How Lizzo and Vogue set a New Standard for Equality and Inclusion

When the October 2020 issue of Vogue arrived in my mailbox, I was shocked. Maybe a little appalled. 

I’m not a subscriber. Don’t get me wrong, I think the fashion industry is… interesting. I’ve seen Devil Wears Prada (twice). But honestly? Glossy magazines represent a perfume-infused dream world – fashion, makeup, models, skipped meals – that is not even close to my reality.

And yet the universe (or the postal service) must have known I needed this issue because, wow, that Lizzo cover brought tears of joy to my eyes. It was stunning. I looked around to see if any of my neighbors were watching. Then I bit my lip, took a gander inside, and was even more impressed.

True equality is more than skin deep; what’s inside counts double

For years, I’ve struggled to get clients and colleagues to turn their words into useful action. Yet no matter the volume of my cajoling, most executives never leave the comfort zone of task forces, underfunded ERG programs, and boasting about “making a difference.”

Then suddenly (angelic choir sound effect) here’s Vogue (Vogue!) teaching us all about not simply including everyone in a conversation but actually doing something about it. 

Not merely tolerating or showcasing minority perspectives. But actually inviting underrepresented people into the inner circle. Giving these ladies the same seat at the table that others have historically taken for granted. And even fluffing the pillows before they sit down to lean in.

Sure, a lot of consumer-facing businesses are starting to talk about diversity and inclusiveness. And that’s good. But Vogue put those words into action for all the world to see. Yes, Virginia, Vogue produced a magazine that not only had Lizzo on the cover, but … every, single contributor was a woman of color. 

Did they run a big, splashy ad campaign patting themselves on the back for doing this? No. Did they hire influencers to draw attention to their inclusivity? No. They just did it.

Equality isn’t a special event; it’s something we do every day

Inviting historically underserved and underappreciated leaders, producers, and creators such as Black women and other women of color into our work is not just “in vogue” right now. 

Inclusiveness is something we should be doing every day without a second thought. That’s how change is made and success built. 

We don’t change by issuing press releases about inclusion and diversity, forming task forces, or showing “deep concern.” Not really. That’s all surface stuff, decoration. 

The real work of true change means infusing our everyday activities with concrete, tangible actions. Regular, recurring efforts that make inclusivity something we always do. 

We don’t need special guests, we need diversity of membership

Take a moment to put yourself in an underrepresented person’s shoes. They could be Jimmy Choos or comfy Uggs, doesn’t matter. If you were someone who had struggled your whole life to be included, invited to the conversation, what would you want?

Would you want to be called out or paraded around like a showpiece? A one-off special guest? Of course, not! That would be humiliating and embarrassing. 

What you would want is to be included, just like everyone else. To be valued for your perspectives, contributions, opinions, and insights. Even though, or rather, expressly because, they are different, unique, and beautiful. Lizzo beautiful.

Here’s the best part. Having historically underrepresented and underappreciated people and perspectives all the way in “the club” makes all of our lives immeasurably better. And that’s not hyperbole. Research consistently shows true diversity results in greater success.

So here’s your Cindy Courage Challenge for the day. Find an opportunity in your workday to invite the contribution of a woman, person of color, anyone who is seen as “other.” And don’t tell a soul what you did or why you did it. 

Then do it again tomorrow. That’s how we can use our power and privilege to change the world for the better. 


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