The September issue is considered the most important issue of the year for most fashion and lifestyle magazines. So everyone works on the biggest “get” for their September issues. Meghan Markle guest-edited British Vogue on their September issue. Kristen Stewart covers Vanity Fair for September 2019. American Vogue has yet to release its latest cover star but remember, last year it was Beyoncé. I wonder who it’ll be this year. Taylor Swift has an album (Lover) coming out right around the time the magazine hits newsstands but she already covered ELLE a few months ago and magazines try not to repeat celebrities on the cover if they can help it. Anna Wintour might make an exception for Taylor though. Could it be Adele? We’ve all been waiting for a new album. And there’s online speculation about a “special guest” showing up on many of the late night talk shows on Thursday. Colbert, Fallon, Conan, Seth Meyers, and Kimmel all have a “special guest” listed in their episode guides and everyone online is trying to figure out if it’s the same person. I don’t know if it is or isn’t related to Vogue but, possibly, it’s something to keep an eye out for.
While we wait on Vogue’s big reveal, ELLE scored a big name for September in Angelina Jolie. Angelina’s Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is coming out mid-October so this is early promotion and it’s themed around the word “maleficent” and what it means, how it’s been applied to women, and historically to their detriment. And it continues the trend we’ve been seeing in major stars and magazines – this is not an interview, this is not a profile. Instead Angelina has written an essay that stands in place of a celebrity profile, which has often been her move, though this is not unique to her. Taylor wrote her own piece earlier this year for ELLE and Beyoncé’s been doing it for years – and this is disappointing because imagine what would happen if Caity Weaver or Allison P Davis or Jia Tolentino or E Alex Jung or Taffy Brodesser-Akner or Roxane Gay or any of the writing talent we’ve come to read and love had the opportunity to profile the most famous entertainers, so many of them women, in the world; imagine the insight we’d get from those pieces.
That’s not the kind of insight these celebrities are interested in though. Their insight is self-filtered, through their own lens. I can see the value in that, say, in a memoir. But a memoir isn’t journalism. So what insight is Angelina giving us here in her essay? How is she self-presenting? How does this self-presentation work with her projects, her image, her branding?
Well, she appears to be leaning into what she calls the wickedness, and reframing what it means for her to be wicked. Which, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate it. From the very beginning, almost, that’s been her reputation. She was never America’s Sweetheart. For a time there she was the wicked woman who broke apart a marriage. During her relationship with Brad Pitt though, the wickedness took a backseat, only to return once they ended their marriage. As we approach the release of Maleficent, her wickedness has taken a different form: it’s gently defiant, it’s a rebuke of conformity, of the standards by which women are expected to behave, and a celebration of wickedness as female freedom, as a f-ck you to inequality. As she writes:
“[Wicked] women” are just women who are tired of injustice and abuse. Women who refuse to follow rules and codes they don’t believe are best for themselves or their families. Women who won’t give up on their voice and rights, even at the risk of death or imprisonment or rejection by their families and communities.
If that is wickedness, then the world needs more wicked women.
I mean, I’m into the messaging here, of course. I’m just wondering how the wickedness would have been amplified through the words of another writer who was there to observe it instead of mirroring it.
As for the images, it’s Angelina’s best photo shoot in years. I love her teasing flirty smile on the cover. This shot of her with her dogs is adorable:
But the standout is the one of her wearing aviators in the jumpsuit by her plane with Maddox’s birthday as the tail number. There’s a close-up of her in the same outfit that’s glorious.
Interesting to note, the shoot was styled by Elizabeth Stewart who works with Cate Blanchett, Viola Davis, Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock, Jessica Chastain, and more. This was likely a one-off collaboration for the magazine but, clearly, we’re seeing results. Could it turn into a more permanent relationship? And what would be the impact?
To read the full Angelina essay for ELLE’s September issue and to see more photos, click here.
Attached: Angelina and the kids shop at Yves Saint Laurent in Beverly Hills on August 5.