Great minds think alike?
Although a clear attempt at cover ingenuity, American Vogue’s top secret September issue featuring Beyoncé, released today, bears a striking resemblance to the September cover of British Vogue featuring Rihanna, released a week ago.
Outside of the obvious coup in nabbing the two biggest female pop stars for their biggest issues of the year (every win counts for Condé Nast right now), both covers heavily feature an abundance of flowers atop the beautiful heads of the two megastars, who have a similar soft gaze — let’s call it a “Smize” (a la Tyra Banks) — and appear in a portrait style on a simple photo set.
Eagle-eyed Vogue readers may even compare the new Beyoncé cover, styled by veteran Vogue editor turned contributor Tonne Goodman, to British Vogue’s August issue featuring Oprah Winfrey — another portrait, this time in profile, as is Beyoncé, with a similar simple gray background. Winfrey also appears in an off-white billowing, ruffled dress, and those same descriptors can be used to describe Beyoncé’s turn of the last century inspired gown. While the style of the cover dresses differ, it wouldn’t be too difficult to take the Rihanna and Oprah British Vogue covers, mash them up, and come out with something similar to the September cover of American Vogue.
But that’s not to penalize American Vogue for at least trying something a little different and with someone different, as the photo was taken by the young Tyler Mitchell. The magazine has long-favored outdoor shots or a baroque indoor setting for most of its covers, including September issues, so the starker Beyoncé background marks a welcome departure, although the overall muted palette is in line with precedent, led by Annie Leibovitz’s years of windblown covers for the title.
Meanwhile, the Rihanna cover is more in line with the aesthetic so far established by Edward Enninful, who styled it — namely a sort of updated glamour shot that so far has ranged from naturalistic to full Eighties nostalgia. Rihanna’s cover certainly falls into the latter category, with neon colors offset by bright flora and complete with eyebrows thinner even than Claudette Colbert’s, but her hands in the shot are a reference even further back to mid-century cover fashions. The referential mix is deft and the cover would pop even if it wasn’t Rihanna in the floral headpiece. American Vogue is making most of its splash simply by virtue of having a cover with Beyoncé, and rumors that she, according to The Huffington Post, had much of the editorial work under her control. Even the “article” accompanying Beyoncé’s photo shootinside the issue doesn’t have a clear byline, but an “as told to” credit.
This year’s September issue marks the second year in a row that American Vogue has not plastered the cover with a shout out to its page count. It could be out of deference to Beyoncé — a nickname like Queen Bey doesn’t come out of nowhere — but her star power was not much less in 2015, the last time she appeared on the September cover, which no one was left to doubt included “832 pages of wildly wonderful looks.” This year we’ll have to count for ourselves.