As Lainey mentioned earlier, we’ll be unpacking more of our thoughts about the 25th anniversary of the Vanity Fair Hollywood issue as we get through all the features. The cover is GREAT. You know what strikes me most? It’s effortless. It looks so relaxed, so EASY. No one is posed weird. There is no bizarre third leg situation (see also: Reese Witherspoon, 2018 edition). No one is naked. I think that’s in part down to Emmanuel Lubezki actually filming the group, so there is no need to hold poses. It’s a still photo, in the end, but you can see the fluidity of the moment. But it also looks effortless because of the diversity. In the past, attempts at diversifying the Hollywood issue have come across a little stilted, as it is usually one person of color tucked in amongst a field of veritable lilies. But this year, the group is really diverse without looking like it’s trying to be diverse. How is that possible? Because everyone featured is involved in prominent films and Oscar campaigns. It doesn’t look like they had to scrape around for someone to invite. 

That is because the movies exist this year. As Viola Davis said, you can’t win for roles that aren’t there, and this year, the roles were there. Chadwick Boseman is the face of a major Marvel franchise. Regina King, Rami Malek, Yalitza Aparicio, Nicholas Hoult, and John David Washington are involved with Best Picture nominees. Elizabeth Debicki, Saoirse Ronan, and Timothee Chalamet were hopefuls who, unfortunately, struck out, but they’re also among the most exciting and busy stars working today. Tessa Thompson pulls from a little of every category—a Marvel star, also part of Sorry To Bother You, one in the most critically acclaimed indie films of 2018, in the orbit of the Academy, and an all-round exciting talent. Henry Golding is a major breakout. You see what I mean? None of these people is a reach.

This VF cover is possible because these roles and opportunities existed in the first place. But this is sometimes an excuse, frequently used by the Academy, for not being more inclusive. “The roles weren’t there,” they cry, often ignoring their own ability to CREATE those roles and opportunities. (And then there are the times when they’re just blindly biased, such as not nominating a single woman for directing when there were ample opportunities in 2018.) But when it’s working, this VF cover is what happens. It happens organically because the work is out there, and everyone is involved in marquee projects. You’re not left wondering where anyone is or why that person is included, it doesn’t look like the lawn party from Get Out. You look at this group of people and see some of the biggest and brightest stars in Hollywood. It looks like VF didn’t even have to try to come up with this group because they had so many possible names to include. It looks effortless.