Pop star Dua Lipa by David LaChapelle for Rolling Stone’s February 2021 Issue. Photo: David LaChapelle/Rolling Stone

The Art of the Celebrity Editorial

By KELIN DILLON

The glitz and glamour of Hollywood stars have captivated audiences worldwide for over a century now, catapulting unknown actresses and actors from obscurity into household names overnight following a well-cast blockbuster. Whatever turmoils had occurred in the world outside — war, famine, poverty — could be forgotten for approximately 90 minutes of pure escapist cinema, the fantasy personified by whatever beautiful starlet lent her face to the film.

Model Naomi Campbell on the 1989 cover of American Vogue. Photo: Vogue

The United States, being the capitalistic nation it is, quickly commodified these popular celebrities, creating television programs and tabloids engineered specifically to reveal the salacious details of stars’ personal lives to the general public — at a cost, of course, which people paid for in droves.

Following the money, lauded fashion publications decided to do away with having professional models on their covers over the years, instead casting whatever buzzy celeb-of-the-moment to grace the publication’s front in hopes of cashing in on the population’s fascination with Hollywood stardom.

The 90’s officially said bye-bye to fashion-forward, model-driven covers in favor of selling out for Hollywood big bucks, with publications and celebrities benefiting behind the scenes by timing their collaborations along with a star’s latest movie or album release, generating extra buzz for both parties.

“Nobody cares about models anymore,” said Linda Wells, back in 1999 to the New York Times, when she was editor of Allure, signifying the end of the era of the “supermodel.”

Hailey and Justin Bieber’s tabloid-esque cover of American Vogue in 2019. Photo: Vogue

American Vogue, the perennial fashion magazine headed by Anna Wintour, has rarely seen a model grace its cover (unless their millions of social media followers got them the gig) since the early 90’s. The result has been a myriad of lackluster covers, starlets’ faces postured in front of dull backgrounds with little variety over the course of decades, invoking a tabloid-exclusive-like feel. And from the most influential publication in the fashion industry, at that!

Of course, other magazines follow Vogue’s lead, and now the check-out line offerings of grocery stores across the United States and Mexico are littered with an underwhelming myriad of uninventive and stiff celebrity covers with the added bonus of putting working models out of a job.

International publications still use plenty of models, though that’s usually because they don’t have the access to or the budget for big name celebs, not for lack of want.

Gracing the cover of a magazine and delivering an equally impressive editorial on the inside pages requires an understanding of modeling that not all popular figures possess. As a model myself, it’s hard not to critique the final result of celebrity profiles due to their lack of experience in posing and the dynamics of what makes a good shot. It’s no surprise that many actors and actresses fail to execute a beautiful editorial shot — it’s something that requires skill and experience.

That’s why, when a star delivers a model-level editorial, it’s all the more special.

Anya Taylor-Joy by Craig McDean for British Vogue. Photo: Craig McDean/British Vogue

The latest breakout actress in Hollywood has been Anya Taylor-Joy, who did a feature for British Vogue shot by Craig McDean back in 2018 that showcased her looks in an old-school style invoking fashion industry favorite Freja Beha Erichsen. Taylor-Joy doesn’t shy away from utilizing the entire frame of the camera, expertly extending her limbs to fill up the shot, while keeping intense eye contact on the camera.

Dua Lipa, an English pop star who has been dominating the charts worldwide since 2017, just graced Rolling Stone’s February 2021 cover with an excellent spread shot by David LaChapelle. The photos show Lipa quite literally bending over backwards to get the perfect shot while maintaining full control of the contours of her body and the intensity in her face. Other shots in the editorial show Lipa leaping through the air with a full point in her hands and toes, creating a length throughout the image adding to its dynamism.

Both Lipa and Taylor-Joy’s stars are on the rise, and if they continue to be tapped for major publications, perhaps that bodes well for magazines’ future offerings. But both starlets have one major thing in common that allows them to excel here where their peers don’t: a background in modeling.

Dua Lipa for Rolling Stone’s February 2021 issue. Photo: David La Chapelle/Rolling Stone

Celebrities regularly go through media training as a standard to learn how to answer questions and properly conduct an interview, and actors and musicians have obviously had some form of formal training in their field before achieving success. So, why not require a crash-course in modeling to better prepare upcoming stars for their inevitable magazine debut? 

Stars already have the good fortune of possessing beautiful features, and a little modeling training would help them utilize their looks into a truly dynamic offering for their magazine showcases, a now ubiquitous part of celebrity life. With the true experts of the craft, models, losing work in favor of celebrities, it’s time for stars to step up to the plate, take the modeling gigs seriously and deliver some truly captivating photos. 

Otherwise, to be quite frank, they should leave the modeling to the professionals.

…Jan. 19, 2021

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