The September issue of Vogue is always a big deal—the annual page counts, trending into quadruple digits, are legendary—but when this year's cover featuring Beyoncé dressed in Marc Jacobs debuted online this week, it was a singular sensation.
It's Queen B's third time to cover American Vogue since 2009 but it's the pop superstar's first September issue. Perhaps hoping to get a little of that break-the-internet buzz that accompanied Beyoncé's surprise album drop in 2013, Vogue released a full multi-media package to accompany the cover, including quotes about B from designers, sneak peeks of shots from the rest of the feature and a moody, faux-retro behind-the-scenes video from the shoot by Mario Testino, who also shot the cover.
The slightly off-putting vibe of the videos, combined with their deliberately grainy, analog feel, look like the trailer of a horror movie about a supermodel who was murdered in a fancy Italian mansion and has returned to haunt it. But that's cool, I guess?
The cover isn't just a triumph for Beyoncé, it's a big moment for diversity in the fashion industry. Beverly Johnson famously became the first African American woman on the cover of Vogue in 1974 (on the August issue, which is basically the opposite of the September issue), but it wasn't until 1989 with Naomi Campbell that a woman of color covered September. Since then, only Halle Berry has repeated the feat solo, in 2010, although Joan Smalls was in the cover as part of a trio of models in 2014.
Beyoncé's wet hair look on the cover—a longer, slightly tamer version of the slick bob she modeled in her performance of "Drunk in Love" at the Grammy Awards in 2014—has already inspired think pieces, too. As Megan Garber notes for The Atlantic:
"And here is that hair, that iconic and chameleon-like hair, looking notably, even aggressively ... un-done. Here is Beyoncé, trading in her normally buoyant locks for a look that, via salt water and/or olive oil and/or mousse and/or gel, is not so much #iwokeuplikethis as #iflattenedmyhairlikethis. Here is Vogue, in its September Issue—with its declaration that Beyoncé is one of THE RULE-BREAKERS DEFINING THE WAY WE DRESS NOW—suggesting that “the way we dress now” involves fabulous Marc Jacobs clothes and fabulously impeccable makeup and, finally, a fabulously un-fabulous hairdo."
It's true that this cover is definitely a departure, especially compared to B's previous covers, which showed her in sleek model mode and later in business lady chic rocking a bouffant. This issue seems to mark a turning point, where Beyoncé will no longer mold herself into whatever box Anna Wintour is trying to portray her as—instead, Vogue has taken its cues from B. The soft pink dress and feminine florals may soften the message, but this is an image of a woman who isn't afraid to declare herself flawless—wet hair and all. What else is there to say? Bow down, America.
The magazine is available now through Amazon and hits newsstands Aug. 25.