I almost choked on my tea when I came across Shabeau’s Spring 2016 cover as I was scrolling through my Facebook timeline. It was a cover I was honestly not expecting, but was absolutely thrilled to see. I even remember thinking for a split second that perhaps the image was photo-shopped and floating around online. It wasn’t. It is the real deal. First Lady Sandra Granger, my favourite Guyanese First Lady to date, is Shabeau’s latest cover girl.
The cover, which features the First Lady in an emerging designer’s piece, has created some excitement on social media. I feel most people are just generally excited to see the First Lady of Guyana re-shaping the way she communicates. It’s a very modern take, which many would appreciate. There is a beaming sense of pride when you see it, even if you don’t like the general aesthetic of the cover photo. While I haven’t read the accompanying feature, the cover photo and styling are very symbolic and we should all pay close attention. Here are a few points to note:
In keeping with the growing trend of magazines to scout first ladies and royal women, I applaud Shabeau for putting Guyana’s First Lady on the cover of this edition which commemorates Guyana’s 50th Independence Anniversary. We need to see more personality from political figures. Magazine covers, endorsements, snap videos are great ways to do this as people connect on different levels. I also applaud the First Lady for agreeing to be on the cover. It is the seemingly revolutionary attitude she has adopted that I am in love with and I only hope it doesn’t end here.
Sandra Granger has kept elements of her signature style, which basically sums itself up as ‘sleeveless favoritism’. If you follow royal and political style you will see some shifts in style among the women who fall under those portfolios.
The Duchess of Cambridge, who recently graced the cover of British Vogue flipped the switch on status quo dressing for royals. She mostly wore casual, utilitarian-like clothing for the shoots, which is a relatively huge spin off from Princess Diana. Nevertheless, she appears much more approachable and like the average gal.
Our First Lady didn’t alter herself too much to prove a point, which signals a sincere attitude; a very important thing to maintain when one is constantly in the public eye. While Shabeau is not Vogue, and I don’t expect intense cover critiques from them it was nice to see them melding in the right direction with the First Lady, endorsing her ‘Sandra’ style.
Emerging designer vs seasoned designer
The choice of designer for the cover was absolutely on point. While the First Lady appears in a Pat Coates ensemble on the inside, the Marcie De Santos gown on the cover is a huge step in the right direction. Whether it was the decision of the creative team or the First Lady herself or a collaborative decision by both parties, it was brilliant and strategic. I find that emerging designers are often pushed to the back of the class when it comes big publicity opportunities like this one. This signifies a sense of transparency for equal opportunity for all and also the First Lady’s interest in industry go-getters. It says that she understands the sharing of publicity when it comes to talent and this is why it’s a fantastic choice. It sends a distinctive message to the creative industries that we need constant fresh talent and she will be supporting that talent.
Challenging the stereotype
This one is personal to me. I see the First Lady’s agreement to grace the cover of Shabeau as an endorsement that women can be focused on being ‘book smart,’ while still having a creative flair. I personally feel that in the Caribbean, women are more respected when they choose careers in medicine, engineering, law or politics. While education is very important and this must be respected, it can also fuel intellectual snobbery.
A woman can prance around in heels and be a mother and have a career in medicine or she can be a nail technician – it should not make her any less respected. When Sandra became First Lady, I kept hearing “that lady has her degrees and she worked at Caricom.” The way it was being said, it was as though she needed those qualifications to be First Lady. She didn’t.
The world needs a variance in careers. It needs people who follow their dreams. A woman who has a strong interest in fashion or the arts is no less valuable than one who sits as CEO of a big company. Sandra challenged that perception, whether consciously or unconsciously, by gracing the cover of Shabeau and I’m so grateful for that. It meant so much to me personally as I am always crucified for having a Masters in a fashion-related field.
What we need to see as Caribbean people is a truly balanced shade of beauty which will have to include women of all walks of life. Much respect to Shabeau for understanding that.
While I have my contentions with Caribbean-based fashion and lifestyle magazines as regards their cover aesthetics and content I will leave those issues on the back burner for today as they are beside the point in the grand scheme of things. Shabeau and Sandra have together delivered a blow to stereotypes of all sorts. Things are swinging in the right direction.