Wading into the “Kovergirl Kontroversy” – which, of course, pithily refers to the online furore surrounding the appearance of Kim Kardashian on the cover of the April issue of American Vogue (below) – has become less a choice and more a requirement. The first question posed to anyone with even the vaguest interest in fashion over the past week or so? Have you seen it?
"It" is usually uttered in hushed tones – the inference being not that you might not have clapped eyes on the cover (it was pretty much unavoidable if you interacted with the internet) but, more specifically, that by seeing it you automatically could pass judgement. Not judgement in the old-fashioned fashion sense – I can't believe she's wearing that. Who chose that hair? It looks like a knitting catalogue cover – but more fundamental judgements.
The fuss seems to have centred around Kardashian's suitability for celebration, and, furthermore, whether her cover was somehow indicative of a general slippage of the publication's previously impeccable standards.
Rubbish. The editor, Anna Wintour, is clever. Kim Kardashian is the perfect cover star exactly because of the questions her appearance on that cover provokes, the debates she opens up – and, most importantly, the audience she appeals to. Namely, a mass audience. Compared with American Vogue's average monthly circulation of 1.2 million, Kardashian and her partner, Kanye West, have a reach of more than 30 million on Twitter (the split is 2/3 in Kim's favour, FYI).
That's not an insignificant fact: the cover provoked a veritable social media frenzy. The word "Vogue" – rather than the cumbersome hashtag #worldsmosttalkedaboutcouple – was the trending topic on the day the cover was released. And the veteran photographer Annie Leibovitz became @annieleibovitz to electronically trumpet the image. She's gained more than 80,000 followers in a week. The social media outreach of this particular cover is the most astonishing thing about it.
Interestingly, West's presence – one of only five male faces ever to appear on an American Vogue cover – has rarely been questioned. Is his celebrity somehow more valid than Kardashian's?
I have relatively little opinion on the Vogue cover, if I'm honest. It's been rumoured for a while. If anything, the Kardashian cover should have happened 18 months ago. It would have been more of a shock then. Ultimately, we have a high-profile couple, shot by a high-profile photographer – a combination that is bound to shift copies. What's more worthy of a Vogue cover than that?