Where Have All the Models Gone?

In the furor over the surprisingly glam Susan Boyle Harper’s Bazaar pics that came out recently, some of you may have forgotten early rumors that she’d be on the mag’s cover rather than an inside feature story.

Well, I wrote about the rumors for another site a few weeks ago and the readers there haven’t forgotten. Instead, I’m still getting diatribe-esque comments, many of which have been taken down because they were a hot mess that violates site commenting policy. Honestly, I didn’t think I was saying anything everyone wasn’t already thinking when I wrote that the idea of Susan Boyle on the cover of high-fashion mag Harper’s Bazaar was insane.

I may not be popular for saying this, but I, for one, would rather see models on the covers of magazines. Let me explain.As women who call themselves “short and plump” go, Susan Boyle is amongst the best. That I acknowledge. But she of the grandma-approved floral dresses, wiry eyebrows and “inner beauty,” just doesn’t make any sense for a fashion mag cover. It’s not because she doesn’t fit the typical “cover model criteria” — i.e. thin and hot — but rather that she doesn’t know much or seem to care much about fashion. And while that particular rumor ended up being false, it makes us think about other cover photos that were similarly remiss, if more attractive in the conventional sense.

I’m talking, of course, about the vast majority of celebrities who end up on the covers of various fashion mags. Why are they there? Some, like Sarah Jessica Parker, are fashion-obsessed. But others, Cameron Diaz, for example, are just pretty faces, aren’t they? And if you’re just going for a pretty face, why not return to the days of yore when legitimate models adorned magazine covers?

There’s such a difference between model covers and celeb covers in terms of how interesting they look and I, for one, am looking for something fantastic when I buy a fashion mag. If I want to see J.Lo in another tight dress, I can look online or at a tabloid. Or last month’s magazines.

A model cover generally brings much more to the table. Whether it’s Jourdan Dunn on the cover of “The Black Issue” of Italian Vogue or Vanessa Paradis in a red swim cap for French Vogue, these are the images that stick. Whereas being challenged to recall a particular celeb cover over the years would require some serious Google-aided cheating.

Aside from the very obvious differences between celebrities and models, there’s one key element that makes model covers more exciting, and it has nothing to do with fitting into a 00. Celebrities are branded. Changing their appearance beyond the gimmick of something like W making Ginnifer Goodwin “hardcore,” instead of cute, decreases the celeb’s value for the magazine. Even when the clothes change, editors still want the reader to know exactly who the celeb is.

Models, on the other hand, are meant to be a blank canvas, ever-changeable muses according to the vision of the stylist and the requirements of the production. So Beyoncé will, in almost every shoot, look more or less like herself or alter-ego Sasha Fierce, whereas Natalia Vodianova went from looking like herself to nine other models over the course of a single photo shoot.

You tell me: What’s more interesting from a fashion perspective?