It’s a very good day to be Paloma Elsesser. The IMG model appears in a Michael Kors Collection dress on the cover of Vogue’s January edition in a shot by Annie Leibovitz and styled by Garbriella Karefa-Johnson. Inside, she talks to writer Janelle Okwodu about what her visibility means to the industry.
“When a size 14 person like myself says no to doing a show, they may not put anyone larger in that show—therefore that sample doesn’t go into the editorial season; other girls my size don’t get shot in looks that aren’t lingerie or a jacket; there’s a whole cycle happening,” she says. “My participation isn’t just about me.”
She also gives props to models Crystal Renn and Sophie Dahl, who paved the way for her in the industry. “I felt like they had this inherent power and sexuality that I didn’t feel in myself,” she says. “I wasn’t tall enough or thin enough, and I wasn’t the right kind of plus. I was this chubby weird brown girl from L.A., just figuring things out.”
Elsesser also gets some major love from her mentor Pat McGrath, who compares her to some of the greats. “There’s something cinematic about Paloma. She’s a modern Dorthy Dandridge or Lena Horne or Rita Hayworth. Her face, her body, and her mind are beautiful—and she has a wonderful personality brimming with fun and joy.”
Another person having a very great day is fashion editor Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, who told her nearly 100K followers on Instagram today about the history the Vogue cover is making with her involvement—this is the first cover shoot for the fashion bible that has been styled by a Black woman.
She wrote: “This is a dream I didn’t know if I’d realize and I’m just so proud of myself, and proud of @palomija , and proud of @iam_thechong , and proud of @okjanelle , and happy for the little black girls who can go to the newsstand and buy the worlds most powerful fashion magazine and see themselves on the cover and in the creative team that brought it to life. This is the first Vogue cover styled by a black woman. This is my first Vogue cover. It was shot by Annie Leibovitz and that’s just about the wildest thing I’ve ever heard.”
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Vogue’s January issues hits stands on December 22.