Selena Gomez graced the cover of Elle’s first Latinx issue. On its face, this is a good thing. Nina Garcia is the first Latina to run a fashion magazine, and Selena Gomez, a successful singer, actress, and social media presence is one of the biggest stars in entertainment. It would make sense to dress her with Latinx designers, stylists, makeup artists, and photographers. Particularly when, in the cover, it reads “The Latinx issue, starring Selena Gomez, plus The Designers, Artists and Activists Shaping Our World.”
Garcia celebrated the cover on her Twitter account, with a message highlighting what the issue meant to her and also, Selena’s participation:
But people were quick to point out the lack of, you know, Latinx people for a “Latinx issue” that was inspired by Garcia’s background. Gomez is a big star, one that will probably not have her life changed by this cover. There are, however, many designers or even photographers whose portfolios could have been greatly strengthened by this collaboration.
Plus, there’s the fact that, even though members of our communities come in all complexions with a variety of tastes, styles, and cultural markers that accompany them within our communities, the cover goes out of its way to make Selena look whitewashed and like any other star that has graced the cover of Elle. So much so that we didn’t initially recognize her on the cover of Elle.
If the intention was to avoid stereotyping, that’s a commendable idea, one that would have been better reflected by allowing at least one shirt, one shoe, or even a bracelet designed by someone in the communities the issue was attempting to celebrate. Because “Latinx” isn’t one thing. It’s a combination of communities, traditions, likes, dislikes, etc. And Nina and Selena might, in this cover and with this issue, be representing a small section. They’re not the only ones featured, either:
But representing cultures isn’t about recognizing one person, or ten. It’s about furthering the understanding of what it means to be in these communities. Well, that, and about celebrating who we are, and what it means to be so. And by using these wonderful, talented women as just the faces, without allowing their realities to truly be represented in every part of the product, Elle unfortunately missed the mark — just as it missed the opportunity to showcase real diversity within the communities it meant to celebrate.
It cannot be a real “Latinx issue,” even if the faces featured in it are, if it’s not true representation, just lip service. A window dressing. This is a call to action that we deserve so much more than that.