May 2015 Editor's Letter: Beauty with Attitude
W's editor-in-chief talks about the future of beauty.
Forty-five years ago, in one of her famously imperious memos, Vogue editor in chief Diana Vreeland inadvertently summed up some of her thoughts on beauty. She had run into an interesting girl in an elevator and decided to bring her into her fold. Vreeland felt that her new protégée had “the makings of a good model—strength and ease in getting off the ground,” even though she had not yet “learned how to smile or to use her eyes or to make herself extraordinary with her face.” And although she was “not pretty,” she did manage to “pull together perfect bones in an aristocrative [sic] manner.”
Vreeland was, in fact, referring to Tonne Goodman, currently the fashion director of Vogue, whom the writer Holly Brubach profiles in “Sister Act”, along with her sisters: Wendy, the design editor for New York magazine, and Stacy, a senior consultant for pre-Columbian art at Sotheby’s. The Goodmans are living proof—as Vreeland astutely intuited—that beauty is about far more than being beautiful. It is about how we present ourselves to the world and the spirit with which we approach what surrounds us. Tonne, Wendy, and Stacy reached the top of their respective fields not because of their looks but because of their individuality, intelligence, and grace. “There was freedom to pursue the interests you loved,” Wendy says of the sisters’ culturally enriching New York upbringing. “And never this pressure of ‘What are you going to become?’ ”
All of the powerful women in our annual Beauty Issue seem to have followed a similar path to success. Our cover star, Charlize Theron, left her native South Africa to be a dancer in New York but wound up in Los Angeles and became one of the most daring actresses of her generation. In “Mad Beautiful”, she talks about, among other things, shaving her head for her latest role, as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road. In “Total Look”, we meet four global design powerhouses who push boundaries by promoting risk-taking talents and by masterminding living spaces full of personality. And to showcase the best of the pre-fall collections, we turned to Kate Moss, who broke all the preconceptions of what a model should look like when she started out, 27 years ago, at age 14. Thanks to her contagious laugh, cooler-than-cool personal style, and boundless energy, Moss is still at the top of her game and has appeared on the cover of W more than anyone else. In “Piece of Kate”, the photographer Craig McDean attempts to quite literally deconstruct her inexplicable allure.
For other examples of beauty transcending convention, check out the striking transformations that Beauty Director Jane Larkworthy orchestrated for “Role Call”. Actresses Mia Goth (a new face of Miu Miu), Bel Powley, and Arielle Holmes were photographed using the classic before-and-after setup of makeover magazines—only in this instance, both images are equally arresting. The idea is not to attain an abstract, manufactured idea of beauty but to find a way to explore a different sense of self. Mrs. Vreeland would be pleased.