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2018 has been a… let’s say, challenging, year in the cultural sphere, one which no one would blame you for claiming had little to celebrate. And yet, when it comes to pop culture, there was some good news, with a study into the year’s biggest US fashion magazine covers showing significant gains for diversity, be it racial, age-wise, size-wise, or for the LGBTQ+ community.

According to Fashionista’s in-depth study of the covers of leading magazines, there was reason to celebrate. Looking at like-for-like, and where non-white includes anyone mixed-race, or of Latinx or Hispanic origin, 2018 saw a 16.2 per cent increase in diversity as compared to 2017. That means 60 out of 126, or 47.6 per cent of covers, featured a person of colour. Not too shabby.

Of the magazines analyzed, it marked the largest increase of the last five years. The second biggest jump came in 2016, which saw a climb of 15.7 per cent on 2015 figures. For consistency, the study was comprised of newsstand covers only (as opposed to including subscriber issues), domestic editions, and made adjustments for folded, previously included publications such as Nylon and Teen Vogue. This left nine leading titles — Allure, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, Marie Claire, Vogue, and W — up for inspection.

Leading the charge for diversity this year were InStyle and Glamour, featuring people of colour on 75 per cent (or 9 out of 12) and 64.3 per cent (10 out of 14) of their covers, respectively. In order, the other titles followed as so: Allure (7 out of 12), Cosmopolitan (6 out of 13), W (7 out of 16), with Vogue (5 out of 12), Marie Claire (6 out of 16), Elle (7 out of 19), and Harper’s Bazaar (4 out of 12) closing out the list. InStyle itself boasted the biggest increase, having had just two diverse cover stars in 2017. Heavyweights such as Vogue and Marie Claire had no improvement on their 2017 figures, both remaining at 41.7 per cent and 37.5 per cent respectively.

 

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Whilst the largest gains were of the racial kind, older celebrities (and total bad-asses) like Oprah, who’s 64 years old , Mia Farrow, 73, and Angela Bassett, 60, were also on covers, marking a victory for age diversity. Non-sample sized women such as Chrissy Metz and Melissa McCarthy were featured on covers as well, as were transgender actress Daniela Vega, who landed a W cover alongside with Robert Pattinson.

 

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The double-figure diversity jump is all the more significant, given the 4 per cent decline from 2016 to 2017. In a disappointing year, last year’s covers featured just 48 people of colour on a total of 153 covers looked at.

 

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The uptick in representation across the board speaks to a shift in cultural expectations, with people expecting to see themselves reflected on screen and in print. As with all progress, it may be two steps forwards, one step back, until we find steady momentum in the right direction. But for this year, we’ll enjoy our steps forward. You can peep the full range of 2018 covers over at Fashionista and revel in the diversity to your heart’s content – long may it continue.