Today, The Guardian’s Weekend magazine and gal-dem follow up their 2018 collaboration with another special issue of the newspaper’s weekly supplement. After a year marked by the Black Lives Matter protests such overt support of diversity is a reason to be cheerful.
Every year at this time, The Guardian Weekend publishes its conversations issue; this year all the exchanges are between people of colour. Singer Mel B meets boxer Nicola Adams; actor pappa Essiedu meets actor/writer Lennie James. While experiences relating to their skin colour feature, there’s as much conversation about sexuality, work and loss.
While this special issue reminds us again how so many magazines ignore people of colour, this year has seen subtle but notable changes. Magazines have quietly got on with increasing the racial mix of their covers and content.
The latest issues of The Gentlewoman and Port are two examples. The former featuring Janelle Monáe as their 22nd cover star is one thing, but inside the issue the white/non-white ratio has significantly changed among interview subjects and models. What I like about this is that it is unheralded, these mags are just getting on with it. And over at Condé Nast Edward Enninful has been busy doing the same at British Vogue.
But representation is only the first step. How many of the editors, writers, designer and other contributors are non-white? Two steps to help change this meet in the Guardian/gal-dem magazine.
The issue includes the winning three entries to the Guardian/gal-dem young black writers competition (chosen from 100 entries), each illlustrated by Ngadi Smart, one of the artists represented by new creative agency Studio Pi.
Set up by creative director Sachini Imbuldeniya, Studio Pi specialises in illustration and photography by those generally denied access to media – people of colour, women, those with disabilities and working class (you may have heard her discuss the agency at magCulture Live this year).
Greater diversity of skin colour in our magazines is step one; we now need that diversity to spread to our offices and studios, as this latest Guardian × gal-dem collaboration reminds us.