According to huffingtonpost.com, musical icon Beyoncé received unprecedented control over the cover of the upcoming September issue of Vogue magazine, and in turn hired Tyler Mitchell, 23, to be her photographer. Mitchell will become the first black photographer to shoot a cover in the publication’s 126-year history.
Vogue, according to two sources who are familiar with the agreement between Vogue and Beyoncé, is contractually obligated to give Beyoncé full control over the cover, the photos of her inside the magazine and the captions, which she has written herself and are in long-form. Beyoncé is also not granting Vogue a sit-down interview for the September 2018 issue, as is typical of its cover subjects.
Mitchell, a New York University graduate from Atlanta, quickly became a recognized name in the art world through his work in Cuba and his featured work on Instagram.
The New York Times’ “Up Next” series featured Mitchell in December. Huffingtonpost.com writes that 23-year-old first gained attention in 2015 with his self-published book of photos, El Paquete, which focused on Cuban skate culture and architecture. Mitchell captured the book’s 108 photos while in Cuba for six weeks as part of a documentary photography program, according to the Times.
It’s a foggy spring night in Paris, and Rihanna has just wrapped up a meeting with her accountant in the penthouse suite of the Four Seasons hotel, a place that will serve as her makeshift office for the next few days. The evening panorama from the terrace is about as picture-postcard pretty as Paris gets, though at this late hour the lights on the Eiffel Tower have long since gone out. Robyn “Rihanna” Fenty is a night owl. Her most intense bouts of creativity often come after midnight, a rhythm she picked up early in her music career. In the dark, soundproofed environment of a recording studio, time is elastic. And when you’re Rihanna, and the world is your oyster, then time is really elastic. It’s perhaps why she doesn’t seem particularly bothered that today’s to-do list is far from done. There is a stack of Fenty Beauty campaign printouts piled high on her desk awaiting her approval; a flood of unanswered emails from Fenty team members in various time zones, all happily waiting on her too. Right now, though, there is a more pressing issue on the agenda, one that demands her full attention: Rihanna has decided that it’s time to fix my love life.
“So wait, you’re on a dating app? You don’t seem like the dating-app type,” she says as her almond-shaped green eyes peer into my iPhone. “Come sit here; you gotta teach me how to do this swipe thing.” Rihanna is all curled up in a cozy hotel bathrobe and has a pair of comfy Fenty Puma slides on her feet, and yet she radiates flawless glamour—hair tousled in loose waves, skin luminous. Though I have taken great pains to put together what I think is a Rihanna-worthy look—Jacquemus blouse, vintage Yves Saint Laurent tuxedo pants—it’s hard not to feel like a tarnished penny next to a freshly minted gold coin as I sidle up to her on the sofa. Rihanna asks if she can take a look through the photos on my app, and I oblige. “What is that dress? Is that vintage Jean Paul Gaultier?” she asks, pausing on my profile picture, a bathroom selfie taken in a swanky Hollywood hotel. “You better werk, girl; you look gorgeous!” I do my best to play it cool, but the little fangirl inside me is freaking out. Hanging out with Rihanna is every bit as fun as her costars in the upcoming Ocean’s 8 movie make it sound: You know you’re in the presence of a superstar, but it’s like you’re chatting with an old friend. “It’s a combination of being starstruck and being immediately put at ease,” explains Sandra Bullock. “She also has this warmth, and when she shines it on you, it makes you feel pretty damn amazing!”
Before long, we’re on the hunt for potential suitors. “This guy is too pretty—if you’re pretty, you at least gotta have wrinkles,” Rihanna says, sizing up a male-model type who’s posing bare-chested on a surfboard. And so we’re on to the next. “OK, and this one is giving me Charlie Manson. No?” I nod in agreement; psychopaths are not an option. After swiping through a dozen profiles or more, she lands on a good one. “Now, this is your type!” she says. She’s not wrong: This man is scruffy but handsome, age appropriate (36), and appears to be gainfully employed (an actor, not my first choice, but hey, nobody’s perfect). “He looks smart, he’s British, and he’s got edges!” (Translation: He’s got all his own hair.) She swipes right, and a message pops up almost instantaneously on the screen: It’s a match! We both throw our heads back and start screaming with laughter.
But don’t be fooled: The giddy highs and lows of singledom are fast becoming a distant memory for Rihanna. Right now, she’s in a relationship. “I used to feel guilty about taking personal time,” she says, “but I also think I never met someone who was worth it before.” Though she’s reluctant to talk about her partner by name, rumors have been swirling around her connection to Hassan Jameel, a young Saudi businessman, since paparazzi photos of her vacationing with a handsome stranger in Spain made the rounds last summer. These recent romantic developments are, however, part of a much bigger sea change for Rihanna, who turned 30 this year. For the first time in her life, she’s fully committed to a healthy work-life balance. “Even mentally, just to be away from my phone, to be in the moment, that has been key for my growth,” she says. “Now, when I come to work, I’m all in. Because before you know it, the years will go by. I’m glad I’m taking the time. I’m happy.”
On the heels of the insanity of making a blockbuster movie, Rihanna somehow managed to launch Fenty Beauty in collaboration with Kendo, LVMH’s incubator for cool new makeup brands, last September. Leading with a range of foundations that cover a full spectrum of skin tones (there are 40 different shades), the brand shook up the beauty industry in ways few currently within it could have predicted, prompting a broader conversation about inclusivity that had long been ignored. The success of her cosmetics line was unprecedented, reportedly racking up a staggering $100 million in sales within 40 days. The wait lists at certain makeup counters continued for months. (I was among hundreds of women who lined up outside Harvey Nichols in London last fall, only to find that my shade had already sold out.)
Rihanna was initially taken aback by the response. She had grown up watching her mother apply makeup, so thinking about foundations for darker skin tones came naturally. “As a black woman, I could not live with myself if I didn’t do that,” she says. “But what I didn’t anticipate was the way people would get emotional about finding their complexion on the shelf, that this would be a groundbreaking moment.” She’s taken the same approach with Savage X Fenty, her direct-to-consumer lingerie line in partnership with online retail giant TechStyle launching May 11th, offering a range of nude underwear that goes far beyond the bog-standard beige T-shirt bra. She’s not alone in questioning the limited notion of “nude”: Kanye West’s debut fall 2015 Yeezy collection featured a diverse cast of models in flesh-toned looks that encompassed a wide range of colors, from palest white to richest brown. Now Rihanna is pushing that idea one step further, shedding light on the frustrations that many black women face in dressing their bodies at the most intimate level. She has said in the past that her biggest regret about the sheer Adam Selman dress she wore to the 2014 CFDA Fashion Awardswas that she didn’t throw on a bedazzled thong, mostly because the nude undies she ended up in weren’t the right match—“not my nude,” as she points out.
It should go without saying that the new line will carry a body-positive message, too. Rihanna’s lingerie models come in all shapes and sizes; they are real women with real bodies who stand as a refreshing counterpoint to the impossible supermodel dimensions that have defined the look of lingerie for decades. Like Gigi Hadid and Serena Williams, Rihanna has been the target of body-shaming internet trolls. Her public responses have been rare, but when she does brush off the haters it’s usually done with a razor-sharp dose of wit: Last summer she posted a hilarious before-and-after weight-loss meme of the rapper Gucci Mane, a tongue-in-cheek nod to her own fluctuations on the scale. Because what could be more sexy than a sense of humor? “You’ve just got to laugh at yourself, honestly. I mean, I know when I’m having a fat day and when I’ve lost weight. I accept all of the bodies,” she says, shrugging her shoulders. “I’m not built like a Victoria’s Secret girl, and I still feel very beautiful and confident in my lingerie.”
The dazzling Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o samples the fall couture collections and talks to Plum Sykes about fame, family, and her four new acting projects.
It’s the Monday morning of Paris Couture Week, and Lupita Nyong’o appears, right on time, from the elevator of Le Bristol hotel. Never mind that she’s come direct from a trip to her native Kenya, which she just happened to combine with an elephant-saving mission. Or that her flight landed only a few hours ago. Or that all her bags were lost en route. She is wearing a dramatically sculpted scarlet Dior minidress, her short hair is teased into a halo and held off her face with an Alice band, and her beautiful skin gleams with health. As she bounces into the lobby, her mirrored, blue-tinted Dior sunglasses reflect a roomful of transfixed admirers.
“Hello-ooo!” she says, her voice deep and warm, as she breaks into a gigantic smile. She removes her sunglasses to reveal wide, dark eyes, sprinkled with glittery silver eye shadow. Her eyebrows are precision-plucked—no Cara Delevingne strays for her. “Really, I’m not tired,” insists Lupita. She’s beaming with excitement. This is her first Paris Couture.
There are few actresses as instantly recognizable as 32-year-old Lupita Nyong’o, who took on the role of the slave girl Patsey in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slavewhile a student at Yale—and went on to win an Oscar in 2014. In one fell swoop Lupita conquered Hollywood, seduced the fashion world, and found herself shouldering the dreams of an entire continent.
A few minutes later we are crawling through traffic, heading to the Dior show at the Musée Rodin. Settling herself patiently in the back of the car, Lupita tells me, “I didn’t know the power of couture until I tried on a couture dress. It made me cry.”
Lupita has an old-school attitude to fashion. She calls pants “slacks.” When I joke about this with her, she responds, “What can I say? I’m a Pisces. I have the soul of an 80-year-old woman inside me.” Long before the world was awed by her movie debut and her Oscar speech, for which she wore an exquisite baby-blue Prada chiffon gown, Lupita was properly turned out. Her first memory of fashion was at age five, wearing her “very eighties red cord miniskirt with suspender straps. Presentation is extremely important in Kenya. You dress formally. You can’t just wear flip-flops. My mother always had her own style. She wore A-line, tea-length flowery dresses, very well fitting. Her nails were always perfectly done.” As a girl in Nairobi, Lupita recalls, “salons were a big feature in my life. We would go every two weeks to get our hair braided, washed, or treated. That’s where I read American, British, and a few African magazines.Then I would design my own clothes. In Kenya it’s much cheaper to get clothes made than to buy them. We would have everything run up by a tailor, or my aunt Kitty, who is very creative, would sew things for me.”
It may seem an unlikely combination, but politics were as ever-present in the Nyong’o household as style. Lupita’s father, Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, now a senator, was for a long period an opposition politician under the repressive Moi regime. He spent three years in self-imposed exile with his family in Mexico, where Lupita was born.
The Nyong’os returned to Nairobi when Lupita was one. The following years she remembers as “scary, but I was at an age where you couldn’t fully understand what was happening.” Her father was at times detained in jail, once for an entire month, and the family “had to destroy a lot of his documents. I wasn’t allowed to go to school. We were basically locked up in the house. The curtains were shut all the time, and we were just burning papers.” She says the experience made her resilient. “I was definitely exposed to some extreme situations. Tragedy is something that I have known and that I have tried to accept as part of life. But I don’t dwell on it. . . . OK! I need to powder my nose!”
We have arrived at the Dior show, and Lupita, her beautiful nose suitably blotted with custom-blended Lancôme Miracle Cushion (she is the newest face of Lancôme), strides confidently across the lawn toward a vast glasshouse that has been splashed with Pointillism-style dots. Photographers snap pictures constantly as she is escorted by a gaggle of worshipful Dior publicists to the front row.
The sublime collection makes me want to throw out every single piece of clothing I own. As Lupita walks backstage afterward to meet Dior designer Raf Simons, she says, “I loved the breeziness of everything, the coats thrown over the dresses.” Her favorite piece is a demure, New Look–inspired green-and-pink print, A-line silk pleated coat. It’s the kind of thing a very, very chic Sunday-school teacher might have worn circa 1952. “I can work a pleat,” adds Lupita. (At Cannes this year she did just that, twirling up the red carpet in an emerald-green Gucci dressthat was a swirl of hundreds of pleats.) Backstage, while the model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and the singer Grimes look patiently on, Lupita is greeted with excitement by Simons. He thinks Lupita is “so radiant and seems to take such pleasure in playing with fashion.” Next, the actress Emily Blunt, chic in white, grasps Lupita’s hand. “I am so thrilled to meet you,” she declares. “I am a huge fan.”
I can’t think of another actress who has appeared in only one major role in an American film and caused quite such a stir. (Lupita also played a smaller part in last year’s Liam Neeson movie Non-Stop.) But, as she tells me that evening, her output will be dramatically upped this fall. We visit the historic restaurant Le Grand Véfour in the Palais Royal for an indulgent dinner. The maître d’ offers Lupita the honor of sitting in Napoleon’s seat—now a plush crimson velvet banquette—and she accepts gracefully. She is dressed in an asymmetric print Dior silk top, skinny black pants, and high heels (all on loan while the aforementioned lost luggage is being located). While we tuck into delicious platters of fish, sorbets, and cheeses, Lupita tells me that she has just spent four months filming a CGI character—a pirate named Maz Kanata—for J. J. Abrams’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, opening this December. “We needed a powerful actress to play a powerful character,” the director explains to me later. “Lupita was someone I’d known a little and was enormously fond of. More important, her performance in 12 Years a Slave blew my mind, and I was vaguely desperate to work with her.”
Acting a motion-capture character was “really bizarre and lots of fun,” Lupita says. “I really enjoyed the fact that you’re not governed by your physical presence in that kind of work. You can be a dragon. You can be anything.”
When I ask her, “How do you act ‘anything’ ?,” she says, “My training at Yale is the core of the actor that I am. Before that I was just going on instinct . . . having my imagination take over. But Yale taught me that it’s about giving yourself permission to pretend.”
An important pretending trick is to dress in the same “uniform” every day while going to and from set. If she doesn’t have to think about what she’s wearing when she’s not in costume, this allows her to focus. When she was recently filming the Mira Nair–directed Queen of Katwe, the true story of a chess master raised in a Ugandan slum, she wore an A-line skirt and blouse every single day because that’s what her character wore. “One amazing thing about filming in Uganda was that on the first day of rehearsal we were all barefoot,” she remembers. “I looked down and all the feet were my complexion. That had not happened to me before. I was reminded that I’m actually not that special. There are lots of people in the world who look like me.”