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“Where the white women at?” asks Cleavon Little in “Blazing Saddles.” Obviously Cleavon didn’t have a subscription to Vanity Fair.

Looking at the cover of Vanity Fair’s March edition — you know, the Oscar-season paean that features “up-and-coming” neophytes better described as “young” and “underfed” white chicks — I found myself channeling Madeline Kahn from that same Mel Brooks film:

“I’m tired.”

I’m tired of how, age and weight aside, these arbiters of taste have once again managed to step on every race in America other than the one they’re clearly catering to by featuring 12 white women on their cover.

VF’s attitude was particularly insulting this year, as the wave of hope and change should be firmly set in motion. Did the couture mafia at Conde Nast miss the recent revolution that made equality stylish? Was the leading lady of the most popular films in history left off this cover because she is blue?

I understand that the Vanity Fairies are not running a summer camp to raise the self-confidence of American women — because with confidence, why on earth would we need 312 pages of “buy this or you’ll never be accepted”? But along with all that authority on style and taste, don’t periodicals have any sense of responsibility to avoid removing entire races of people from the pretty pile?

Now please don’t think that I missed the great deal of thought that went into the Vanity Fair cover displaying a dozen white girls. Even with my untrained eye, I did notice that redheads are perfectly book-ending the can-can line. Surely that took more than one art director to imagine. And with serious study I also found that along with the beige and the gray fabrics gracing every size 2 and 4 on that grassy knoll, there is also one stripe of blue. What an amazing feat for the world’s top stylists. And lest we forget: the isosceles placement of brunettes. Yet, all this ingenuity did not camouflage who was missing from this cover.

Frankly, the juncture I love in an actress’ career is rarely her second or third starring role in a studio movie. What makes a leading lady into a star is the role she is allowed to play differently. Like Vera Farmiga’s work in “The Departed” — which may have led to her success in “Up in the Air.” Or Zoe Saldana’s in “Avatar” this season. If she isn’t up and coming, then who is?

Perhaps Freida Pinto, America Ferrera, Alexis Bledel or Ziyi Zhang is. And, of course, Gabourey Sidibe, who doesn’t fit either of the requisite size or color molds to be on this cover — but is, perhaps, the greatest “can-do” story of this century for actresses. Do women really have to just swallow the fact that it’s harder to put a plus-sized black woman on the cover of Vanity Fair than it is to put a black man in the White House?

Here is the real cause for my distress with this Vanity Fair “issue”: I have two daughters, neither of whom is as white as I am. My girls are only 1 year old and a generation away from choosing a profession, yet I already fear the day they consider doing what mommy does. (Nepotism is one of the few perks an actress has to offer her offspring.)

I shudder at the impossibility for my half-Korean women in film — talented, thin, young, beautiful or not — based on Vanity Fair’s cover statement. All the education and experience I could provide my daughters will never make them as lily white as Mary Magdalene. And if auburn hair is the only variation allowed at the next supper of Hollywood’s up-and-coming apostles, then my girls, and a majority of those in America, are still out of luck.

(Diane Farr is known for her roles in “Californication,” “Numb3rs” and “Rescue Me,” and as the author of “The Girl Code.”)


–Distributed by Tribune Media Services

  1. john on Monday 1, 2010

    you are so right!

  2. Uncle Len on Monday 1, 2010

    aunt noreen just showed me your website .Im smiling because i remember you most i guess you where 17 or so…………all grown up now and mom to 3 beautiful babies. I didnt gt to talk to hyou very much last time I saw you ,,,,,,,hope to sooln . Love uncle len

  3. Dan on Monday 1, 2010

    This is another fine piece of writing that deals with a topic so important for young women in our society. I find I am becoming a bigger fan of you as a writer than as an actress and I have a very high regard for you as an actress. Can’t wait until your next contribution.

  4. Nickie K. on Monday 1, 2010

    This is an awesome piece and so true. Where can i find your column?

  5. Louis on Monday 1, 2010

    Go to the mother of the mixed race kids! my children are half Dominican and half Chinese.

  6. Terrence Earl on Monday 1, 2010

    This is such a good point to address. I really appreciate you addressing that it is harder for a black woman to be on the cover of a “white magazine” than it is for a black man to be in the white house. But the tea party is doing all they can to remove him too…

  7. Naomi Wright on Monday 1, 2010

    Not just any black woman — a plus size black woman, who therefore has no value in Vanity Fair’s society.

  8. Diane Farr on Monday 1, 2010

    thank you Nickie. You can find it across the country in many newspapers… or right here. if you tell me what city and state you live in, i’ll tell you what is close. DF

  9. Diane Farr on Monday 1, 2010

    Your kids sound de-licious. DF

  10. sef on Monday 1, 2010

    excellent diane!!

    check out “killing us softly: advertising’s image of women”

    miss you!

  11. Diane Farr on Monday 1, 2010

    Merci beaucoup mon ami. going to you tube now – will be back to you soon…

  12. czech girl on Monday 1, 2010

    you are so right and so funny

  13. Kia on Monday 1, 2010

    Is this true? were they really all white? how could they be so blatant?

  14. Diane Farr on Monday 1, 2010

    yes. yes. yes.
    the publishing world is nothing if not zenophobic of any race but the pale one

  15. ciao on Monday 1, 2010

    this is a terrific point! I wish i had seen this at the time!

  16. Diane Farr on Monday 1, 2010

    I hope it won’t still be a valid point next February…

  17. egor on Monday 1, 2010

    I hate magazines. why does every cover have to even be an actor? can’t we make someone else important? someone who doesn’t go to make up for hours everday and get paid for it? no offense Diane

  18. Diane Farr on Monday 1, 2010

    Go egor. i’m with you no offense taken. I would like to see nobel prize winners on mag covers with supermodels very close to licking them. df

  19. fullocolor on Monday 1, 2010

    I hate Vanity Fair now

  20. Nicole on Monday 1, 2010

    Gabourey Sidibe is now on the cover of Elle Magazine. That’s awesome!

  21. Diane Farr on Monday 1, 2010

    I can’t wait to see it!

  22. Deborah on Monday 1, 2010

    Sorry for my bad english. Thank you so much for your good post.

  23. Diane Farr on Monday 1, 2010

    I never liked the group Bad English myself