Baloney Meter: The World According to Vanity Fair: Thin. White. Female.

DiversityInc, February 16th, 2010

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By Sam Ali - Feb 16, 2010

Vanity Fair's 16th annual Hollywood issue just hit the newsstands, and its cover story, "A New Decade, A New Hollywood," featuring nine rising starlets–all of them wispy, waif-like and white–has a lot of folks scratching their heads.

Do you mean to tell us that there was not a single up-and-coming Black, Latina or Asian actress in Hollywood that Vanity Fair editors deemed cover-worthy? Did the editors simply not notice the total lack of diversity in their lineup? Or was it intentional?

The whole thing set off DiversityInc's baloney meter, a useful little instrument that goes "PING!" whenever we see or hear things that are utterly divorced from reality.

Seriously, Vanity Fair? What alternate universe do you inhabit?

Two possible explanations: "According to Quantcast, 85 percent of Vanity Fair's online readership is white," notes Joshua Alston of Newsweek.

Vanity Fair's masthead, a snapshot of the magazine staff, may also yield some clues. Editor in chief: white guy. Managing editor: white guy. Design director: white guy. Features editor: white woman. Photography director: white woman.

Vanity Fair is part of the holding company Advance Publications, which owns Conde Nast, the publisher of many magazines such as Vogue, Glamour, The New Yorker and GQ. Advance, which is owned by Donald Newhouse and S.I. Newhouse Jr., is currently ranked the 46th largest private company, according to Forbes. Charles Townsend, the current CEO/president of Condé Nast, Richard Beckman, president of the Condé Nast Media Group, David Carey, the current group president, and Thomas J. Wallace, the editorial director, are all white men.

Mind you, we have no beef to pick with Abbie Cornish, Kristen Stewart, Carey Mulligan, Amanda Seyfried, Rebecca Hall, Mia Wasikowska, Emma Stone, Evan Rachel Wood and Anna Kendrick. The stars in the March issue, shot by Annie Leibovitz, are all lovely and talented.

But does this cover really reflect current trends or accurately portray Hollywood's next decade of talent or current makeup? We think not.

Why, for example, didn't Vanity Fair include Gabourey Sidibe, who just got an Oscar nomination for "Precious"? Or how about Freida Pinto from "Slumdog Millionaire"? Or the talented Zoe Saldana, who recently starred in "Avatar" and "Star Trek"?

We asked Vanity Fair why none of these actresses made the cut. Vanity Fair spokesperson Beth Kseniak issued a two-sentence-long statement via e-mail and requested DiversityInc run the statement in full:

"Deciding who will appear on the Hollywood Issue cover–and within the issue itself–is a long process, and one we take seriously. For the young actresses on the cover, both films coming out this year and past work were taken into consideration, as were schedules and availability, since we had to shoot all nine actresses in a single day."

We weren't very satisfied with that answer and asked for some more clarity. Unfortunately, Vanity Fair said no.

Last February, celebrity blogger Perez Hilton, who is Latino, made headlines when he accused Vanity Fair of "not liking dark-skinned people." The reason?

"Slumdog Millionaire" star Freida Pinto appeared in Vanity Fair's March 2009 issue a few shades lighter than she actually is in real life, creating all sorts of waves in the blogosphere. "As far as we're concerned, dark is lovely, but the mag doesn't appear to see it that way,'' Hilton said.

At the time, Vanity Fair refused to answer any questions about Freida's whitewash treatment either.

Blogger Heather Hogan believes the lack of diversity in Vanity Fair's Hollywood issue is larger than just a bunch of clueless editors. She believes there have been very few breakout roles in 2009 for Black, Latina and Asian actresses.

"Certainly Vanity Fair should diversify–if that diversity is representative of Hollywood. Sadly, it's not. And that's an even larger issue."

She noted that Vanity Fair's 2008 Hollywood issue did showcase America Ferrera and Zoe Saldana, but "both actresses appeared on the folded-over portion of the gatefold cover, not on the part visible to newsstand buyers." "That's no accident," Hogan wrote. "When they're being candid, editors of mass-audience magazines (as opposed to those targeted specifically at Black readers) will tell you that Black faces simply don't sell as many copies as white ones."

Newsweek's Alston also points out that ABC's reality dating show "The Bachelor" has never featured a Black bachelor.

"In fact, in the 14-season history of the show, all of the bachelors have been white, along with a staggering majority of the women available to him," Alston said. "Could they cast a Black man? Sure. Would it be smart to? Probably not. 'The Bachelor' is one of many pop-culture artifacts that highlight the uncomfortable gap between the way we'd like to think of racial integration and the way it actually is."

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