Nnamdi Asomugha very rarely rears his head. He’s an ex-NFL player and he’s married to Kerry Washington, but he generally stays away from the spotlight — so I was really surprised to see him on this cover, and even more surprised when I found out it’s because he is in a movie. I had no idea he was pursuing acting, much less producing, which he’s also doing here. It’s nice when 2020 serves up pleasant plot twists.

The movie is Sylvie’s Love, a glam 1960s Hollywood romance that is set amid an era of civil unrest, but per the story it intentionally doesn’t define itself by that:

“Even Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. still had a bunch of babies and fell in love,” Ashe says, explaining why he decided to focus on capturing life-changing love in his period drama. “It’s really important to show that we existed in the past [beyond] the ‘struggle culture’—that Black folks were still falling in love. I think not showing that is a way of erasing us.”

Tessa Thompson wholeheartedly agrees, and she reflects that the timing for Sylvie’s Love couldn’t be sweeter. “At a time when we’re talking about the value and dignity of Black life…it’s really great to have a [love] story that offers some escapism for audiences, and that feels sweeping and beautiful and hopeful about love. We really need those kinds of narratives.”

Tessa looks dreamy, but I wish the cover felt a bit more luxe and lush. It’s so start as to be a bit chilly, and it’s downright polar compared with the November/January issue’s non-digital cover star:


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Zendaya posed for a series of photos evoking Donyale Luna, widely considered the first Black supermodel, and who led quite a life before her tragic death of a heroin overdose at age 33. She was one of the first to have a walk that truly made her famous — there’s a whole section on her Wikipedia page about how she brought the movement of a dancer to the catwalk — and was the first Black model to appear on any edition of Vogue, in addition to being a muse for Salvador Dali. (High camp was also part of her image; I want to look back at the camp Met Gala to see if anyone evoked her there, but I don’t THINK they did?) Law has a bunch of the pictures up on his Instagram that show both the original photo and Zendaya’s interpretation, like this great lounging shot, and this close-up, this stunner, and one in endless gladiator sandals. What a great way of exposing a whole new generation to Donyale Luna’s life and legacy, and the cover itself is amazing. Zendaya looks twelve feet tall.

[Digital cover: J.D. Barnes for Essence; Zendaya cover by AB+DM]