Lupita Nyong'o on the cover of Vogue's July 2014 issue

Lupita Nyong’o on the cover of Vogue’s July 2014 issue

Who’s not in love with Lupita Nyong’o? I haven’t yet seen 12 Years A Slave and I’m in love with Lupita Nyong’o! The reasons for this are many but mostly it’s because of her poise, her bright mind, the incredible speeches she gave during awards season and the perfect wardrobe choices she and her stylist have been making all along: It was all about jewel tones and then BAM! it was all about the blue of that Oscar dress. What was Cinderella blue instantly became Lupita blue.

So it comes as no surprise that Vogue would want to put Lupita Nyong’o on their cover.  Not only is she a great cover girl but the video that accompanied the release of the issue is quite simply the best Vogue has released.

Apart from all the Lupita love, how’s the issue? Let’s just say Vogue is cashing in on the Lupita love by relying on the actress to sell a very meagre 154 page magazine. There are some great aspects, some terrible aspects and frankly aspects that are so ridiculous we shouldn’t even be talking about them.

I’ll start with the cover: I think the choice of printed dress was made simply to differentiate from the monochrome jewel tones of her usual red carpet garb. At first I thought the cover looked very late 70′s early 80′s in the worst way but it’s grown on me. Despite my initial reaction of thinking the dress was so ill-fitting Nyong’o had to cross her arm over her chest to prevent popping out of it, I think the pose is brilliant and shows off her toned arms and chest. So whether it’s a mistake or not, Lupita shines through. She looks gorgeous and has probably invented a pose to be copied by the models and actresses of the future.

I’m in love with the silver cuff-bangle-bracelets. They contrast her skin tone and are almost a shock because of the usual imagery of gold on black models. Vogue has beautifully played against the black-models-wearing-white-with-gold-jewelry-thing that magazines have had going on in the past year too.

The article and editorial “Grace Notes” by Hamish Bowles, photographed by Mikael Jansson has Lupita Nyong’o striking poses in Marrakesh.

In a strange coincidence Chiwetel Ejiofor and Kate Moss shared the spotlight for “The Silk Road” which appeared in the December issue. In some ways I think Vogue is making the utmost effort to place the actors at geographical meeting points in order to avoid even the spectre of producing clichés of the Actors in Africa or in Europe, surrounded by all black or all white models. Ejiofor is photographed in Turkey, the Meeting points of Europe and the Middle East and Nyong’o is photographed in Morrocco meeting place of Europe and Africa. This makes two so if the next black actor to appear in Vogue is shot in Mexico or Mongolia that’ll be three and be a trend worth exploring.

The photographs in the editorial are interesting, varied and about Nyong’o as much as the clothes she’s wearing. I liked that the clothing felt sombre and muted rather than bright which contrasts with the garb usually seen on Nyong’o.

My one complaint about the content featuring Lupita Nyong’o is that the cover is extremely grainy. The photograph of the cover online definitely does not have the same aspect; it appears crisp, clear and bright.

This isn’t the only instance in the issue that the quality of a photograph is severely lacking. The photograph of Lizzy Caplan for “Cool Factor” on page 133 is terrible. Her face is blurry and grainy, and it looks as though her body was copy/pasted onto the background–the hair area seems the worst part. Whether this is a photoshop fail or the quality of the photograph was just really bad and wasn’t touched up enough, I can’t say and it really doesn’t matter: it looks bad.

Another perplexing aspect of the issue is the Steal of the Month section. “Simple Song” featuring Lykke Li is styled all in black and mentions the singer’s collaboration with & Other Stories which Li is said to be already wearing onstage. Strangely the picture doesn’t include one item from the line available this fall. I mean, this is the August issue so Fall is around the corner. It’s strange that Vogue didn’t take the opportunity to give it’s readers the tiniest of sneak peaks in the form of the already mentionned black accessories: passport holder and tote to go along with the monochrome black clothing pictured. What’s there is great but it feels like an opportunity lost!

A disappointing article in the issue is “Living History” about writer Katy Simpson Smith. I was so take by the picture of the author and the short paragraph accompanying it in the “Contributors” section that this article is the first I read. I suppose the quote in this section made me think I’d hear more about her writing process and get some idea of what her life looks like. I couldn’t help but be disappointed. The photograph of the author and the styling including the high bun is perfect though.

The strength of this issue is really the editorials though the magazine attempts to shine the spotlight on women of varying artistic pursuits. (Admittedly the Dana Schutz article is one of the issue’s best). Cara Delevingne is all quirk and somehow manages to make all of the heavily 60′s-influenced clothing seem current rather than a lesson in history. And those boots!!!!

“Razor’s Edge” the editorial featuring Karlie Kloss, in a limited palette of black, white and red, is made fascinating by the nude makeup, the curly pouff of hair and the subtle modeling. This feels like a departure from Kloss’ editorials of late which have her leaping and smiling everywhere. This feels more steady, demure and her gaze is given more intensity because of the relatively static poses.

Just as “Razor’s Edge” features a grey background, so too does the Who What Wear editorial “Razzle Dazzle” featuring Sasha Pivovarova. Often this type of editorial just looks like a magazine was unwilling to invest in location and props so for Vogue to featute two model-against-grey-background type editorials is a risk. This type of editorial relies very heavily on the model. Luckily for Vogue, or perhaps very astutely, the models chosen are at the top of their game and generate enough electricity to carry such editorials. “Razzle Dazzle” features heavily embellished clothing in the most down to earth way. Pivovarova’s hair and makeup is perfect, her poses both casual and fascinating. The styling is balanced and the one-earring trend has never looked less contrived than here. This editorial shows what can happen when people at the top of their game come together to produce good work. Great job.

I like the “Index” section but I feel as though there is a slight disconnect between the content of the issue and this section. It’s summer so that should be enough for a very beach-themed editorial but I always like when there’s a link.

So what did I think of the issue? I think most people will buy it for the cover and think the contents are disappointing. I’m a cover-to-cover reader and was bored and disappointed by a few things. The casual flipper who reads one out of three articles will be read this in under an hour and think Vogue is a crappy magazine. I think it’s clear that Vogue used Nyong’o to draw readers to an issue that is less than glorious. The TNT and Coach articles are good and the editorials, above average but I think the uneven, abbreviated and throw-away aspects of the magazine make it insulting for readers to read. Vogue can do better. It regularly does better. 2.9/5 stars.