Anna Wintour today defended her decision to put Kanye West and Kim Kardashian on the latest Vogue cover, following backlash from readers and reports West had begged for the honor for his bride-to-be.
"Part of the pleasure of editing Vogue, one that lies in a long tradition of this magazine, is being able to feature those who define the culture at any given moment, who stir things up, whose presence in the world shapes the way it looks and influences the way we see it," Wintour said, according to Us Weekly. "I think we can all agree on the fact that that role is currently being played by Kim and Kanye to a T. (Or perhaps that should be to a K?)"
Wintour surely knew the sort of attention her latest cover would garner, but she may have underestimated the degree of criticism the cover would get on social media—or the vitriol many celebrities and the Internet in general would lob at the duo, virally mocked via Vogue's hashtag #worldsmosttalkedaboutcouple.
There were promises to boycott the magazine, including from actress Sarah Michelle Gellar:
Well......I guess I'm canceling my Vogue subscription. Who is with me???— Sarah Michelle (@RealSMG) March 21, 2014
And all of the Internet seemed to boisterously join in, jockeying for the best jab on social media. Seth Rogen seems to have won:
It had to be done: pic.twitter.com/EXH2NJI3m9— Seth Rogen (@Sethrogen) March 22, 2014
Each party to the relationship dubbed “Kimye” is polarizing in his and her own right. Kardashian is routinely mocked for varying reasons, including her pregnancy weight, the impetus of her fame (a sex tape) and her A-list desires. Kanye has the dubious honor of being the only celebrity ever called a “jackass” by a sitting U.S. president.
But Vogue is no stranger to the controversial cover choice. Most recently, the mag became a subject of national discussion after its unretouched photos of Lena Dunham were released by Jezebel. Vogue’s newsstand competitors are also frequently the target of criticism—most recently Elle, Glamour and Lucky, all for photoshopping or retouching cover shots—and social media is making it easier than ever for these discussions to proliferate.
In this case, some directed their wrath away from the couple and instead aimed at Wintour or photographer Annie Leibovitz, who just joined Twitter.
Magazines are also taking more risks with their covers as many see declines in circulation. Vogue had 267,849 single-copy sales as of the end of 2013, a decrease of 20 percent year over year.
Ten years ago, you’d be hard-pressed to find a magazine starring a celebrity who didn’t already look like a fashion model; now, you get Dunham, Rihanna or a controversial choice like Kimye. While these risks aren’t necessarily being rewarded at the outset, they may be evidence of a shift in target audience toward younger, more socially connected readers.