Vanity Fair Under Fire for February Lupita Nyong’o Photo

Was the 30-year-old Kenyan’s skin deliberately lightened? Or was it a matter of too-bright, washed out lighting? That’s the debate raging on Twitter and the Web after Vanity Fair on Wednesday shared a sneak peak of a shot of 12 Years a Slave co-star Lupita Nyong’o featured in the February issue “Vanities” section.


At press time, two-thirds of respondents to a Huffington Post Black Voices poll feel that yes, the magazine did this deliberately. There does not currently appear to be any official statement of response from the Condé Nast publication.

The matter is making headlines not just here but also in Nyong’o’s native Kenya and the UK. From a Holy Moly piece:

So just what is the fashion magazine industry’s problem? Why is it so hard for them to put a woman of color on the cover of a magazine [Nyong’o is not on the VF cover] without instantly attracting accusations of skin lightening? Why is it impossible for them to show a plus size woman in full-length unless she’s wearing a baggy coat?

Is it a case of saleability? Is the average fashion magazine reader less likely to shell out £8 for a magazine that displays an un-lightened black woman? Will an average-sized woman’s actual body turn off people who want to buy a magazine that usually makes them feel awful about how poor and fat they are? Is it so important to please these people that they are happy to insult the women they are editing to look more palatable? Please try harder, everyone involved.

UK site Holy Moly includes a gallery of previous pictures of Nyong’o. One that suggests other publications have had no problem properly capturing the look of last night’s emotional Critics’ Choice Awards winner.

Previously on FishbowlNY:
Vanity Fair Launches Vanity Fair