In this guest post, editor of the Australian edition of marie claire, Nicky Briger (pictured below), says powerful women are fast replacing celebrity as the cover of choice for magazine editors…
To say 2020 was transformative for us all would be an understatement. It upended the way we work, how we relate to each other, and it underlined a fundamental question: what really matters?
The power of protest was particularly pronounced, with millions marching globally for Black Lives Matter, many taking to the streets for the first time. While the concept of activism was hardly invented last year (hello, Emmeline Pankhurst!), it was adopted in a way unseen in recent history.
The embrace of advocacy is also reflected in our ever-changing relationship to technology. Mid-last year, a Pew Research Centre survey revealed that 54 percent of social media users (aged 18 to 29) said they’d gone online in the past month to search for info about rallies or protests happening in their area. No longer satisfied to be passive members of society, people are choosing active citizenship and participation.
And magazine covers are, seemingly, making the same choice.
For example, in just the past six months, US Vogue has had National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman and US Vice-President Kamala Harris on its cover, Vanity Fair had a portrait of US police-shooting victim Breonna Taylor on its September issue and then Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez fronting October, British Vogue declared ‘ACTIVISM NOW’, Stacey Abrams stood tall on the cover of US marie Claire, and in France marie claire featured eight different activists on its special International Women’s Day covers.
As has often been the case, magazines have been at the forefront of social revolution — raising awareness about important issues and agitating for change. In a challenged industry, it’s undeniable that mags are now not just required to meet the moment, but to push conversations forward. marie claire has always proudly led in this space, and it’s clear the demand to be purpose-driven is getting stronger by the day. In short, women want to be aligned with brands that authentically walk the talk, brands that stand for something and have a definitive point of view.
Which is why we leapt at the chance to have Australian of the Year Grace Tame helm our May issue, making her the first “non-celebrity” cover star in our 25-year-history. Thankfully, marie claire has activism embedded in its DNA, which is what attracted me to the brand all those years ago. Over the decades, we’ve fought for paid maternity leave, marriage equality, Indigenous rights and gender equality, just to name a few. And we’ve often asked celebs to support our campaigns as a way of promoting these issues on our covers. But now there’s a new wave of celebrity, and they’re not the traditional clutch of actors, singers or influencers. Enter Grace Tame. As a tireless advocate for survivors of sexual assault and child sexual abuse, she epitomises what we’ve always championed as a publication: style and substance. A genuine change-maker, she’s galvanised Australia and ignited a revolution; you only have to look to former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins courageously coming forward with her alleged rape, schoolgirl sexual assault petitioner Chanel Contos and the thousands who attended the rallies in March against sexual violence and inequality. Her message has gone right to the heart of the nation and, thanks to Grace, we’re witnessing a long-overdue reckoning.
As a brand of purpose, it was a cover decision we were proud to make. And if the current climate is anything to go by (not to mention strong newsstand sales!), it’s one we’re committed to making again.
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