TOP STORIES Why the cover of Vogue caused controversy about Elena...

Why the cover of Vogue caused controversy about Elena Zelenskaya


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Another season, another Vogue article about the politician who caused the fight. After the hype that the magazine didn’t give Melania Trump a cover (although Michelle Obama did get three) and worries that a “relaxed” portrait of Kamala Harris was chosen over her more formal cover attempt, there’s a new controversy surrounding “digital coverwent online with the participation of the first lady of Ukraine Elena Zelenskaya.

The article titled “Portrait of Courage” is the result of a collaboration between Condé Nast Vogues (virtually all) and Ukrainian Vogue (a licensed magazine owned by Ukraine Media Group).

It features moody, graceful portraits of Ms. Zelenskaya by Annie Leibovitz: seated on the marble steps of the presidential palace, gazing grimly ahead; holding hands with her husband, President Volodymyr Zelensky; and standing next to female soldiers at Antonov Airport clutching the lapels of a long navy blue coat. The photos are accompanied by a lengthy interview and several videos of BTS with the first couple and Ms. Leibovitz. It will appear in print later this year.

Unlike Ms Zelenskaya first cover of Ukrainian Vogue, which appeared in November 2019, shortly after Mr. Zelensky was elected, and which featured the first lady frolicking with her family and styled as Celine, Prada, Lemaire and Jimmy Choo. Ms. Zelenskaya looks flawless, but the story focuses on the pain and trauma of her country and her people, as well as the couple’s relationship. None of the subjects are smiling.

A single line under one photo notes that Ms. Zelenskaya wears exclusively Ukrainian designers and lists their names. To most viewers, this may seem like a small thing, but it removes the commercial element from the shooting. Whatever he’s selling – and he’s definitely selling something – isn’t clothes.

Nevertheless (unsurprisingly) the article generated some backlash. Some viewers intuitively react to the contrast between the idea of ​​Vogue—with its historical ties to elitism, fantasy, wealth, and frivolity—and the reality of war. Looks, they say, tasteless. Especially considering some of the magazine’s gaffes in the past.

For example, it was annoying sycophantic profile of Syrian first lady Asma al-Assad, published in 2011 just as Ms al-Assad’s husband, Bashar al-Assad, turned out to be a murderous dictator. (That article, which made the magazine appear morally compromised in the face of fantasy, was later removed from Vogue’s website, though it still casts a shadow over Vogue’s coverage, especially when it comes to political figures.)

“While Ukraine is going through hell, Vogue is doing a photo shoot for the president and his wife,” wrote Amrita Binder on Twitter.

Representative Maira Floresa Republican from Texas, took the opportunity to attack the Biden administration for its financial support of Ukraine, implying that it is funding vanity. Breitbart wrote a joyful article in which he collected criticism, especially regarding public funding.

However, other readers came to Ms. Zelenskaya’s defense, seeing the footage as a symbol of national pride: a way to show Ukrainian elegance to the world; a reminder of the balm to be found in beauty; and a subtle allusion to general humanity in the face of inhuman aggression. After all, she doesn’t eat cake in a ball gown. She’s in a war zone, looks like she’s being chased.

To a certain extent, the discussion simply shows how confused our feelings about fashion remain and how ingrained the view of it as a frivolous subject remains, despite the fact that fashion is a key part of pop culture and a rare equivalent of a global language. . This is what every politician and public figure uses for his own purposes, whether they like it or not. (That’s why, despite the risks, they continue to appear in magazines like Vogue.)

The Russian-Ukrainian conflict is a war that is being fought on all fronts: on the ground, in the air, in the digital sphere and in the arena of public opinion. (See, for example, Ms. Zelenskaya’s speech in Washington last week.) Vogue – and indeed any publication that allows the Ukrainian people to reach different segments of the world’s population and influence moods – is one of them. As Ms. Zelenskaya and her husband know, who, before entering politics, founded one of the largest television entertainment production companies in Ukraine.

By placing Ms. Zelenskaya on its cover, Vogue reinforces her role as an authority figure and voice of struggle; bringing it close and personal to the observing world. And by showing up and raising issues publicly when her husband can’t, she’s supporting her country’s needs in international discussions at a time when other crises vie for attention. In fact, she armed Vogue.

She said so much BBC when asked by an interviewer to explain her choice: “Millions read Vogue and being able to speak directly to them was my responsibility,” she said, adding, “I think it’s more important to do something and be criticized for it.” than doing nothing.”

Whatever you think of the article itself, however you feel about the magazine in which it was published, you can’t dispute the fact that the war in Ukraine is making headlines again – and in the minds of people who may not have known . watched him as carefully as the others. In this context, her interview is not just an interview. This is part of the combat strategy.

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