• Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

1st plus-size Asian-American and 1st transgender woman to grace 'Vogue' cover talk about ‘limits’ of representation

·3 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Yumi Nu, left, and Ariel Nicholson make history with their debut on the cover of
Yumi Nu, left, and Ariel Nicholson make history with their debut on the cover of "Vogue." (Photo: Getty Images)

Yumi Nu and Ariel Nicholson are two models making history with their debut on the September cover of Vogue, representing what the publication calls "American beauty now."

The two women announced their inclusion on the famous cover, alongside models Kaia Gerber, Bella Hadid, Precious Lee, Anok Yai, Sherry Shi and Lola Leon. And while the group is comprised of faces new and old to modeling superstardom, Nu and Nicholson are receiving most attention for being firsts for the fashion magazine within the Asian-American and LGBTQ communities, respectively.

While Nu has previously appeared in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, she has now become the first plus-size Asian-American model to grace the cover of American Vogue. According to her Instagram post, it was "the hardest secret I've ever had to keep."

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

"I’m so incredibly proud to be on this cover with 7 incredible women showing range of different bodies, races and stories. WE ARE MAKING HISTORY FOR OUR COMMUNITIES TODAY," Nu captioned the post. "I’m very proud for all the change I’m seeing in this industry… and it starts with things like this."

Nicholson, who is the first transgender model to land the coveted spot, took to social media to share her excitement as well.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

While both women have expressed gratitude for their inclusion in Vogue's cover story, which is said to introduce the next generation of American models, Nu and Nicholson also shared concerns about society's ongoing need to label their identities.

"I cherish the platform I’ve been given, and it makes me happy—like, so happy—to know there are larger Asian-American girls who can look at me and see themselves," Nu told the publication. 'But—I guess there’s a part of me that feels like...labels can be limiting. In an ideal world, maybe we wouldn’t have them."

Nicholson, who appeared in the PBS documentary Growing Up Trans when she was just 13 years old, echoed Nu's sentiment.

"There are limits to what 'representation' can do," Nicholson said. "Obviously it’s a big deal being the first trans woman on the cover of Vogue, but it’s also hard to say exactly what kind of big deal it is when the effects are so intangible."

Nicholson went on to explain that being identified solely as a trans model puts her in a "box," saying, "[that] is what I am—but that’s not all I am."

As representation of a more diverse and inclusive cast of models becomes the industry's bare minimum, however, there is hope for further change and recognition of all that these women bring to the table, both on and off the runway. That, as Nu explains in her Instagram caption, is something to be celebrated.

"I want to take a second to celebrate the fact that this has always been my dream…and 10 years ago it wouldn’t have been possible for someone my size to be here," she said of her Vogue debut. "I always thought I would have to change myself to have this opportunity. Well, here I am. We have come far and will continue the fight of going farther."