The Problem with Lena Dunham's Vogue Cover

VogueIt's here! Lena Dunham's long-anticipated Vogue cover is here! And it's…well, OK. The 27-year-old "Girls" creator looks gorgeous wearing a white dress shirt with large red polka dots, her side-swept pixie cut is Twiggy-esque and her makeup is impeccable. However, Dunham's body — which she has no qualms about flaunting on "Girls" — is cropped at the chest, a move that didn't impress some fans and bloggers.

After the cover was leaked online, one Huffington Post writer asked (rhetorically, of course), "Why do curvier women get the close-up shots?" Meanwhile, a Jezebel blogger conceded to the inevitable, "We knew it wasn't going to be a full-body shot."

(A Vogue representative wasn't immediately available for comment.)

The cropped cover is just the latest in a string of examples of fashion magazines paying lip service to curvier celebrities, then cloaking them in heavy fabric or hiding their bodies altogether. In January, actress Mindy Kaling graced the cover of Elles's "Women in TV" issue, along with fellow funny ladies, Amy Poehler, Zooey Deschanel, and Allison Williams. Kaling's black-and-white headshot was beautiful, but dwarfed by the full-body, scantily clad shots of her thinner cover stars. In 2012, size 16 singer Adele landed the cover of Vogue, but the trimmed image revealed only her gorgeous face and in-your-face cleavage. The previous year, Elle booked actress Gabourey Sidibe for its 25th-anniversary issue, but cut her off mid-chest, permitting only a peek at her green, jeweled couture. And in October, Elle was criticized for its cover treatment of plus-size actress Melissa McCarthy. Although McCarthy appeared in a full-body shot, her plus-size curves were hidden under an awkward, bulky dark coat.

And while magazines are quick to defend their creative direction — Elle told E! News that Kaling "looks sexy, beautiful and chic," and McCarthy's reps told insisted that their star "loved" her Elle cover — fashion insiders who in the glossy industry at-large tell a different story.

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"I worked as a designer at a major fashion magazine and while I was never asked to crop a cover of a curvy star, there was no tolerance for women that weren't stick thin," says Jill, a Brooklyn-based art director, who asked that her last name be withheld. 

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"I was an editor at a national fashion magazine, and I sat in meetings where cover decisions got made," says Susan of New York City. "There seems to be an unspoken rule that no one directly addresses weight issues; the star's image is simply cropped to present the person in a flattering way. Thin stars weren't immune either. This was all routine procedure."

"When the magazine I worked at booked Adele for its cover, there was lots of discussion and worry over her weight," says Samantha, a New York City editor. "There is a similar mindset at men's magazines — my former creative director once had a fit over (the late) Heath Ledger's weight gain and said he wasn't cover material anymore. It's an odd mentality for magazines to have, considering the world is used to seeing more organic photos of celebrities on Instagram."

To be fair, there have been notoriously thin stars photographed at close range. Penelope Cruz's face alone graced Elle's multi-cover November issue. 

For Mindy Kaling, it was the controversy, more than the magazine cropping, that struck a nerve.  In an interview with David Letterman, the TV star described protective fans reacting to her Elle cover as a kind of backhanded compliment.  "The sort of implication, what they kept saying, was, 'What, Elle, you can't put her big, fat body on the magazine? Why, 'cause she's just fat and gruesome? Why shouldn't we look at her beautiful, fat body?' And I was like, 'Oookay, people who are trying to defend me.' I just feel like they're kind of insulting me."

As for Dunham, who is featured inside Vogue lounging in a sparkly Prada off-the-shoulder dress, she has nothing but love for the fashion bible. 

On Wednesday, she tweeted, "Dear Vogue magazine: Thank you. Love, Lena."

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