Vogue issue featuring nine black women is slammed by fans

‘This is one of the worst Vogue covers ever’: Magazine featuring nine African models is branded offensive for ‘fetishising’ them with lighting that hides their features and makes them ‘look like mannequins’

  • British Vogue has revealed its February 2022 cover, featuring nine black women
  • Issue celebrates rise of African models and talks those ‘redrawing the map’ 
  • Edward said: ‘We need to ensure these girls last. We have to invest in them’
  • Some fans have slammed the cover online, with some calling it ‘the worst ever’ 
  • One wrote: ‘They gathered all of these beautiful women and decided not to use lighting properly? One can’t even identify who is who!’
  • Another commented: ‘This is one of the worst Vogue covers I’ve ever seen’

The cover of British Vogue’s February issue featuring nine black models has been branded ‘offensive’ on social media as critics claim bad lighting and poor styling hid the women’s features and made their skin look darker.

Starring models Adut Akech, Amar Akway, Majesty Amare, Akon Changkou, Maty Fall, Janet Jumbo, Abény Nhial, Nyagua Ruea and Anok Yai, the cover was shot by Brazilian photographer Rafael Pavarotti and styled by British Vogue’s Editor-In-Chief Edward Enninful OBE.

It marks the first time Vogue has featured a group of black women this size on the cover, for an issue celebrating the rise of African models who are ‘redrawing the map’.

However, the imagery has been met with furious backlash online, with dozens of fans saying the ‘badly lit’ image appeared to darken the models, who have a range of skin tones, to a point where they were unrecognisable and look like ‘mannequins’.  

One critic commented: ‘British Vogue? So…they gathered all of these beautiful women and decided not to use lighting properly? 

‘One can’t even identify who is who! And the wigs? Those women have very beautiful fascinating dark skins, so why DARKEN them like that?’ 

A fellow critic accused the Brazilian photographer of catering for the white gaze by ‘fetishising’ the models and making them look like ‘mannequins’ with identical skin tones. 

Another person commented: ‘Edward Enninful was foul for that Vogue cover. That lighting, wigs, outfits, errything was anti-black.

The cover of British Vogue’s February issue has caused a stir on social media as critics say the magazine disrespected nine black women on the front with bad lighting and poor styling

A critic accused the Brazilian photographer of catering for the white gaze by ‘fetishising’ the models and making them look like ‘mannequins’ with identical skin tones, while another said the cover was ‘offensive’ for failing to showcase the beauty of black skin 

‘I don’t care, I don’t care. You took the most beautiful women on the planet and made sure we couldn’t see them on an issue about visibility? @BritishVogue, shaking my head.’

A fifth wrote that it was ‘honestly terrible’, while another added: ‘Look I am a fan of British Vogue since Mr Enninful became EIC but I’m honestly not sure why this cover is not well-lit and why the models are made to be mannequinn-esque and we lose their features and beauty.’

One commented: ‘Why are they blending in with the garments? Why not well lit and with colour that compliments their features?’ 

‘Everything blends in,’ another wrote, ‘The hair the same colour as the skin. Crazy. I think this is the aesthetic they go for when shooting black skin though. 

‘Not the first time I’ve seen this look from them.’ 

However the cover reveal has been met with furious backlash online, with many accusing Vogue of ‘bad lighting’ and ‘darkening the skin’ of the models

Others commented that they wished the styling had been different on the shoot, with one writing: ‘TBH I personally would have liked to see more colour here with the makeup/wardrobe – we all know melanin pops against brighter hues – and at least one person with their natural hair in this shot.

‘Also the lighting could use some work. But we’ll take this as a start.’  

In one shot, the models sit on a green sofa wearing bright colours which pop against the low lighting, while in the cover shot all nine models wear all black outfits. 

Explaining the inspiration behind shooting an all black, all African cover, Edward, who was born in Ghana and moved to west London as a child,  said: ‘I saw all these incredible models from across Africa who were just so vivacious and smart. 

Adut Akech on British Vogue’s February 2022 cover. She said when she first started modelling she was the ‘only Black, dark-skinned girl in the show’

‘These girls are redefining what it is to be a fashion model.’ 

‘We need to ensure these girls last. We have to invest in them, nurture them and support them with editorial, with advertising, with shows.’      

‘It’s sad and heart-breaking for me to see girls who are on the rise suddenly taper off. 

‘We need to ensure these girls last. We have to invest in them, nurture them and support them with editorial, with advertising, with shows. It has to be 360. Alek Wek didn’t suddenly become Alek Wek. 

British Vogue has revealed its February 2022 cover, featuring nine black women who are ‘redefining what it means to be a model’.

‘There was a group of us behind girls like her, propelling them forward. This is what we have to do in all our different roles. 

‘Getting these girls and then throwing them away after one season? That has to stop.’

Mr Enninful was appointed after British Vogue, taking over from Alexandra Shulman, after the publication was criticised for a lack of diversity.

Following the announcement, Naomi Campbell said she was ‘looking forward to inclusive and diverse staff’ under Mr Enninful.

Mr Enninful, who styled the photoshoot, was appointed after British Vogue, taking over from Alexandra Shulman, after the publication was criticised for a lack of diversity (pictured) 

It’s not the first time Vogue has been met with criticism for the way it has styled a  black woman on its cover. 

In February 2021, Kamala Harris’ cover of Vogue caused a stir as critics say the magazine disrespected the vice president-elect by ‘white-washing’ her skin and putting her in a pair of Converse. 

The cover from the issue surfaced on Twitter, showing Harris, America’s first vice president of color, wearing a black suit jacket, white tee shirt, dark cropped pants and black lace-up sneakers.

Dozens of fans came out to condemn the cover, saying the low-quality photo fell short of Vogue’s usual style standards and appeared to have lightened Harris’ skin.

In February 2021, Kamala Harris’ cover of Vogue caused a stir as critics say the magazine disrespected the vice president-elect by ‘white-washing’ her skin and putting her in a pair of Converse

It comes after Anna Wintour came into the cross-hairs of America’s reckoning on race over 18 months ago after she was accused of discriminating against employees because of the color of their skin.

The 71-year-old from London, who has been at the helm of Vogue for more than three decades, responded to the outrage by issuing an extraordinary mea culpa in June 2020.

In a company-wide memo, Wintour admitted to allowing ‘hurtful and intolerant’ behavior at the magazine and conceded that she had not done enough to champion black staffers and designers.

However Wintour’s letter did little to quell the controversy surrounding her decision to remain in her role – and in October, a group of 18 black journalists who have worked with her over the years accused her of favoring employees who are thin, white, and from elite backgrounds in a piece published by the New York Times.

Meanwhile Anna Wintour has previously come into the cross-hairs of America’s reckoning on race after she was accused of discriminating against employees because of the color of their skin

Eleven of them called for her resignation following offensive incidents involving her use of the word ‘pickaninny’, and other cultural appropriation controversies, including outrage over a 2017 Vogue shoot that featured Karlie Kloss posing in a geisha outfit, with her face in pale makeup and her hair dyed black.

The photo shoot in Japan drew immediate accusations of ‘yellowface’, however Wintour reportedly shut down concerns from her staff, insisting that the pictures could not be cut because it would incur an ‘enormous expense’.

Wintour responded to the Times piece with another apology, writing: ‘I strongly believe that the most important thing any of us can do in our work is to provide opportunities for those who may not have had access to them.

‘Undoubtedly, I have made mistakes along the way, and if any mistakes were made at Vogue under my watch, they are mine to own and remedy and I am committed to doing the work.’

In December 2020, Wintour was promoted to become the first-ever chief executive of Condé Nast, in addition to her roles as Vogue Editor-in-Chief and Condé Nast artistic director.

Her title, global chief content officer of Condé Nast and global editorial director of Vogue, gave her control over all of the publications 25 editions across the globe.

See the full feature in the February issue of British Vogue available via digital download and on newsstands from Tuesday 18th January 

From Africa’s most successful model to the first Sudanese woman to open a Prada show: Who are the nine black models on the cover on February’s British Vogue?

Adut Akech

Vogue describe Adut Akech as ‘arguably the most successful African model working today’. The 22-year-old South Sudanese-Australian first caught the eye of the fashion world when she modelled for Saint Laurent in Spring Summer 2017 shows.

Edward Enninful and Adut Akech attend the Claridge’s Zodiac Party hosted by Diane von Furstenberg & Edward Enninful to celebrate the Claridge’s Christmas Tree 2018


The 22-year-old South Sudanese-Australian first caught the eye of the fashion world when she modelled for Saint Laurent in Spring Summer 2017 shows. She is pictured on the beach

Speaking in the new issue, the 22-year-old explained: ‘When I first started modelling internationally, I would literally be the only Black, dark-skinned girl in the show. There were no Sudanese models, no African models. Now, I go to a show and there are girls from my country, girls from Africa who look like me. So yes, there has been a huge change.’

Adut added that she hopes that the uprising of African models goes beyond a trend: ‘I mean, that is the goal, that it becomes more than a moment. Actually, I don’t see it being a trend. Also, there are so many of us – we are just not going to go out of style.’

Since, she’s appeared in multiple Vogue campaigns – including a cover of Australian Vogue (pictured)

Vogue describe Adut Akech as ‘arguably the most successful African model working today’.

The 22-year-old  South Sudanese-Australian first caught the eye of the fashion world when she modelled for Saint Laurent in Spring Summer 2017 shows.

Since, she’s appeared in multiple Vogue campaigns – including a cover of Australian Vogue.    

Speaking in the new issue, she explained:  ‘When I first started modelling internationally, I would literally be the only Black, dark-skinned girl in the show. There were no Sudanese models, no African models. Now, I go to a show and there are girls from my country, girls from Africa who look like me. So yes, there has been a huge change.’

She added that she hopes that the uprising of African models goes beyond a trend: ‘I mean, that is the goal, that it becomes more than a moment. Actually, I don’t see it being a trend. Also, there are so many of us – we are just not going to go out of style.’ 

Adut has been in many high-end campaigns, and says her favourite fashion memory was attending the 2018 Met Gala with Valentino.

Akon Changkou

LIke Adut, Akon is South-Sudanese Australian and has been taking the fashion word by storm in the last few years. She is pictured on holiday

Akon Changkou, Alton Mason and Maty Fall attend the amfAR Gala 2021 presented by The Red Sea International Film Festival during the 74th annual Cannes Film Festival


 Her campaigns include Versace and Chanel- with her also named as one of the top newcomers in 2020. She is pictured posing for Instagram 

The 24-year-old launched her career when she was booked as an exclusive for Louis Vuitton during the SS20 shows. Only four month after being scouted, she was whisked away from her hometown of Adelaide, Australia to New York and then to Paris, to walk her debut show at the Louvre (pictured)


She is now a face seen at fashion week (left at Michael Kors in September, right, walking in Louis Vuitton 2021/22 show in France

LIke Adut, Akon is South-Sudanese Australian and has been taking the fashion word by storm in the last few years.

The 24-year-old  launched her career when she was booked as an exclusive for Louis Vuitton during the SS20 shows.

Only four month after being scouted, she was whisked away from her hometown of Adelaide, Australia to New York and then to Paris, to walk her debut show at the Louvre.

Her campaigns include Versace and Chanel- with her also named as one of the top newcomers in 2020. 

Speaking in 2020, she told LOVE magazine her biggest hurdle was ‘leaving everything I was comfortable with behind to pursue a career I had no hope of succeeding at and learning how to be comfortable in a situation where I had nothing. 

‘It was hard at the beginning because I didn’t feel supported and I completely doubted my abilities.’  

Amar Akway


The Ethiopian model’s has also starred in campaigns for Max Mara, Moschino, Zara, Hermes (left) Versace, Victoria Beckham, Fendi and Tod’s (right after the Tod’s show at 2021 Milan Fashion Week) 

Amar Akway poses in first looks backstage before the Isabel Marant Womenswear Fall/Winter 2020/2021 show as part of Paris Fashion Week

mar Akway wears a assymetrical black leather jacket, black leather pants, and black leather combat boots during Paris Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2020

A relative newcomer with less than 6,000 Instagram followers – her fame is set to skyrocket in 2022 with fashion houses calling her non-stop.

This isn’t the first Vogue campaign for Amar Akway, 21, who has previously graced the cover of Vogue Japan and Italy.

She says her best fashion memory is working Steven Meisel, the famed photographer known for his friendship with Madonna and work with Vogue Italia.

This isn’t the first Vogue campaign for Amar Akway, 21, who has previously graced the cover of Vogue Japan and Italy.

The Ethiopian model’s has also starred in campaigns for Max Mara,  Moschino, Zara, Hermes, Versace, Victoria Beckham, Fendi and Tod’s. 

A relative newcomer with less than 6,000 Instagram followers – her fame is set to skyrocket in 2022 with fashion houses calling her non-stop.

She says her best fashion memory is working Steven Meisel, the famed photographer known for his friendship with Madonna and work with Vogue Italia. 

Majesty Amare

Newcomer model Majesty, 24, from the US, is set for a great season ahead having previously walked for Versace, Chanel, Michael Kors, and Louis Vuitton.

She made her debut for the Proenza Schouler show during New York Fashion Week after being spotted on Instagram.


The LA native has now moved to New York and says she swears by shea butter to revitalize her skin after repeated make-up removal. Named as one to watch and previously appearing in Vogue Paris, she’s also got growing social following with more than 15,000 TikTok followers.

Newcomer model Majesty, 24, from the US, is set for a great season ahead having previously walked for Versace, Chanel, Michael Kors, and Louis Vuitton.   

She made her debut for the Proenza Schouler show during New York Fashion Week after being  spotted on Instagram.

The LA native has now moved to New York and says she swears by shea butter to revitalize her skin after repeated make-up removal.  

Named as one to watch and previously appearing in Vogue Paris, she’s also got  growing social following with more than 15,000 TikTok followers.

Maty Fall


Still in her teens, Senegalese-Italian model is set to be a huge star. The model, 19, made her debut during SS20, first being spotted in a catwalk debut for Saint Laurent before closing the Valentino’s show.


Currently ranked as one of the Top 50 Models on Models.com, she walked more shows during the SS21 season than any other model, most notably closing Dior. 

Still in her teens, Senegalese-Italian model is set to be a huge star.

The model, 19, made her debut during SS20, first being spotted in a catwalk debut for Saint Laurent before closing the Valentino’s show.  

Currently ranked as one of the Top 50 Models on Models.com, she walked more shows during the SS21  season than any other model, most notably closing Dior.   

Born in Senegal, she moved to Italy aged 9 – where her father had lived for 30 years and recently became an Italian citizen. 

Janet Jumbo


The youngest on the list at just 18, Nigerian star Janet Jumbo has already been in campaigns for Balmain, Louis Vuitton (left and right) and Tod’s. She was the first Nigerian to ever walk for Louis Vuitton, when the French fashion house signed her for wide exclusive for Louis Vuitton in their AW19 show.

Speaking about the shoot, she said: ‘ Shooting with a cast of other Black girls is the best thing ever; the energy on set is by far one of the greatest things I’ve ever experienced.’

The youngest on the list at just 18, Nigerian star Janet Jumbo has already been in campaigns for  Balmain, Louis Vuitton and Tod’s.

Speaking about the shoot, she said: ‘ Shooting with a cast of other Black girls is the best thing ever; the energy on set is by far one of the greatest things I’ve ever experienced.’

Abény Nhial

The third Australian on the cover, Abény Nhial is all about positivity – even her Instagram handle is ‘be kind & spread love’.

The 21-year-old already has famous fans, with Kate Middleton’s wedding dress designer Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen among her bookings.

Speaking about appearing on the cover of Vogue, she said it was her ‘favourite memory’ as she was working with the ‘most beautiful women and working with the legendary Edward and the Vogue team.’.

The third Australian on the cover, Abény Nhial is all about positivity – even her Instagram handle is ‘be kind & spread love’.

The 21-year-old already has famous fans, with Kate Middleton’s wedding dress designer Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen among her bookings. 

Speaking about appearing on the cover of Vogue, she said it was her ‘favourite memory’ as she was working with the ‘most beautiful women and working with the legendary Edward and the Vogue team.’.  

Nyagua Ruea

One of four South Sudanese stars on the cover, Nyagua, 20, is best friends with with Maty and Adut and have been on holiday and campaigned together.

Nyagua Ruea walks the runway during the Mugler show as part of the Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Fall/Winter 2020/2021 

She says her favourite fashion memory was walking the Valentino show in Paris is 10 other South Sudanese girls and 20 black girls. She is pictured in Dubai


Speaking about the Vogue shoot, she said: ‘For the first time in the history of my modelling career, we had an all-Black team, from the photographer and stylist to the make-up artist, hair stylist, set designer and of course the models. Getting to experience this first hand was such a moving moment. I hope we can get more of these moments in the future.’

One of four South Sudanese stars on the cover,  Nyagua, 20, is best friends with with Maty and Adut and have been on holiday and campaigned together.

She says her favourite fashion memory was walking the Valentino show in Paris is 10 other South Sudanese girls and 20 black girls.

Her other campaigns include Hermes, H&M,  Alexander McQueen, Lacoste and Givenchy.   

Speaking about the Vogue shoot, she said: ‘For the first time in the history of my modelling career, we had an all-Black team, from the photographer and stylist to the make-up artist, hair stylist, set designer and of course the models. Getting to experience this first hand was such a moving moment. I hope we can get more of these moments in the future.’

Anok Yai

She also turned heads at the Met Gala, wearing a Carlos Nazario look. Anok has previously posed for Vogue Japan, Vogue Netherlands and Vogue Germany. In September 2021, she appeared on the cover of US Vogue along witth Bella Hadid and Kaia Gerber.

Perhaps the most famous model on the list is Anok Yai, 24, who has A-list pals including Bella Hadid and Heidi Klum. Pictured at Heidi Klum’s Halloween party


Anok was born in Egypt to South Sudanese parents and emigrated to the US when she was two. She found fame when he became the second Black model after Naomi Campbell, and the first South Sudanese woman, to open a Prada show during the autumn/winter 2018 season.

Perhaps the most famous model on the list is Anok Yai, 24, who has A-list pals including Bella Hadid and Heidi Klum.

Anok was born in Egypt to South Sudanese parents and emigrated to the US when she was two. She found fame when he became the second Black model after Naomi Campbell, and the first South Sudanese woman, to open a Prada show during the autumn/winter 2018 season.

She also turned heads at the Met Gala, wearing a Carlos Nazario look. 

Anok has previously posed for  Vogue Japan, Vogue Netherlands and Vogue Germany. In September 2021, she appeared on the cover of US Vogue along witth Bella Hadid and Kaia Gerber. 

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