Nicole Trunfio breastfeeding her son Zion on the cover of Elle Australia. (Photo: Elle Australia)
The Editor in Chief of Elle Australia Justine Cullen is defending her decision not to sell their now-iconic breastfeeding cover on the newsstand. “In an ideal world no one would have an issue with seeing breastfeeding on the cover of a magazine. But it’s not an ideal world,” Cullen wrote in a letter published on their site May 25th.
When the magazine released photos of gorgeous cover model Nicole Trunfio breastfeeding her son Zion last week, it caused an immediate buzz on social media, accompanied by the hashtag #nomalizebreastfeeding. The response was overwhelmingly positive celebrating the stunning photograph of an intimate mother-and-child moment. “There is nothing more beautiful and powerful than motherhood,” Trunfio wrote on her Facebook page.
However, the magazine quickly came under fire for sending the breastfeeding cover image only to subscribers. The newsstand picture features Trunfio holding Zion—fully clothed in Prada. It seemed curious that the magazine should celebrate openly breastfeeding only to hide it on the newsstand. Cullen has responded explaining why she felt it was so important to publish the image in the first place. “While there’s nothing provocative about breastfeeding, it is a provocative image to see on the cover of a fashion magazine, and it’s enabled us to contribute to a necessary conversation around normalizing breastfeeding and why that’s so important,” Cullen wrote.
The newsstand copy with Nicole Trunfio and her son Zion on the cover of Elle Australia. (Photo: Elle Australia)
Cullen defended her cover strategy as ultimately to a business decision. “It’s still my job to sell magazines,” Cullen stated. Cullen puts the blame on the public, stating that she expected there to be controversy around the image and that she wasn’t willing to take the risk that it would result in poor sales or the magazine getting pulled. She doesn’t believe that the public would have been accepting of a woman breastfeeding on the cover of a magazine.“Supermarkets are where we make a large proportion of our sales. Not everyone walking through a supermarket is our target demographic, nor are they all going to be understanding of the message behind this cover,” Cullen explained on the Elle website. “ If enough of those people complained about this cover and it was pulled from the shelves – or worse, if we were made to put a sticker over the part of the cover deemed offensive – it would spell disaster. It may not have even had to be the breastfeeding element that offended – it may have been Zion’s bare bottom. Who knows? Either way, there was no denying it is a less commercially safe cover than the other option, which we loved just as much. Call it “wussing out” or hedging our bets if you want, but I call it running a business.”
Given the amount of positive response to the cover, it’s hard not to wonder whether Cullen regrets her decision at all. The cover image is probably one of the most glamorous breastfeeding images ever taken, and it is almost certain to be an iconic one. What could have happened had she taken the risk? Could it have been one of their bestselling covers ever? What would that have meant for women to have that cover be a bestseller? Too bad we will never know.