I must be honest and say that I think all these covers are, by and large, excellent. To me, they don’t look like American magazine covers, and this is a compliment — even the ones that I think are less successful feel compelling in some way, or like they’re trying something, at least. More trying something in 2021!

You can read all the interviews here, but here are some interesting excerpts. This is the “Beauty Issue,” so all of these folks are talking about, well, beauty:

Precious Lee’s profile is really, really great. They used this as a pull quote, and I would have made the same editorial choices, and I guess I am doing just that by sharing it here:

And so being Black, and then also being nontraditional in size, I’m just like: “You all really not about to play us. None of us.” I know people are not used to seeing confident, educated, happy, chunky African American girls, and I don’t care. They’re just going to have to get used to it.

Rianne Van Rompaey says:

In Holland, everybody’s quite reserved. It’s not okay if you are too different. It’s better to fit in. It’s better not to scream too loud. It’s better not to be too different. That’s what attracted me to celebrities on the Internet. I thought, “Wow, there are actually people out there who are completely, unapologetically themselves and are not trying to fit in.” I think that’s true of American pop culture: You’re allowed to be seen, and you’re allowed to be loud. To me, that was very liberating because I am quite loud.

This is one of the first times I feel like Americans have been complimented for being loud, to which I say: YOU’RE WELCOME. (Actually, that’s not totally true. Back in 2008, Heather and her husband/my friend Kevin and I went to Egypt and I will never forget our tour guide Foxy telling us that he loved having Americans to show around because we were always so impressed with all of Egypt’s antiquities and it was very gratifying. “You guys say ‘wow’ a lot,” he told us. And we laughed and we were like, “yes, that is probably true ha ha,” and then we arrived at wherever we were going and got out of the car and all three of us saw the temple we were visiting and said, “WOW.” Listen, we have a lot of flaws but we ARE enthusiastic!)

I actually think the shots of Hailey Bieber in her editorial are really good and some of the more interesting ones she’s done as a model. She says:

 I had to give myself a break from looking at myself and other people, though. I had to start doing this thing where I don’t go on Instagram Monday through Friday. If something needs to be posted, I have somebody who I work with who runs it for me.

I actually feel like most celebrities — especially ones married to another celebrity, where you’re getting sort of a twofer of attention — are smart to NOT be on Instagram too much. (I think this is probably true for all of us, honestly.) I cannot imagine how much people SCREAMING at you (with love or hate or unsolicited opinions) 24/7 from inside your phone would mess with you. Good for you, Hailey!

I also really liked this from Liu Wen:

My job taught me how to be beautiful. It’s not just about how you look. People assume modeling is about being thin and pretty, but it’s about, how can you express yourself? Can you radiate strength and confidence? Personality is most important. The camera can capture all of that. But no one can control their beauty.

She also talks about playing Legos with her parents during the pandemic, which is very sweet.

And, finally, from Adwoa Aboah, whose whole profile is very good:

So much of the way I look at myself and my self-worth has always coincided with my mental health, so it hasn’t necessarily been something positive. It’s only been over the last five, six years that I’ve really got my head around this idea of beauty, self-worth, confidence, and all the rest that comes with it. Before that, it felt like something that was out of reach. The women I was looking up to, the women I admired for their beauty—it was completely unrealistic. I loved Agyness Deyn and Gemma Ward and Kate Moss, but I find that pretty depressing to think about—that all these women look so different to me and those were the people I thought were stunning. I have lots of beauty icons now, but it’s not about what I aspire to look like. Now it’s just someone who I admire and celebrate and appreciate. I think my sister, Kesewa, is the most stunning human on the planet. She really is a goddess. I think Zoë Kravitz is just so cool; Michaela Coel, Future, Paloma [Elsesser], Precious [Lee], Hunter [Schafer], obviously Rihanna.

I feel like “obviously Rihanna” is an evergreen sentiment.

Precious Lee photograph by Renell Medrano
Rianne Van Rompaey photograph by Cass Bird
Hailey Bieber photograph by Amy Troost
Liu Wen photograph by Leslie Zhang
Adwoa Aboah photograph by Johnson Artur