For the first time in its 103-year history, the September edition of British Vogue has a guest editor--Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex. It's a particularly significant honor because the September issue, which introduces the fall fashions, is always the biggest and most important issue of the year.
Markle is, of course, the first American to marry into the British royal family without dire consequences. (Edward VIII was forced to abdicate when he married American divorcée Wallis Simpson.) She's also mixed race, the child of a Caucasian father and African-American mother, another first for the royals. She's accustomed to shaking things up. So I suppose it's not surprising that, as guest editor of British Vogue, she took the magazine in unexpected directions.
First, Markle refused to appear on the cover herself, saying that it would seem boastful, even though she's a former actress and model. Next, rather than focusing on fashion, she populated the cover of this iconic fashion magazine with 15 women she calls "Forces for Change." Some, as you might expect, are familiar models and actresses. There's Salma Hayek Pinault, Christy Turlington Burns, and Gemma Chan, star of Crazy Rich Asians.
But some of her other choices for the cover serve as a big reminder that this isn't your mother's fashion magazine. Here are just a few:
1. Jane Fonda
Granted, the longtime activist and actress, star of the Netflix series Grace and Frankie, has graced many a magazine cover over the years. But when was the last time you saw a fashion magazine with an 81-year-old on the cover?
2. Laverne Cox
Cox has been nominated for an Emmy for playing Sophia Burset in Orange is the New Black. She's the first openly transgender woman to be nominated for the award, and also the first trans woman to be on the cover of British Vogue. (The French edition put a transgender model on its cover earlier this year.)
3. Sinéad Burke
The Irish writer, activist, and TED speaker is a little person, at 3'5 tall. She's repeatedly called out the fashion industry for ignoring people with disabilities. Design should include everyone, she argues.
4. Jacinda Ardern
At 39, the prime minister of New Zealand is one of the youngest heads of state in the world. She became the focus of international attention this spring after a 28-year-old Australian opened fire in two Christchurch mosques, killing 50 worshipers. Her grace, calm, and compassion were impressive, as was her plea to her fellow citizens and the media not to say or write the killer's name.
5. A mirror
Toward the center of the group of photos is a mirror, intended to "include the reader and encourage them to use their own platforms to effect change," according to a statement from Vogue. What reader wouldn't want to see themself surrounded by role models like these?