Vogue’s first cover shoot by a black photographer and Other Overdue “firsts”
by: Terry Simelane-Mathabathe - 10 August 2018
Vogue made history recently by having its first cover shoot by a black photographer in the 126 years of its existence. Photographer Tyler Mitchell shot breathtaking images of Her Royal Highness, Beyonce, for the much anticipated September 2018 issue.
People of colour everywhere were really happy that Tyler Mitchell got to make history but in the midst of our celebration, there was a weird pang of disappointment. Why did it take 126 years for a big publication to use a black photographer for its cover? 126 years, Vogue really? Can we really call that making history?
After doing a little digging, I discovered that Vogue isn’t the only one that needs to be called out for only giving Black people a chance after years and years of exclusion and expecting a pat on the back. Here 5 other questionable “firsts” that have gotten us going “Why only now?”
Rihanna as the first Black woman on the cover of the September issue of British Vogue
Vogue pops up once again. This time it is British Vogue that takes the blame. Rihanna has made history recently for being the first Black woman to grace the cover of the coveted September issue of British Vogue. British Vogue, the first international edition of the legendary fashion magazine, was launched in 1916. So you’re telling me that they couldn’t find a Black woman for the cover of the September issue for over a century? For the sake of context let me explain that the September issue of Vogue is a pretty big deal. The September issue is also known as the fashion issue. It’s arguably the most anticipated issue of the year because readers are blessed with 400 pages of just fashion; fashion trends, fashion icons, beautiful clothes, styling from the gods. The September issue is a wannabe Carrie Bradshaw’s Holy Bible.
Ryan Coogler, the first black director to direct a Marvel movie
Black Panther made history in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with quite a lot of firsts but one of the most notable firsts was Marvel hiring Ryan Coogler to direct. Before Coogler, Marvel has not had a black director. Let’s look at the years shall we. The first Marvel movie (Iron Man) came out in 2008 and Black Panther premiered in 2018. Okay, it’s not as big of a time gap as our previous offenders but its still worth noting that it took almost 10 years to hire a black director. Marvel has released 20 movies so far and only one of those movies, (Black Panther) has been directed by a black person. And if you’re wondering Taika Waititi (dzaddy and director of Thor Ragnarok) is a person of colour not a black person.
Siya Kolisi, the Springboks’ first Black test captain
South Africans were filled with joy and pride and the dreams of Tata were celebrated with relish when Sya Kolisi was announced as the new test captain for the Springboks. The Springboks have been around for 127 years and we’ve had 24 years of democracy and they only appoint a Black test captain in 2018.
Now it’s no secret that the Springboks have not been the most eager national team when it comes to transformation but 127 years? Kolisi was put under a lot of pressure being the first Black test captain and all but his appointment was seen as a victory for transformation in sports. Honorary Auntie of SA, Naomi Campbell, shared her excitement in an instagram post.
Dr Judy Dlamini, the first Black woman appointed as a chancellor at Wits
Last but not least, we bring it home. Wits recently announced that their next chancellor will be a Black woman. Ullalations filled the air as Dr Judy Dlamini became the first Black woman to hold the position. We were still on a high from UCT’s decision to appoint Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng as their vice chancellor that we didn’t notice that this is the first time that Wits will have a Black woman as chancellor. I am sure that no one needs reminding that Wits has been around for some time, it’s the third oldest university in continuous operation in South Africa and they only appoint a black woman as chancellor in 2018, in a country where majority of the citizens are Black, I mean come on.
While all these firsts are long overdue, we can celebrate the first that they are finally happening. This will open doors for future generations and will inspire the kids to continue to break down doors no matter how long it takes.