Tag Archives: magazine covers

Elle’s Women in TV Issue Gives Us A Knockout Photo of Mindy Kaling, In Spite of Themselves

Laurie and Debbie say:

To understand what Elle did with its cover photo of Mindy Kaling, you need only look at this array of the magazine’s cover photos for its Women in TV issue:

Kaling, who started out on The Office as a writer, and continues to write after stepping into the role of Kelly Kapoor, is South Asian. She is an absolutely horrifying-to-Hollywood size 8. (Oh, no!) You can see in this spread how the other three actresses (Zooey Deschanel, Amy Poehler, and Alison Williams) are portrayed as three different stereotypes of high-fashion hot chicks: the demure, the check-me-out, and the fuck-me. Kaling, on the other hand, is the only one whose photo is black-and-white (which downplays her skin color) and the only one whose body isn’t shown (because *shudder* curves). Beyond a doubt, Elle did this because they were uncomfortable about, and unwilling to, showcase Kaling as a hot chick.

So, unintentionally, they showcased her as the only one of the four women who seems real, who has personality and presence.

Despite criticism that the magazine was unwilling to show Kaling’s whole body because of her weight, according to E News:

Elle stands by its cover treatment… “Mindy looks sexy, beautiful and chic. We think it is a striking and sophisticated cover and are thrilled to celebrate her in our Women in TV Issue.”

E News also quotes Julia Sonenshein from The Gloss:

… something that’s long overdue: a woman of color and some size who’s known as much for her talent, intelligence, and humor as she’s known for her looks land a major cover. This shouldn’t be a thing. This shouldn’t be news. We shouldn’t be this excited to see Kaling, or any woman of color who’s not ‘model-thin’ on a major magazine cover. But we are excited, and worse, applauding Elle for doing so, as if it’s some brave stand to feature a person on the cover of their magazine, instead of the fact that major magazines are woefully behind the times.

While we basically agree with Sonenshein, it is disturbing (if unsurprising) to see size 8 described as “some size.” Of course, you could say that size 1 is also “some size,” but that’s not what she means.

Speaking as a portrait photographer, Laurie says: “I really liked the strong black and white portrait of Kaling.  The image gives us a sense of her individual reality.  Her direct gaze at the viewer asserts a personal presence that strongly contrasts with the objectified images of the other actresses.”

Finally, while Kaling has apparently not said much about the cover or the shoot (except that she thinks the controversy is “weird”), she is brilliantly outspoken about her body confidence.

I always get asked, ‘Where do you get your confidence?’ I think people are well meaning, but it’s pretty insulting,” the Office vet admits. “Because what it means to me is, ‘You, Mindy Kaling, have all the trappings of a very marginalized person. You’re not skinny, you’re not white, you’re a woman. Why on earth would you feel like you’re worth anything?’

Although it almost certainly wasn’t their intent, Elle gave her a cover photo of a woman who is incontrovertibly worth something. If we were Deschanel, Poehler, and Williams, we might be envious of Kaling’s cover. We don’t admire the magazine’s motives, but we applaud the results.

Will The Real Kelly Clarkson Please Stand Up?

Laurie and Debbie say:
(cross blogged on Feministe)

Self Magazine isn’t ashamed that they clipped pieces off of Kelly Clarkson’s body for their current cover. They’re proud of it. Lucy Danziger, editor-in-chief at Self, did a whole blog on the Self site about the decision to photoshop Clarkson’s figure.


Here’s a picture of Clarkson as she’s been looking recently, without photo manipulation. Note how her clothing choices reflect comfort in her body.


Danziger explains their decision:

Did we alter her appearance? Only to make her look her personal best. Did we publish an act of fiction? No. Not unless you think all photos are that. But in the sense that Kelly is the picture of confidence, and she truly is, then I think this photo is the truest we have ever put out there on the newsstand. I love her spirit and her music and her personality that comes through in our interview in SELF. She is happy in her own skin, and she is confident in her music, her writing, her singing, her performing. That is what we all relate to. Whether she is up or down in pounds is irrelevant (and to set the record straight, she works out and does boot-camp-style training, so she is as fit as anyone else we have featured in SELF). Kelly says she doesn’t care what people think of her weight. So we say: That is the role model for the rest of us.

This is absolutely classic. Clarkson is confident and doesn’t care what people think. We just wanted to make her look her best. So we trimmed off some pounds Clarkson is fine with showing. By doing that, we once again perpetuated a lie about how women really look. This adds to the burden that every woman who looks at this cover carries.

“No matter how much I diet, I never look like the women in the magazines.”
“My boyfriend says I’m too fat. We were in the supermarket the other day, and he was pointing out women on magazine covers whose hips and waist are slimmer than mine.”
“I give up; I’ll just stop eating and maybe then I’ll look like Kelly Clarkson.”

But Danziger isn’t done. She waxes elegant about some casual shots of Clarkson with her sister (but doesn’t reproduce them in her blog). She says:

Frankly, those are my favorite pictures, the ones that are snappy happy. My husband has given me an appreciation for the beauty of a snapshot. But that isn’t a cover. A cover’s job is to sell the magazine, and we do that, every month, thanks to our readers. So thank you.

Your job: Think about your photographs and what you want them to convey. And go ahead and be confident in every shot, in every moment. Because the truest beauty is the kind that comes from within.

By the way, she also tries to claim that photoshopping off that weight is no different than make-up, or hairstyling. Here’s what’s different: if you’re there on the shoot, you would see the make-up and hairstyle as they were finished, but you’d also see Clarkson’s actual body.

We agree with Margaret at Jezebel:

Danziger is is right: Kelly Clarkson is a “great role model for women of all sizes.” When the press goes after celebrities for gaining weight many apologize to the public, like Oprah Winfrey or Kirstie Alley, or frantically exercise and appear on the cover of Us flaunting their slimmed down selves like Jennifer Love Hewitt. So far Clarkson has only declared that she’s OK with her body and backed her statements up by performing in clothing that exposes her figure, rather than hiding under billowy outfits.

So here’s our advice to Susan Danziger and Self:

“A cover’s job is to sell the magazine, which can be done without lying to your readers.”

“Your job: Think about your photographs and what you want them to convey. And go ahead and believe Kelly Clarkson when she says she’s not tweaked about her weight. Because the truest beauty is the kind that you’re not ashamed to show on your magazine cover.”