A new victims’ group: Cover Girls of Color

By Michael Medved

Congratulations to the New York Times in bringing to light the unspeakable suffering of yet another horribly oppressed victim group: Cover Girls of Color.

In the lead story of the business section on Nov. 18, journalism’s grumpy Gray Lady agonizes over the plight of the supremely glamorous, Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry who, in conjunction with her starring role in the new James Bond film, “Die Another Day,” became “only the fifth black to appear on the cover of Cosmopolitan since the magazine began using cover photographs in 1964, and the first since Naomi Campbell in 1990.”

This situation with Cosmo led the Times to the chilling conclusion that “in many broad-circulation magazines, the unspoken but routinely observed practice of not using nonwhite cover subjects – for fear they will depress newsstand sales – remains largely in effect.”

To prove its point, America’s journal of record surveyed 471 covers from 31 magazines published in 2002 and came up with the startling conclusion that “the images of mass market consumer magazines featured members of a minority less than 25 percent of the time in most categories.”

Of course, the Times never informed its readers that this percentage almost exactly reflected the population at large. According to the most recent federal Census (2000), exactly 75.1 percent of us described ourselves as “white only” – meaning that a grand total of 24.9 percent of Americans see themselves as “People of Color,” or of mixed race heritage of any kind.

If only 24.9 percent of the U.S. population sees itself as “nonwhite,” then why is it so outrageous, so discriminatory, that nonwhite or mixed-race faces appear on magazine covers “less than 25 percent of the time”?

Of course, the New York Times never poses this question, since such reflection might interfere with the newspaper’s obvious purpose of indicting American society, yet again, for egregious racism. Reporter David Carr even suggests that for magazine publishers “the absence of cover model diversity could reflect the industry’s racial homogeneity” and quotes Diane Weathers, editor in chief of the black women’s magazine, Essence, as declaring: “We do not see ourselves in magazines.”

What, then, is the whole point of Essence, or Ebony, or Jet, and how many issues feature non-black stars on the cover? And if the preference for pale faces on the cover of leading journals truly reflects incurable, endemic racism, then how could one explain the spectacular success of Oprah Winfrey’s O magazine, which features its founder’s unavoidably African-American mug on each and every cover?

The article gets even worse when it attempts to categorize some of the faces featured on leading magazine covers, classifying both Enrique Iglesias and Christina Aguilera as “nonwhite artists.” On what basis would any sane individual describe such people as “non-white” – any more than the actors Martin Sheen (nee Estevez) and the blonde, blue-eyed Cameron Diaz are “people of color.” Christina Aguilera is as blonde and European-featured as Diaz, and her fair hair may even be more naturally that color than the tresses of her one-time Mouseketeer colleague, Britney Spears.

Anyone who has traveled in Europe knows that many residents of the Mediterranean Coast of France, or Southern Italy, are far swarthier, more olive-skinned than many Spaniards (who often display fair hair and strikingly pale complexions).

Why, then, would the politically correct, race-obsessed establishment classify Frenchmen like Jean Reno or Jean Paul Belmondo, or Italian-Americans like James Gandolfini and Al Pacino as “white,” while Spaniards Antonio Banderas and Enrique Iglesias count as “People of Color”?

The absurdity extends even to the categorization of Halle Berry, herself, whose luminous image features prominently in the Times article. Nazis and Ku Kluxers may insist that she is inescapably “black” because the father who abandoned her as a baby identified himself as African-American, but the only fair designation for this talented star would be “mixed race.” Her skin tone remains several shades lighter than that of blonde models featured in marketing for tanning oils, and her white mother played a prominent role in Ms. Berry’s Oscar night triumph.

Other mixed-race glamour girls with ethnic backgrounds identical to Halle Berry’s (including Jennifer Beals, star of “Flashdance” and Nia Peeples, star of the current release “Half Past Dead”) choose to play white characters, black characters or characters of indeterminate race, depending on the project. If Ms. Berry chooses to identify herself exclusively as a “black actress,” that is, of course, her prerogative, but viewing the triumphant trajectory of her career, it is hard to see how that identification blocked her success.

Indeed, the most ludicrous aspect of the entire New York Times expose is its manipulative attempt to portray celebrities as gifted, beautiful and popular as Halle Berry as the victims of invincible racism. Anyone who’s famous and beautiful enough even to come close to the cover of a leading magazine doesn’t seem a suitable subject for pity or indignation.

Magazines may indeed discriminate against whole groups of people in selecting the faces for their covers, but it’s not discrimination based on race. Instead, there’s an appalling prejudice against the old, the fat, the ugly, the unknown – all of whom deserve more sympathy and support than the fortunate and adored prospective cover girls who are fatuously categorized by the New York Times as the latest group of “nonwhite” sufferers.