I’d seen the latest Vibe cover by the time my inbox, twitter feed, facebook and formspring were deluded yesterday with people sending it to me or asking, well, “Have you seen...?”
Yeah. I have.
People kept asking me if I was going to write about it, thinking I was going to go-off in 1000 or so words about Vibe losing their gotdamned mind. I figure there’s plenty of bloggers who stayed up late tough-typing to do just that. And if I was going to repeat what everyone else said…? Meh. I’d rather get some sleep.
But I’m still on Vegas time, three hours behind. And I’m in Maryland visiting my folks and the slow-crawl of suburbia is actually keeping me awake. So here goes… and no, it’s not what you’ll expect me to say. If I’m writing that, what’s the point?
I laughed when I saw the VIBE cover featuring Tamar Braxton, Kandi Buress, Evelyn Lozada, and Chrissy Lampkin all sporting f***-me heels and boobs pushed to gravity defying heights. It wasn’t the image, it was the coverline. “Meet Your New Role Models”— a declaration, not a inquiry— is everything. It’s graphic genius. Shade at it’s best. The problem is, I think that went over most people’s heads.
Magazine coverlines are the bread and butter. You can put Pulitzer-winning content inside, but if the cover sucks no one will ever know but subscribers because no one will pick it up on a newsstand and say, “hmm… what’s in here?” That’s the point of coverlines. Everyone judges books – magazines are called such in-house— by their covers. The right coverline with the right image is what compels newsstand buyers to make a Blink-like decision to pick up the mag and flip thru it (engagement) or to make a snap decision to buy it (cha-ching).
Editors obsess over coverlines for days. They gather everyone witty in the office to come up with catchy ways to describe the issue’s best stories. They make a long list of a million different ways of saying the same thing in the shortest, punch-packing way possible. Coverlines are carefully thought up by consensus, then narrowed down by the HNIC. Then he or she picks a few favorites, and has the overworked creative director slap them on the various images being considered for the cover.
The Editor in Chief gets all these versions of the cover and throws them up on a wall side by side by side (at least), then stares at them for hours, if not days, tweaking and re-tweaking until the words and image are perfect, or something like it. This isn’t rocket science, but it’s close.
I assure you that someone(s) thought long and hard about this seemingly blasphemous cover line that’s got everyone so riled up, and in the end said, “f*** yeah! Let’s do it!” and laughed wildly about the sh**-show that was to come, one that was undoubtedly courted and welcomed.
It’s no different than Time putting on the cover a near-four year old kid snacking on his mom’s boob, or Newsweek trying to one-up Time by declaring President Obama "The First Gay President" and giving him a rainbow halo. It’s just like this time last year when VIBE put a bare-chested, tat-covered, C-titty-cup having Rick Ross on the cover of the 2011 Sexy Issue and sat back and waited for the collective, “what the f---?!” that came like clockwork.
The cover line that’s ticked everyone off so is akin to a 6’4 guy calling one of those 5’2 testosterone filled, overly aggressive lil’ dudes “hey, Big Man” just for kicks. You’ve called him big, but no one thinks he is just cause you said it. You can call Evelyn and Chrissy and Tamar “hey, role models” and they might answer, but if you have any sense, you're in on the joke, or at least you should be. It’s the same as a drunk guy yelling at the emperor, “hey, I like your clothes!” And near everyone in the crowd laughs… at the emperor.
No one in the Vibe office (or the writer of the story) thinks three-fourths of the cover-ladies are role models (the one-fourth exception is obviously Kandi, who hustles e'ryday like rent is due in the morning). Read the actual cover story— available online — and you’ll find its hardly a fawning article that uplifts the Black villainesses of reality TV to Michelle Obama status. It’s a Q&A that gets in their ass a bit about the way they portray themselves on TV. The worst offenders— Chrissy and Ev— basically admit they’re messy.
“The initial reason I accepted this story is because after [the reality star] salaries went public I feared some young brown girls would see this as the sensible/easy route towards fruitful womanhood,” Bonsu Thompson, the writer of the story told me yesterday. “They all faced the questioning and even owned some of their bullsh**. There was accountability, some regret, some delusion and even some parental advisory. I'm cool with it. I just want 13YO Keisha to see the entire scope.
What makes this cover and its coverline so uncomfortable for so many people is that they know some girl somewhere saw it and didn’t get the sarcasm. There are those who watch reality TV and think, “this is ratchet, but the clothes are hot and what else is on?” And then there are those who think, with stars in their eyes, “I want to be like Evelyn [or Krissy]!” These are the people that understood Tami Logic when she explained that she didn’t steal Kesha’s purse, but was just holding it for safekeeping; who thought Ev made a lick of sense when she explained why she jumped up on a table like an untrained housepet to attack Jen. For all of us literate and sensible souls who watched that and thought, “huh?” we know there were people somewhere, who thought, HYFR.
That's the real problem. Those cover ladies might not be what we aspire to, but like it or not, they are looked up to and emulated by many someones somewhere out there. And not just for their clothes and accesories. Some unguided girl who has been “dragged up” (as Amanda Seale’s— formerly “Diva's”— mother puts it) a might see the coverline and not understand that VIBE is throwing enough shade to cover Dorian Corey’s wig crypt, but she will be picking up the magazine in droves and getting the whole story, which was Thompson and Vibe's entire point.