Viola Davis Made History on the Cover of Vanity Fair’s 2016 Hollywood Issue


Reprinted with permission from Women and Hollywood

The cover of Vanity Fair‘s 2016 Hollywood Issue has been unveiled, and all of the stars being celebrated are women. This is, of course, no accident: The cover is making a statement.

Admittedly, this isn’t the first time the Hollywood Issue has featured women exclusively, but this year the decision to make the cover women-centric feels undeniably symbolic.

Much-needed dialogues about women in Hollywood—both onscreen and behind the scenes—finally started gaining more traction in the press in 2015. And the gender quake is showing no signs of slowing down. Vanity Fair is putting women at the forefront because that’s where the conversation has taken us: Women have been grossly underrepresented in myriad ways by the motion picture business, but this time around, we’re front and center.

In the past, the Hollywood Issue has been justly criticized for spotlighting white actors and actresses and omitting people of color. This time around, three of the 13 actresses pictured are women of color: Emmy winner Viola Davis, Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o and up-and-comer Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle, Beyond the Lights). Percentage-wise, white actresses comprise 77 percent of the cover. Those numbers aren’t great—far from it. They do, however, mark an improvement from some other years. (For reference, in 2010, exactly nine out of nine actresses on the cover of the Hollywood Issue were white.)

This year marks the first time since 1999 that a black woman has appeared on the main cover of the Hollywood Issue. And Davis is also the first black woman over the age of 30 to ever appear on the main cover of the issue. What’s clear is that we have a long road ahead of us when it comes to making Hollywood more racially inclusive. Period. That being said, it’s important to remember that the cover is making history (however belatedly).

We are pleased that, compared to years prior, older actresses are much better represented on the cover, including Davis, Helen Mirren, Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton and Charlotte Rampling. The Hollywood Issue is typically super white and super young, so it’s a refreshing, welcome change to see so many faces that are 50-plus years old.

The Hollywood Issue went on sale in New York and Los Angeles, as well as on iPhones, Kindles and other devices February 4 and nationally on February 8.

Get Ms. in your inbox! Click here to sign up for the Ms. magazine newsletter.