In a September that has seen an unprecedented amount of black women on magazine covers (with 11 to date, at the time of writing this article), it’s more than fitting to spotlight one of the leaders in the publishing industry at the forefront of this positive change.
Since starting her tenure as Allure editor-in-chief in November 2015 (she was previously editor-in-chief and chief marketing officer at NYLON), Michelle Lee has changed the conversation about inclusion in beauty. And she walks the talk. In a May 2018 Allure article penned by Lee, she talks about the importance of inclusivity: “I’ve come to see representation as something even deeper now. We showcase and celebrate different versions of beauty so we can — finally, wonderfully — see one another.”
The industry is seeing and celebrating Lee’s efforts: she was named Adweek‘s “Editor of the Year” in 2017 and Allure was named “Magazine of the Year.” These are both among Lee’s proudest career moments. Another proud moment? The ripple effect her commitment to diversity is creating in the fashion and beauty industries. Lee explains: “We’ve shifted the ethos and image of a 28-year-old brand to celebrate diversity and inclusivity. It’s hard to imagine now but the beauty industry was not so diverse just two years ago. I like to think we pushed the envelope in some key ways that showed a lot of other brands that diversity is not only something that’s socially important, it’s also something that audiences want.” (Indeed, they want it: allure.com attracts 7.4 million unique visitors per month, according to Condé Nast.)
A look at Allure’s issues in recent years underscores its mission (to challenge old-fashioned views of beauty and broaden the definition of what society deems beautiful), most notably March 2018’s “The Culture of Hair” issue and June 2018’s cover featuring three Asian cover models. And in one of its boldest moves yet, model Halima Aden graced the July 2017 cover in her Nike hijab, which made a larger cultural statement about what American women look like, and how diverse and wonderful American beauty can be.
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