I wasn’t surprised by the powerful and polarised reaction I’ve had to my choice of Kim Kardashian as ELLE’s cover star for our January issue. You’d have to be living under a rock not to know that Kim is a woman who divides opinion. Both @ELLEUK’s and my own social media has been overwhelmed by responses – positive and negative. It’s maybe the most visceral reaction I’ve had to a cover star in over 10 years of editing the magazine so, for those of you who’ve asked, this is why I think Kim deserves to be the star of our first ever Confidence Issue.
I put Kim on the ELLE cover for exactly the same reasons I put Emma Watson, Kate Upton, Anne Hathaway, Katie Holmes and Keira Knightley there this year. When we’re planning the ELLE covers we ask ourselves some questions:
Does this woman have the style authority to grace the cover of a luxury fashion magazine? Well, we all know that Kim loves fashion. She sits in the front row at designer shows and her high-profile relationship with one of the world’s most modern and innovative designers – Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy – is as close as any cover star’s could be. She has been embraced and accepted by this world. And one of the world’s most iconic and legendary photographers, Jean-Baptiste Mondino, was delighted to shoot Kim for us. Plus, for me, the way a woman who is not genetically programmed to be sample size – and is not going to change herself to try – negotiates (and, arguably, changes) the fashion world is fascinating. Quite simply, she looks different from lots of the cover stars. I hope many women will benefit from seeing or reading about that. Kim loves getting dressed and places true value on an industry that so often is only celebrated by an elite and inaccessible few. For me, the wider we spread the message about fashion being an enjoyable and empowering part of all our lives, the more powerfully we can support the industry as a business ourselves.
Does this woman have a story to tell? Kim’s brand of fame is the most modern version of celebrity today. This is fame as a business, fame as an occupation, which has built a phenomenally successful empire. I completely understand why Kim’s career causes debate and raises questions – but I always strive to feature women who are unique and individual – who have done something. Whether you like what she’s done or not, Kim fits the bill.
Could you ignore this woman if you spotted her on Oxford Street? I think you’d look twice, even if you’re not a fan. A magazine cover is the place for a woman who has the power and beauty to stop you in your tracks.
For me, Kim meets all those criteria. But more than that: she’s simply the most famous woman on the planet at the moment and, whether you like her or not, you have an opinion on her. Everyone does. That makes her cover-worthy. I couldn’t ignore an opportunity to feature her and find out more.
Of course, I knew not everyone loves Kim but I know ELLE readers have strong opinions and independent minds; that’s why I love editing this magazine. But aren’t you interested? There is no denying her fame and her powerful influence in society in 2014. Plus, for a Confidence Issue, a woman who has built a career from nothing but herself and her self-belief seemed entirely appropriate.
I think the wider variety of role models we have, the stronger we become as women. That’s a luxury men have always had. Successful athletes, politicians, entrepreneurs, actors, reality stars and activists. There’s should be room for all of these types of women in the world – and I’m proud to say there’s room for them all in ELLE. No one woman can embody all the hopes, beliefs, ideals and attitudes of every woman. But every woman can be true to herself.
I had some amazing letters and mails from young women following our December Feminism issue. But I was surprised by an email from one young woman who wrote that she already felt a failure at the age of 17 because she would never be as brave, bold and smart as teenage Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai.
This made me realise that we have to remember to see something positive in every woman’s success no matter how small or big that is. And we need to create a network of women who reflect many versions of achieveable success both personally and in the media. Variety is the key here, because it creates debate which makes everyone rethink how they do what they do. And that’s what this cover has done.
Our exclusive survey of 5,000 British people last month showed women are suffering from a huge confidence gap, which is why I commissioned this issue and chose to put Kim on the cover – because I felt that elements of her more accessible brand of confidence could be useful to you. There is something new about Kim: about her career trajectory, her looks, her attitude. Take time after reading the issue to work out how you can break the mould – and create a new one, too.
Photo: Jean-Baptiste Mondino