This week on Every Skin Has a Story: Creatives of Color Take on Beauty, we continue our celebration of Pride month and Juneteenth by welcoming Whembley Sewell, Editor-in-Chief for them Magazine. Whembley is the youngest EIC at a Conde Nast publication and helms its newest brand celebrating the diverse perspectives of the LGBTQ+ community. Whembley has been praised by Anna Wintour. She is a champion for emerging voices, and she is a community organizer whose work expands beyond the digital pages of the magazine. We are excited to be in conversation with, and to learn more from, Whembley Sewell—our upcoming guest on Every Skin Has a Story this Friday June 25th at 10 am PT/1 pm ET.
When we look at fashion, beauty, and popular culture at large, much of America’s style comes from LGBTQ+ culture. Everything from contouring the face, to reimagining the eyebrows, to gender play with women’s suiting and the structural elements of garments that reimagine the shape of the body. Most of what we know to be cutting edge in popular culture comes from queer references. This fact is an amazing thing to celebrate; however, many LGBTQ+ icons creating and building upon these looks have not been incorporated into mainstream fashion or mainstream commerce. Their style is picked up, but their personhood is left behind. Rarely are LGBTQ+ creatives of color acknowledged or compensated for their work or contributions to fashion, beauty or culture.
This unjust reality is slowly changing, and publications like them are helpful toward expediting that change. These platforms support cultural equity, a term that embodies the values, policies, and practices that ensure that all people—including but not limited to those who have been historically underrepresented—are represented in the development of arts policy; the support of artists; the nurturing of accessible, thriving venues for expression; and the fair distribution of programmatic, financial, and informational resources (source: Americans for the Arts).
Whembley shares with Coveteur, “I think a lot of times people separate things into LGBTQ issues and other people’s issues, or issues that only specifically pertain to Black people or only pertain to this group of people who make under this amount of money, and I don’t think that’s true. I think if you want to be a citizen who’s aware of the world, who cares about other people, you need to be constantly taking in information about the entire world around you and be really well informed. Part of what we do is make sure that everyone can be the most informed person, regardless of how they identify, about things specifically going on in the LGBTQ community.”
Whembley uses the scope of the magazine to push the public’s understanding of beauty in fashion and media.
She enthuses, “Turning what it means to be a cover star on its head has been really amazing to me. And to see people feel empowered to bring faces and voices and experiences to the forefront that, again, may not have been celebrated traditionally has also been really cool because I find that a lot of places would cover them a few months later, so it’s nice to be at the forefront of what’s seen as cool instead of ‘these are marginalized people over there in the corner who just need to have their own avenues of engaging with each other.’ Like, no. Whatever we’re covering and whatever we’re celebrating and really passionate about is going to end up everywhere eventually, so that has been a really cool experience to witness.”
Here at Every Skin Has a Story we talk a lot about digging where you stand, which recognizes that the work of social justice can be overwhelming when we think about how many injustices there are in the world. When, however, we focus on our sphere of influence (digging where we stand), we can make change by bringing in new voices, by making important connections, and by redistributing resources across lines of race, class, gender identity and sexual expression.
We are so excited to be in conversation with Whembley Sewell this Friday. We hope you will join us on IGLIVE or revisit the conversation on IGTV at @officalretrouve.