We Did It! 2018 Was a Record-Breaking Year for Diversity on Magazine Covers

(l-r) Viola Davis, Imaan Hammam, Liya Kebede and children
(l-r) Viola Davis, Imaan Hammam, Liya Kebede and children
Screenshot: Alexandra Gaville (Hollywood Reporter), Giampaolo Sgura (Sunday Times Style), Gilles Bensimon (Marie Claire UK)

It’s official: After months of watching magazine covers steadily get more colorful, with December’s round of issues, 2018 has ended up as a record-breaking year for diversity, particularly in the fashion industry.


Industry site Fashionista has been keeping track of diversity and inclusion for the past five years now, and on Monday reported that of the American editions of nine major fashion tomes in the United States alone (Allure, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, Marie Claire, Vogue, and W), 62 of 128 covers—48.4 percent—featured people of color. For their purposes, as well as for ours, “people of color” include those who identify as mixed race and of Latinx or Hispanic descent.

“It’s important to note, however, that racial identity is very much a social construct and fluid depending on borders,” Fashionista aptly notes. Again, how one self-identifies is key here.

But yes, that means almost a full half of mainstream American fashion magazines in 2018 starred a nonwhite person on their covers, which Fashionista calculates is a 17 percent increase from 2017, and the highest increase they’ve seen since they began tabulating in 2014.

Of course, much of this increase can be attributed to September of 2018, which was record-breaking all on its own. 54.5 percent of September’s covers starred people of color, a 32.3 percent increase from last year. And again, Fashionista only counted American covers; we saw an increase in diversity across the globe this fall (and featured a few of those most recent covers above).

So, who were the leaders in diversifying their covers in 2018? With 75 percent of its covers featuring people of color, InStyle was far and away the winner—and the most improved, more than quadrupling the mere two nonwhite covers they produced in 2017. Allure and Glamour could also count more than half its covers as diverse, with each featuring people of color on nine of their 14 annual covers, which equates to 64.3 percent. Cosmopolitan came in at close to half, at 46.2 percent, and W at 43.8 percent.

But despite the major publicity their history-making September cover of Beyoncé garnered, at 41.7 percent, Vogue actually didn’t improve at all on diversity this year, outside of hiring its first black cover photographer, Tyler Mitchell. Marie Claire also remained at the 37.5 percent they reached in 2017, and Elle and Harper’s Bazaar, though making minor gains this year, rounded out the bottom, in that order.


Fashionista also rightly notes that this surge in diversity still tended to elude older women, plus-sized women, transgender women, and Asian women, despite the runaway success of Crazy Rich Asians this year.

We can’t thank Fashionista enough for doing this annual research, and you can check their extremely detailed report here. Of course, for our purposes, we’re breaking down their findings even more specifically: How much black beauty was deemed cover-worthy this year?


Notably, Janelle Monáe and Zoë Kravitz rivaled supermodels with three covers each in 2018. But as we calculated the black girl magic quotient on the year’s covers, Glamour came out on top, with 57 percent of its covers featuring black women. InStyle admirably came in at exactly half. Where were we least seen? Harper’s Bazaar and Cosmopolitan, who only saw fit to devote two covers to black faces. Here’s the breakdown in cover talent, as we counted it:

Glamour (8/14): Tracee Ellis Ross, Aja Naomi King (shared cover with Camila Cabello), Tiffany Haddish, Issa Rae, Susan Kelechi Watson (shared cover with Chrissy Metz/Mandy Moore), Viola Davis, Janelle Monáe, Naomi Wadler (shared cover with Edna Chavez/Samantha Fuentes/Emma González)


InStyle (6/12): Zendaya, Oprah, Zoë Kravitz, Serena Williams, Janet Jackson, Tracee Ellis Ross,

Allure (6/14): Lupita Nyong’o, Adwoa Aboah, Sasha Lane, Janelle Monáe, Rihanna, Angela Bassett


W (6/16): Mary J. Blige, Janelle Monáe, Adwoa Aboah, Tiffany Haddish, Letitia Wright, Cardi B

Marie Claire (5/16): Issa Rae, Yara Shahidi, Halsey, Zendaya, Kerry Washington

Elle (6/19): Zoë Kravitz, Nicki Minaj, Shonda Rhimes, Danai Gurira/Lupita Nyong’o/Angela Bassett (shared cover), Yara Shahidi, Michelle Obama


Vogue (4/12): Lupita Nyong’o, Serena Williams/Alexis Olympia Ohanian, Jr. (shared cover), Rihanna, Beyoncé

Harper’s Bazaar (2/12): Kanye/North/Saint West (shared cover), Zoë Kravitz

Cosmopolitan (2/13): Cardi B, Ciara

So, clearly there’s still work to be done in representation, but we have to applaud those who truly did the work this year in ensuring their was equity. We’re looking forward to seeing how the conversation—and coverage—continues to progress in 2019.

Maiysha Kai is managing editor of The Glow Up, host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast and Big Beauty Tuesdays, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door. May I borrow some sugar?



Not to be a killjoy, but “We did it”? A bunch of white editors did it because diversity was a fad in the US in 2018, much as it has been for brief periods in the past. It’s not evidence of progress. As long as whites control who goes on the cover (and everywhere else), it’s wrong to set off fireworks for every crumb that falls off their table.