Vanity Fair recently released its annual Hollywood Issue which features up-and-comers in the film industry. The cover is beautiful and rightfully includes Lupita Nyong’o, Viola Davis and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. But it’s the “additional intimate portraits”, shot by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz that are causing a stir.
All feature the cover actresses a bit more stripped down. But Nyong’o and Davis appear to be the only actresses, aside from Charlotte Rampling, to be partially nude, and the two with the least amount of makeup — by far.
For reference, here are the portraits of the other featured actresses.
Here are Nyong’o and Davis.
Fans are speaking out on what some feel is a troubling trend of black actresses forced to de-glam themselves, a topic black cinema site Shadow and Act spoke on back in 2011 (before Taraji P. Henson and Viola Davis’ career-changing roles in Empire and How to Get Away With Murder, respectively.)
“The subject came up when I had a conversation with a regular S & A reader involved in the theater as a director about how often black actors and actresses I’ve met in person, are much better looking than they appear on screen.
I told the reader one person who immediately came to mind was Taraji P. Henson. Meeting her, I was stuck by how just adorably cute she is in person. However that vision of her has yet to appear on the screen, where either she’s made to look awful (think Hustle and Flow or her matronly appearance in Benjamin Button), or even in films where she’s “normal,” such as The Karate Kid, Not Easily Broken, or Date Night, where she’s made to look haggard and not at all well photographed.
But the worst case I mentioned must be Viola Davis. I’ve met Ms. Davis, and the person I met was incredibly attractive, and with a trim, fantastic body (speaking as a guy I tend to notice things like that…). But that’s not the Viola Davis you regularly encounter in movies. She almost always looks awful, and I suspected at the time perhaps sometimes padded to make her look bigger. And now as she revealed in The Help she was. I mean was that really necessarily for her to gain all that weight and have the padding as well? You mean there are no thin black maids?”
This is not the first time Liebovitz has been criticized for her portrayal of a high profile black person. She was blasted in April 2008 for shooting Lebron James and Gisele Bundchen in a photo that channelled King Kong.
However, other fans felt the the issue is how we define what is unattractive and unkempt in the black community, and our collective discomfort with seeing ourselves in our most natural state — tight coils, deep brown skin and all.
Ladies, what are your thoughts on all of this?