The Problem with Lena Dunham's Vogue Cover

Vogue (Vogue)

Lena Dunham's long-anticipated Vogue cover is here! And it's…well, OK. The 27-year-old Girls creator looks gorgeous wearing a white dress shirt with large, red polka dots, her side-swept pixie cut is Twiggy-esque and her makeup is impeccable. However, Dunham's body - which she has no qualms about flaunting on Girls - is inexplicably cropped at the chest, a move that didn't impress many fans.

The cropped cover is just the latest in a string of examples in which fashion magazines pay lip service to curvier celebrities, then cloak them in heavy fabric or hide their bodies altogether. In January, actress Mindy Kaling graced the cover of ELLE's "Women in TV" issue, along with fellow funny ladies, Amy Poehler, Zooey Deschanel, and Allison Williams. Kaling's black-and-white headshot was beautiful, but dwarfed by the full-body, scantily clad shots of her thinner cover stars. In 2012, size 16 singer Adele landed the cover of Vogue, but the trimmed image revealed only her gorgeous face and in-your-face cleavage. The previous year, ELLE booked actress Gabourey Sidibe for its 25th anniversary issue, but cut her off mid-chest, permitting only a peek of her green, jeweled couture. And in October, ELLE was criticized for its cover treatment of plus-size actress Melissa McCarthy. Although McCarthy was photographed in a full body shot, her plus-size curves were hidden under an awkward, bulky coat.

And while magazines are quick to defend their creative direction - ELLE told E! News that Kaling "looks sexy, beautiful and chic," and McCarthy's reps told insisted that their star "loved" her ELLE cover - fashion insiders tell a different story.

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"I worked as a designer at a major fashion magazine and while I was never asked to crop a cover of a curvy star, there was no tolerance for women that weren't stick thin," says Jill, a Brooklyn-based art director. "For example, when Anna Wintour became creative director of Conde Nast, our section about real women's street style - a staple of the magazine - was immediately cut and a size-4 television correspondent was scrutinized so much for her weight that she wouldn't appear on TV."

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"I was a manager at a national fashion magazine and I sat in meetings where cover decisions got made," says Susan, a managing editor from Washington, DC. "There seems to be an unspoken rule that no one directly addresses weight issues; the star's image is simply cropped to present the person in a flattering way. Thin stars weren't immune either. We airbrushed the cellulite off Sharon Stone's thighs, the wrinkles from Madonna's face, and the back fat that poked out of Selma Hayek's beaded gown. This was all routine procedure."

"When the magazine I worked at booked Adele for its cover, there was lots of discussion and worry over her weight," says Samantha, a New York City editor. "There is a similar mindset at men's magazines - my former creative director once had a fit over Heath Ledger's weight gain and said he wasn't cover material anymore. It's an odd mentality for magazines to have, considering the world is used to seeing more organic photos of celebrities on Instagram."

To be fair, plenty of thinner stars are photographed at close range. Penelope Cruz's face graced ELLE's multi-cover November issue and in May 2012, Vogue photographed actress Scarlett Johansson - indisputably famous for her bombshell curves - from the chest up. And Dunham's inside Vogue shots (while seemingly super-slimmed down), feature the actress lounging in sparkly Prada and a black off-the-shoulder dress.

While a Vogue representative wasn't immediately available for comment, Dunham has made her feelings clear on her cover, tweeting, "Dear Vogue magazine: Thank you. Love, Lena." And Mindy Kaling told David Letterman that being a poster child in the body image debate felt like a backhanded compliment. "The sort of implication, what they kept saying, was, 'What, Elle, you can't put her big, fat body on the magazine? Why, 'cause she's just fat and gruesome? Why shouldn't we look at her beautiful, fat body?' And I was like, 'Oookay, people who are trying to defend me.' I just feel like they're kind of insulting me."

But for the cover stars in question, all of who have shared their weight struggles - Dunham has admitted that the focus on her body can be hurtful and Kaling has complained about the pressure for celebrities to lose weight in Hollywood - one has to wonder if any feel cheated by their fashion debuts.

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