notes on diversity: elle's women in tv.

Jan 14, 2016

As Mic News put it, "There's never been a better squad assembled." For their annual Women in Television issue, Elle featured five beautiful actresses, all of whom are gathering heightened attention for their work on American television shows. Among the five featured are Priyanka Chopra (below, left), an Indian actress who stars on the show Quantico, and Taraji P. Hension (below, right), of Empire fame. With the covers released, the magazine included quotes from each actress, speaking of her experience in the industry or as a woman in general. Chopra, for example, said, "Why should a woman have to pick between global domination and having the love of her life?" Her words lead to the idea of women having to choose one of the two: a career or a personal life, a concept that is quickly and thankfully fading away. The idea of women "having it all" is becoming more accepted in society, and as Chopra implies, rightfully so. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, most known for Seinfeld, spoke about a similar idea, asking why there aren't enough "meaty" roles for women in television and film today. Each of these actresses play central roles in their respective shows; their presence is either key for the plot or they are the lead actresses themselves – such as Chopra. 

Chopra's cover, particularly, stands out to me, perhaps because I've been a biased fan for years. In her show, the actress plays an Indian-American FBI agent; the show is known for breaking a lot of "barriers and stereotypes", with a wonderfully diverse cast. Chopra is known for her role in Bollywood, more than anything else, with an impressive amount of movies under her belt. The South Asian community has embraced her wholeheartedly, and this year, so has much of America. Earlier this month, Chopra won a People's Choice Award, and thanked America for "accepting" her.
In previous years, Elle was scrutinized for the lack of diversity featured and, when shown, its poor execution of it. In 2015's Women in Television issue, the only cover with a woman of color – Mindy Kaling – was shot in black-and-white, a fact that was not taken well by most of the media. Kaling's cover was noticeably different from those featuring her counterparts, though it could have been "a complete coincidence". Nonetheless, the magazine stepped up its game this year, with a brilliant line-up of television actresses – three out of five being women of color.  While Elle is being applauded for the diversity featured, it is important to acknowledge the foundation of this annual issue: celebrating and empowering women. The diversity in this line-up of women was much-needed, but once we see this, we have to see what the issue is truly about. Elle has dedicated an issue, consistently, to those who are paving the road for future generations of women in this industry. As they are garnering praise for the diversity, it should also be said that they are chronicling a new era of women in television, and women as a whole. 

On the other hand, the film and television industry in America still has a long way to go. This year's Oscar nominations are a clear sign of that, with all twenty nominees being white. The fact that Elle's covers are creating such a rippling effect is somewhat troubling, if you look at it in another way. It goes to show that their showcase of diversity is a pleasant surprise, when, really, it should be the norm.

– M


  1. Beautiful photos :)
    Maria V.

  2. I was very pleased when I saw that there were 3 women of colour in their lineup this year. I love Priyanka Chopra, I'm a big fan of hers. After watching her in 'Fashion', I fell in love with her. I'm also a big fan of Taraji way back from when she starred in I Can Do Bad All By Myself . In fact, I'm a fan of all the women featured, haha. Great post. xx

  3. Really great article, Meera. You have such a way with words! All of these actresses are paving the way for women and it's nice to see them recognised. I am particularly a fan of Taraji P. Henson - She is such a talent and I have fallen in love with her on Empire! Thoroughly enjoyed reading! Happy new year, btw! xo

  4. I loved that Priyanka was on the cover along with these impressive women. However, why do the diverse women have to share the covers? Most covers on magazines like Glamour or Elle feature caucasian women, alone. I can't wait until at least half the covers each year feature one diverse woman per issue.

    xx Yasmin


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