We Need to Talk About Kerry Washington's Horrible Magazine Covers

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by Kimberly Foster @KimberlyNFoster

How do you make a woman as gorgeous as Kerry Washington look terrible? A number of magazines have figured it out. Though Kerry is one of a handful of Black actors to regularly grace the covers of the country's most well-known publications, they can't seem to figure out how to shoot her.

Scandal premiered in April 2012. Kerry, who has appeared in films for more than 15 years, finally got her big break. Her star rose quickly, and, soon after, she became a fixture on newsstands.

But Kerry's had her fair share of disappointments, even if she is too gracious to voice them. Someone who appears on as many covers as she does should expect some misses. But her misses are so bad and so frequent. And it's not Kerry's fault. You'll rarely find a bad candid shot of her. She's got it naturally.
Last year, I asked photographer Itaysha Jordan, who has done stunning work with Black women for Vogue Italia and Ebony, about what it takes to get a great shot. She said that a photograph for a major publication passes through quite a few hands; thus, there's really no excuse for disaster covers.  "Once the photographer shoots the images, they are usually chosen by the Creative Director, Art Director and or Editor," she wrote via email. "They are then passed on to the post production department with notes in regards to the direction of the retouching and finishing."

These are not honest mistakes. Shooting Black skin and attending to Black features requires skill sets that the creative teams of many magazines simply haven't invested in.

"I hope and think that there should also be a culturally diverse staff with positions high enough to make impact -- that help stop these things before going to print," Jordan added.

Let's take a look at the stand outs.

Kerry was nearly unrecognizable on the cover of Lucky Magazine's December 2013/January 2014 cover. A strange pose paired with unflattering lighting made Kerry look crazed when I'm almost certain they were going for carefree. The cover immediately drew criticism, but Kerry didn't respond.
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Kerry's March 2015 cover of InStyle raised ire because the Bronx-native skin appeared significantly lighter.  InStyle denied digitally altering her complexion and acknowledged their mistake in a statement. "While we did not digitally lighten Kerry's skin tone, our cover lighting has likely contributed to this concern." Kerry responded on Twitter after the statement.  “Beautiful statement. Thank u 4 opening this convo. Its an important 1 that needs to be had.”

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The April 2016 cover of Elle Magazine had the makings of a classic. Kerry + Cassius Clay. What could go wrong? A terrible wig, for starters. It seems a tousled look was the aim, but Kerry's hair looks stringy and disheveled on the cover. It's a oversight that Black women who know the intricacies and importance of hairstyling and maintenance can't help but notice.

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Last week, Kerry did something she never does. She spoke out pre-emptively about a terrible cover. Adweek's monochrome cover for the April 4, 2016 issue was executed so poorly, Kerry couldn't ignore it. They've altered her face to the point where she looks like a young Phylicia Rashad or a Black Scarlett Johansson, depending on your cultural references. In a recent sit down she told Oprah, "I was very taken aback and very uncomfortable looking at an image that I did not recognize as myself." Adweek did not respond.

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We're seen the misses, so of course we have to take a look at how gorgeous Kerry can be when her image is given proper care. With soft lighting and minimal makeup, Kerry's beauty shines through.

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