American Beauties: A New Crop of Fall Cover Stars Are Young, Gifted—and Maybe Our Next Vice President?

Maiysha Kai
·5 mins read
Normani, left, Kamala Harris, Serena Williams
Normani, left, Kamala Harris, Serena Williams

“All-American” has long inferred a certain type of (Caucasian) citizen, but a trio of covers debuting this October and November encourage us to think far more colorfully, Serena Williams, Normani, and vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris all grace covers dropping in the next month, giving new meaning to the phrase. Here, a few highlights:

Kamala Harris

On Wednesday, Kamala Harris will face off against incumbent Vice President Mike Pence on a plexiglass-protected debate stage (all the better to contain the bloodbath that will no doubt ensue). The issue won’t hit stands until Election Day, but on Tuesday, the history-making candidate’s cover story for Elle magazine debuted online (sans typical fashion spread), penned by writer Ashley C. Ford, who admits that like the rest of us, “I have a lot of questions—and a few trust issues,” writing:

I ask what justice means to a prosecutor who wants to defend our civil rights. The senator says, smiling, “It’s about freedom, it’s about equality, it’s about dignity. When you achieve equality, and freedom, and fairness, it’s not because I grant it to you. It’s because you fought for it because it is your right. This is not about benevolence or charity; it is about every human being’s God-given right. What do we collectively do to fight for that? That’s what justice represents to me—it’s about empowerment of the people.”

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Her ideas about the best ways to demand and achieve justice have gotten more progressive over time, but she still faces criticism about her past as a prosecutor. She is not ashamed of having evolved her perspective and hopes the current moment is the beginning of something, not the end. “What I hope and pray is that we can get to a point where, through what are undoubtedly difficult conversations, we confront the real history of America,” Harris says. “Doing it in a way that is motivated by love, but also is fully honest.”

Normani

Honesty—and vulnerability—are at the core of self-proclaimed “girl next door” Normani’s post-Fifth Harmony career, as she tells 2020 The Root 100 honoree Tre’vell Anderson, for Teen Vogue’s October cover story, shot by Micaiah Carter and styled by Zerina Akers.

“Vulnerability is talking about the fact that I do get anxiety sometimes, and just showing the consumer what that feels like for me...Just the fact that I am in a position that I’m in, but I don’t want to be so unattainable. I’m just the girl next door,” she says, adding: “I feel hurt, sad, elated sometimes. I feel like I’m in my head. I feel not so confident. I just want to be able to show not only women, but people in general, that I am a human as well.”

No doubt quite a few folks would like to live next door to Normani—especially after her Naomi Campbell-inspired cameo in the “WAP” video, a moment that reinforced the power of brown-skinned beauty.

“Representation, like I always say, is key,” says Normani. “To be a young woman that looks like myself, I just feel like [being a positive example] is a part of my legacy. It’s me wanting to create better opportunities for us, and also just for people who think that they got us figured out...I want to change lives and I want to reach as many people as I can,” she later adds. “I feel like that’s the difference between doing something that you love and also having purpose. I want to tell our stories and, like I said, be a representation that Black girls can do anything...I feel like it’s my calling.”

Serena Williams

The tennis season may have ended abruptly (and painfully) for Serena Williams last week, but as the phenom tells British Vogue, for her, “Tennis is a small play in the whole scheme of things.”

“In this society, women are not taught or expected to be that future leader or future CEO,” she continues. “The narrative has to change. And maybe it doesn’t get better in time for me, but someone in my position can show women and people of color that we have a voice, because Lord knows I use mine. I love sticking up for people and supporting women. Being the voice that millions of people don’t have.”

For her November appearance, Williams, a longtime ambassador for the Allstate Foundation’s Purple Purse Project, gives fans a peek inside her own designer bags (above), but in her cover story, Williams strikes a more somber tone when talking about watching the world wake up to racism in real-time over the past several months, saying, “I was like: well, you didn’t see any of this before? I’ve been talking about this my whole career. It’s been one thing after another.”

“Underpaid, undervalued,” are some of the other challenges Williams has faced one after another in her now-epic career—as well as derision for her powerful frame (her love for which has come “full circle,” thanks to three-year-old daughter Olympia) which she says has and brown skin. Like Normani, it’s skin she is rightfully glad to be living—and thriving in. “I’ve never been a person that has been like, ‘I want to be a different color’ or ‘I want my skin tone to be lighter,’” she says. “I like who I am, I like how I look, and I love representing the beautiful dark women out there. For me, it’s perfect. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

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