Janet Street-Porter: Why Britain's brightest are never in 'Vogue'

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The Independent Online

A 20-page feature, photographed by Princess Diana's favourite snapper, Mario Testino, is headlined "Young London", with the catchphrase "our capital's bright young things". The roll-call of names of these allegedly talented and wonderful teenagers tells you all you need to know. With few exceptions, they are introduced as the sons or daughter of someone famous or titled: Gormley, Dellal, Bailey, a couple of Guinnesses, Irons, Sykes, Ormsby-Gore and Hughes-Hallett. There's the daughter of the Earl of Uxbridge, and the son of Viscountess Normanton.

These poor kids don't have a CV, they have a blood line which somehow gains them access to the glossy pages of Vogue, which implies that as their parents are either rich or famous, they must, by default, going to be worth writing about and capturing on film.

The idea that these kids represent British talent in any shape or form is thoroughly depressing. What is even more shocking is that they are all white. In fact this issue of Vogue is almost 100 per cent white, with a couple of exceptions, including a one-page feature on the actress Naomie Harris, who stars in the Pirates of the Caribbean sequel Dead Man's Chest. Naomi is a Londoner who was brought up by a single mum, studied political science at Cambridge and then drama at the Bristol Old Vic. She is a wonderful role model, just like Freema Agyeman, another Londoner, with an Iranian mother and a Ghanian father - but not worthy of 20 pages of gush.

London is probably the most cosmopolitan city in the world, bursting with stylish, talented young people from all sorts of ethnic backgrounds who are making art, music, writing, designing clothes, running clubs, devising magazines, inventing computer games, constructing furniture and putting up buildings. In fact, London is always ranked by young people in other countries as their number one destination, so vibrant is its reputation. So I just can't imagine how you can fill 20 pages of Britain's leading fashion magazine with white, middle-class people and think that the result will be perceived as anything other than racist and narrow minded, an opportunity lost.

As a PR exercise for Cool Britannia it is an unmitigated disaster. But Vogue is nothing if not conservative with a small c, no matter how much its editor tries to pretend that it reflects cutting-edge style. It might be bought by secretaries who want to pretend they are PAs, but Vogue exudes a revolting kind of passé snobbishness. Just like the Tory party in fact. Consider David Cameron's much-vaunted A-list few constituencies seem willing to adopt. We can spot a black farmer here, a soap star there, plenty of women. But the local Tory apparatchiks seem unwilling to depart from their conventional choice of white, middle-class candidates. And when you read Vogue, you can see that not a lot has changed over the past decade.

Now that's what I call a role model

Three cheers for David Walliams, who has managed to achieve something our footballers singularly failed to do: set out on a mission and succeed beyond your wildest dreams. A couple of years ago this half of the Little Britain team was a party animal who did no sport, never less than impeccably dressed. Now, he's submitted to the indignity of being smeared in goose fat while wearing tiny swimming trunks and a rubber hat. Walliams swum the Channel in record time and raised over £400,000 for charity, humming along to the Pet Shop Boys as he scythed through the waves.

When we went to a Pet Shop Boys concert last week, David confided that the furthest he'd ever swum in training was 16 miles. This week he had to contend with jellyfish, sewage and the busiest shipping lane in the world. Somehow, I cannot imagine David Beckham doing any of this, can you?

* A charity has had to buy back some of Princess Margaret's personal belongings at the Christies auctions which raised over £13.6m, adding further controversy to the sale. Historic Royal Palaces manage the Princess's former home in Kensington Palace, on behalf of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, from which they receive no funding. The charity exists solely on donations and admission fees. It is mystifying why the Princess's two children did not donate some pieces to commemorate their mother. In the end the charity had to pay £69,600 for a pair of Venetian blackamoor figures which stood in her drawing room and an astonishing £15,600 (pre-sale estimate of £300) for the book in which her chef wrote the menu each day.