By Lisa Kelsey
For its “Women in TV” issue, fashion magazine Elle released four separate covers, each featuring a different actress: Mindy Kaling, Allison Williams, Zooey Deschanel and Amy Poehler. Because she wasn’t featured in color and three-quarter length like the other actresses, the cover showing Mindy generated immediate controversy. Was Elle cropping out her body because it didn’t fit the magazine's model-thin standards? Was it shot in black and white to minimize her ethnicity? Not too long ago, Elle was in hot water for running a cover with the plus-size actress Melissa McCarthy wrapped in a coat.
The controversies surrounding these covers made me wonder: If Mindy Kaling or Melissa McCarthy were men, would everyone be clamoring to see them in all their full-figured glory? What if they were scientists or writers? We all know what these women look like—we see them on TV. But by focusing so much on their physical appearance, maybe we are reducing these women to their bodies when they have so much more to offer. Mindy and Melissa are both funny, intelligent, very successful women who are being featured on a top fashion magazine cover. That they look glamorous and beautiful is enough. And who says you have to reveal all to be sexy?
Mindy and Melissa both say they're happy with their respective photographs. Mindy took a characteristically humorous approach and tweeted:
Melissa says she chose the coat and covered up—she was thinking about the issue coming out in November. Or maybe it just made her feel more confident in front of the camera. If you’ve ever had a professional photo taken of yourself, you probably know it’s not as easy as it looks. I don’t like my thinning hair and feel much better wearing a hat. I’m not “ashamed” of my hair, but you better believe if you ever see me on the cover of a fashion magazine I’ll be wearing a hat!
Insofar as Mindy's cover being shot in black and white, the photographer, Carter Smith, shoots in color as well. On his site you’ll see beautiful black-and-white images of Jennifer Lawrence, Naomi Watts, Gwyneth Paltrow and many others. When I saw Mindy's cover, I automatically thought of 1940s glamour photography. With her glossy black hair and dark eyes, she looks sultry and seductive. Contrast this Parade cover with Elle’s: It has a similar angle and she looks great, but seriously, on the Elle cover she’s a knockout.
Some say it doesn’t matter that the subjects themselves are pleased. I say it does. There are plenty of photographs of both these women (including a lot of selfles in Mindy’s case). In some they look great, in others not so much. These photos made them feel great about themselves. I say, why should we begrudge them that?
I think Elle wanted to celebrate these women by making the best possible images for their covers.
You have to admit they are striking, don’t you think?