Diana, Princess of Wales was deemed the ultimate Vogue cover girl and the Duchess of Cambridge followed in her footsteps.
But the Duchess of Sussex has gone one step further, shunning the honour to focus on female empowerment and diversity.
In becoming the first person to guest edit the prestigious September issue of British Vogue, she has instead chosen to make 15 other women cover stars, using the opportunity to promote inspirational role models who are leading the charge in everything from mental health to politics.
The Duchess has spent the last seven months secretly working on the forthcoming edition of the fashion bible, it was revealed on Sunday night.
She has carefully curated an issue that focuses on her choice of “trailblazing changemakers” entitled Forces for Change.
It will include a “candid conversation” between the Duchess and Michelle Obama, the former First Lady, whom she has long admired, as well as an interview between her husband, the Duke of Sussex and Dr Jane Goodall, a primatologist whom she has idolised since childhood.
The issue will also include a feature on Smart Works, the charity for which the Duchess is patron, and a lengthy “editor’s letter” in which she is expected to detail how the assignment came about.
The Duchess has been heavily involved in every decision, her involvement reflected on “every single page,” insiders revealed.
She said: “These last seven months have been a rewarding process, curating and collaborating with Edward Enninful, British Vogue’s editor-in-chief, to take the year’s most read fashion issue and steer its focus to the values, causes and people making impact in the world today.
“Through this lens I hope you’ll feel the strength of the collective in the diverse selection of women chosen for the cover as well as the team of support I called upon within the issue to help bring this to light. I hope readers feel as inspired as I do, by the ‘Forces for Change’ they’ll find within these pages.”
While it was the Duchess’s idea to feature 15 women on the cover, the 37-year-old eschewed the chance to appear alongside them as she deemed it “boastful” for this particular project.
Instead, she identified a group of women she personally admired and felt “very strongly” about, some of whom she has met in the last year or two.
They include Adwoa Aboah, a mental health campaigner and model whom the Duchess appeared alongside on a panel marking International Women’s Day in March and Jameela Jamil, a body positivity advocate and actor whose Instagram account was one of a small selection recently highlighted by the Sussex’s.
Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, who hosted the Duke and Duchess of Sussex on their first joint overseas tour last October and said she had “real empathy” for the then-pregnant royal, also features, as does Sinead Burke, an Irish diversity activist who met the Duchess at a garden party in Dublin last July and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the novelist who hosted a talk with Michelle Obama attended by the Duchess in December.
Others she has chosen to celebrate are Adut Akech, a South Sudanese model and former refugee, Ramla Ali, a London-based Somali boxer, Gemma Chan, a Kent-born campaigner and actor and Laverne Cox, the transgender activist and actor who stars in Orange is the New Black.
The inclusion of Jane Fonda, the American actor and political activist, was likely inspired by the 2018 documentary Feminists: What Were They Thinking? which the Duchess referenced earlier this year after watching it on Netflix.
The other women featured are Salma Hayek Pinault, the actor and women’s rights advocate, Francesca Hayward, the Kenyan-borm Royal Ballet principal dancer who stars in the remake of Cats, Greta Thunberg, the climate change campaigner, Christy Turlington Burns, the model and campaigner against maternal deaths and Yara Shahidi, the American actor and founder of Eighteen x 18, which is focused on engaging young people in politics.
The 16th spot on the cover has been left blank, at the Duchess’s request, to represent a mirror designed to “include the reader and encourage them to use their own platforms to effect change.”
The Duchess of Cambridge appeared on the cover of Vogue in 2016 to celebrate its centenary, in collaboration with the National Portrait Gallery.
She was the most senior royal to grace the cover since Diana, Princess of Wales, who featured four times, including a posthumous appearance in October 1997.
The Princess Royal also appeared on the magazine’s cover, in 1971. The Queen, the Duke of Windsor, the Prince of Wales and Princess Margaret have also featured inside.
Mr Enninful said he was “delighted” that the Duchess had become the first person to guest edit the September issue, traditionally the biggest and best-selling and heralding the start of the fashion season.
“To have the country’s most influential beacon of change guest edit British Vogue at this time has been an honour, a pleasure and a wonderful surprise,” he said.
“As you will see from her selections throughout this magazine, she is also willing to wade into more complex and nuanced areas, whether they concern female empowerment, mental health, race or privilege.
“From the very beginning, we talked about the cover – whether she would be on it or not. In the end, she felt that it would be in some ways a ‘boastful’ thing to do for this particular project. She wanted, instead, to focus on the women she admires.”
In 2009, a documentary film called The September Issue gave a behind the scenes look as US editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and creative director Grace Coddington worked together on the 2007 US edition of the magazine.
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