Introducing the 2021 Best Performances Issue

It’s a new year. We finally have a new president, and there’s a lot to look forward to. At W, we feel grateful to be able to continue making this magazine we love so much, and are thrilled to celebrate one of the most necessary distractions we’ve had during the pandemic: amazing movies. During 2020, our weekly Monday morning staff meeting didn’t begin with the usual, “How was your weekend?” but instead with, “Have you watched anything great?”

Behind the scenes of the Best Performances shoot, with Tessa Thompson.

Alan Kim and Editor at Large Lynn Hirschberg.


Thankfully, because of the proliferation of home-streaming services, we all had plenty to watch, and with this, our annual Best Performances issue, we pay tribute to the actors who left us in awe: Sacha Baron Cohen as activist Abbie Hoffman in The Trial of the Chicago 7, and as Borat, the fictional Kazakh journalist; the incredible Andra Day as Billie Holiday in The United States vs. Billie Holiday; Riz Ahmed as a drummer who loses his hearing in Sound of Metal; Steven Yeun and Alan Kim in Minari, as immigrants who remind us of the importance of family. At a time when we needed more than ever to escape our daily realities, films transported us somewhere else. And a small silver lining in an unimaginable year was that more intimate works had space to shine. One actor said to me that he had originally thought no one would see his small feature, but due to the lockdown and the resulting delays in production for studio blockbusters, he is now being included in most Oscars prediction lists.

Prada pumps.

Talia Ryder.


Our one-of-a-kind Editor at Large, Lynn Hirschberg, curated the spectacular cast for this year’s portfolio, and at a time when magazine shoots were being canceled left and right, we were privileged to collaborate once again with the incredible photographer Juergen Teller and his creative partner, Dovile Drizyte. The Best Performances shoot is usually three days of camaraderie, fashion, and celebration. This time around, the process was, of course, less ebullient—but the resulting portfolio is nonetheless fantastic, thanks to the trust our subjects placed in us and the precautions implemented by the W team and our production collaborators, who kept us all safe. Celebrating actors is part of W’s DNA, and we are proud to have done so again, despite some very challenging conditions.

LaKeith Stanfield.

Alan Kim.


Best Performances doesn’t apply to just film, so make sure to check out “The Bold & the Beautiful” (page 154), a stunning array of images masterminded by hairstylist Cyndia Harvey and photographed by Harley Weir that celebrates Black hair, beauty, and creativity at its finest. In “What Are You Looking At?” we welcome the photographer Rafael Pavarotti with his beautiful first shoot for W, featuring a new model with a famous last name—Lila Moss. And to wrap up the issue, we give kudos to a very different kind of best performance: For “The Originals,” Jeff Henrikson shot Steve Kornacki, the NBC News and MSNBC National Political Correspondent who got a lot of us through a very long election week. It was only fair to applaud him and his now-famous khakis.

Dominique Fishback.

Special Projects Editor Allia Alliata di Montereale.

Behind-the-scenes photographs courtesy of the W team. Cover images photographed by Juergen Teller.


We hope 2021 will be a harbinger of change and positivity, and that you will enjoy this issue celebrating the best of the best.


Sara Moonves