A 21-year-old photographer has become the youngest person to shoot a British Vogue cover in the magazine’s 104-year history: Kennedi Carter, from North Carolina, photographed Beyoncé for the style bible’s December issue, which features three different covers.
Beyoncé’s appearance in the magazine comes with a rare interview conducted by Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful. Speaking over Zoom, the musician, fashion designer and producer said she felt “absolutely changed” by the events of 2020. “I have learnt that my voice is clearer when I am still. I truly cherish this time with my family, and my new goal is to slow down and shed stressful things from my life.”
She continued: “I came into the music industry at 15 years old and grew up with the world watching, and I have put out projects non-stop. I released Lemonade during the Formation world tour, gave birth to twins, performed at Coachella, directed Homecoming, went on another world tour with Jay, then [directed film] Black Is King, all back to back. It’s been heavy and hectic. I’ve spent a lot of time focusing on building my legacy and representing my culture the best way I know how. Now, I’ve decided to give myself permission to focus on my joy.”
It is not the first time Beyoncé has spoken about experiencing pressures related to ambition. Her 2013 self-titled album opened with the song Pretty Hurts, about the pain of perfectionism. (Incidentally, she sings: “Vogue says thinner is better.”) The message behind that album was “finding the beauty in imperfection”, she said in an official clip about the album’s making from 2013.
She said at the time: “You get this trophy, and you’re like: ‘I basically starved. I have neglected all of the people I love, I conformed to what everybody else thinks I should be. And I have this trophy. What does that mean?’ The trophy represents all of the sacrifices that I made as a kid. All of the time that I lost being on the road and in the studios as a child, and I just wanna blow that shit up.”
Speaking to Enninful, Beyoncé also discussed the increased focus on Black and African creatives and culture in her work in recent years, a shift she attributed to giving birth to her first child, Blue Ivy, in 2012. “It became my mission to make sure she lived in a world where she feels truly seen and valued,” she said.
After having her son, Sir (twin to a girl, Rumi) in 2017, “I felt it was important to uplift and praise our boys, and to assure that they grow up with enough films, children’s books and music that promote emotional intelligence, self-value and our rich history,” she said.
Enninful said: “Everyone always wants to know what it’s like to work with Beyoncé and her incredible team, and the answer is: flawless. A perfectionist to the core, more than anything she wanted her British Vogue moment to be filled with positivity as this trickiest of years draws to a close.”
The cover coincides with the release of Beyoncé’s latest Ivy Park range in association with Adidas: items from the new collection feature on the cover that shows her in a bucket hat. In 2018, she bought out Topshop boss Philip Green from the label after he was accused of racial, sexual and physical abuse, claims he denies.
Beyoncé last appeared on the cover of British Vogue in 2013. She has seldom done press in recent years. In 2018, she wrote her own cover story for US Vogue, opening up about the difficulties of giving birth to her twins in 2017 and discussing her insistence that Vogue hired an African-American photographer, 23-year-old Tyler Mitchell, to shoot the cover – the first in the magazine’s history.
Her mother, Tina Knowles-Lawson, recently criticised US Vogue for the lack of Black photographers in its pages. In an Instagram post, she praised British Vogue’s September 2020 issue, which featured Black activists on the cover including the footballer Marcus Rashford and the model Adwoa Aboah, and was shot by Misan Harriman, the first Black male photographer to shoot the magazine’s cover.
Knowles applauded Enninful, “this wonderful man … for boldly putting out beautiful activists on the cover. When will American Vogue step up and hire more Black photographers for cover shoots? We’re waiting …”
In response to a recent New York Times report in which Black staffers called for her resignation, and which revealed that she had used a racist term while discussing a photoshoot, US Vogue editor Anna Wintour said: “I strongly believe that the most important thing any of us can do in our work is to provide opportunities for those who may not have had access to them.
“Undoubtedly, I have made mistakes along the way, and if any mistakes were made at Vogue under my watch, they are mine to own and remedy, and I am committed to doing the work.”
• Read the full feature in the December issue of British Vogue, available via digital download and on newsstands 6 November.