Hollywood and the fashion and beauty industries go hand in hand. Traditional beauty operates within a narrow scope, generally suggesting that women are seen as objects, and not heard as creators or innovators. This makes it more difficult to achieve diversity and impacts the quality of work produced (See also: SNL).
Women are especially confined by these standards. Each year, the faces of dozens of young ingénues are splashed across magazines and exist in other spaces as red carpets posers, event hosts and product spokespeople for the season’s latest glamour gimmick.
But then there are those that break their mold. Every so often, a new cultural darling emerges from the tiny boxes set by the industry and secures a place for herself. The media rewards her for her ability to “overcome” or “transcend” the racial/cultural/image-based norms with dedicated feature stories, elaborate photoshoots, and one-on-one interviews to find out exactly how she got to be “her.”
Fashionista is now reporting that legendary Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour is trying to charm Lena Dunham into doing a cover for the industry-defining Conde Nast glossy.
Dunham, the writer, creator and lead actress for HBO’s cult favorite Girls, is often celebrated for her wry intellect. But Dunham–whose weight and body type are much more typical of the average person than most of what you'll see on screen—has been the subject of much fodder in the media for unapologetically appearing nude on screen.
Dunham’s show has appeared within the pages of Vogue before. But to have her appear on the cover of the mag, which tends to skew toward waifs, signals a small shift in the balance of female power in Hollywood.
Dunham is much like Tina Fey in that regard: Her financial power as a creative producer forces change in the conception of what it means to be a woman in Hollywood. Fey had two TV deals secured within a week: NBC picked up a comedy she produced while Fox committed to a pilot. Following the success of the 2013 awards ceremony, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has announced that Tina Fey and her former SNL costar Amy Poehler will return to host the Golden Globes for both 2014 and 2015.
Talk about job security.
Producer/writer/director Issa Rae (whose successful web series “The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl” was also picked up by HBO), is another example of a woman who dares to be funny on her own terms. Despite Kenan Thompson’s obtuse assessment of black women in comedic roles, they are out there. Creating.
ABC can also credit the non-traditional presence of a woman at the helm to the success of their network. Shonda Rhimes’ Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice have been flagships on the network, rivaling for NBC’s uber popular E.R.
Rhimes’ latest hit, Scandal, has been nothing short of ratings gold for ABC, catapulting its star, Kerry Washington, into the stratosphere as the first black female lead in a network drama in nearly 40 years. Washington, like Dunham, has been the subject of numerous profile stories, including Vanity Fair, Elle, Essence, The Washington Post, and The New York Times.
The cultural tide is shifting with diversity adding a great variety to the stories that are told and the images we see on the covers of magazines as we head to the check-out aisles of the supermarket. The outliers are quickly becoming the cool kids and TV is better for it.