Vanity Fair Hollywood Issue Includes Four Black Actresses On Cover
After catching hell from us for years for either not including black actors on the cover or putting them on the inside fold, this year’s cover truly reflects the diversity of talent represented in this year’s projects.
Lupita Nyong’o returns to the cover again, along with Ruth Negga, Aja Naomi King and Janelle Monae — alongside the Fanning sisters, Dakota and Elle, Natalie Portman, Emma Stone, Amy Adams, Greta Gerwig and Dakota Johnson.
Hit the flip for individual portraits and write ups!
Vanity Fair/Annie Leibovitz
3 FILMS, INCLUDING MOONLIGHT AND HIDDEN FIGURES (2016).
The Afro-futurist musical artist Janelle Monáe, whose 2010 album, The ArchAndroid, established her pro-android aesthetic and politique (“The ‘android’ represents the new ‘other,’ ” she explained), enjoyed a rookie year as an actress in 2016 that would be the envy of any humanbot. In the haunting triptych of fragility and identity Moonlight, she is Teresa, the drug dealer’s girlfriend with a consoling heart and keen emotional radar; in Hidden Figures, she’s Mary, the youngest member of a trio of unsung female African-American mathematicians working behind the scenes at NASA to keep John Glenn’s Mercury capsule from collapsing like a soda can on launch and re-entry. Equally at ease with Moonlight’s elliptical pauses and Hidden Figures’ expository prose, Monáe showed she could handle anything thrown at her and bat it over the wall.
13 FILMS, INCLUDING LOVING (2016).
The Irish-Ethiopian actress Ruth Negga has eyes intentful enough to shift objects around on-screen—a near-telekinetic focus that can shove aside anyone crowding her path (as evidenced by her brash Tulip O’Hare in AMC’s Preacher). What makes her performance in Jeff Nichols’s Loving so quietly capturing is how long her character’s direct gaze is kept warily under wraps, deflecting scrutiny, biding its time. For good reason: in the real-life 1960s South, where the film is set, a direct look from a black person at a white man in authority was considered an affront—it could get you killed. Loving is based on the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an inter-racial couple whose marriage was treated as a crime in their home state of Virginia, and as a victory when the Supreme Court ruled in their favor, in 1967. It is Richard (Joel Edgerton, chiseled and hunkered-in) who is insistent at first on setting things right, then Mildred who proves the persistent one, seizing the baton when he starts to hang back, and whose eyes, no longer averted, are on the prize.
6 FILMS, INCLUDING THE BIRTH OF A NATION (2016).
Aja Naomi King’s movie ascendancy as the slave girl Cherry in Nate Parker’s blazing battle cry, The Birth of a Nation (based on the Nat Turner rebellion of 1831), is a complete boomerang from the role that made her television rep. After an assortment of credits in film (“Positive Polly” in Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress and Rosa in the underseen comedy The Rewrite) and in prime-time series such as Emily Owens, M.D. and The Blacklist, King was whisked aboard the mother ship of Shondaland’s How to Get Away with Murder, starring the inviolable Viola Davis. Shondaland TV is not so much a place as a quantum state in which dialogue, events, character reversals, and shocking twists occur at speeds unknown to mundane humankind. King’s Michaela Pratt has been in the mad thick of it for three seasons, and the part of Cherry required a rapid deceleration and divestment of contemporary traits to fit seamlessly into the time, place, and tragic situation of southern slavery. This King did so artfully that you don’t see the art, only an eloquent act of being.
6 FILMS, INCLUDING QUEEN OF KATWE (2016); ONE ACADEMY AWARD.
Lupita Nyong’o is a message amplifier: only a small handful of major screen credits to her name but what a solid thump they’ve made. She seemed to burst out of parts unknown in her feature-film debut as the sadistically mistreated Patsey in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, for which she won an Academy Award for best supporting actress. Fortitude also forms the mortar of her performance in Mira Nair’s Queen of Katwe as Nakku Harriet, the Mother Courage of a family of hungry, unschooled children in a teeming, poor, ramshackle township in Uganda where skyscrapers stand in the hazy distance like the Emerald City of Oz. Elsewhere, in a galaxy far, far away, Nyong’o is a member of the revivified Star Wars mod squad, playing the goggle-eyed pirate Maz Kanata in J. J. Abrams’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens and its next billion-dollar chapter. As if that weren’t pop pantheon enough, she is also cast in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s forthcoming Black Panther movie, making her a dual dignitary at any Comic-Con.