Lochte & Hope Solo. Plus, as a tennis pro, with 19 major tournament wins under her belt, she’s an obvious choice for US editor Anna Wintour, a vocal and visible tennis fan. Wintour also hasn’t had a white model on an April cover since 2010.
What is remarkable is the shot itself, given that , a non-size-zero woman, does not appear tightly-cropped in an explosion of hair and kohl (see Adele, whose portrait goes cleavage-deep), or distractingly framed by polka dots and headlight-eyes (see Lena Dunham). Rather, she is photographed by Annie Leibovitz face on at hip height, not shielding her body from the camera or wearing sleeves. When Mindy Kaling appeared in US Elle’s “Women in TV” issue, as one of four women (Zooey Deschanel, Allison Williams and Amy Poehler were the others) she was the only one shot in black and white – you can imagine the op-eds that followed. The same thing happened – super close crop – to Gabby Sidibe on the cover of US Elle in 2010. That Williams is black, not a model, and not dressed thematically in tennis whites is a big win for solid diversity representation. Let’s just hope it’s not a one-off. – By Morwenna Ferrier
Image – Serena Williams on the cover of Vogue, April 2015 Photograph: Annie Leibovitz/Vogue