International fashion publication Vogue revealed Malala Yousafzai as its cover star for the British edition for July 2021, leaving social media users in raptures over the Nobel laureate’s stunning photographs and the magazine’s decision to feature her on the cover.

“I know the power that a young girl carries in her heart when she has a vision and a mission – and I hope that every girl who sees this cover will know that she can change the world,” Yousafzai tweeted with a link to the interview on Tuesday.

Twitter users praised Yousafzai’s photos, saying they were “iconic” and “graceful”. The photos released on British Vogue’s social media accounts feature the activist on the cover with the title “The extraordinary life of Malala: Survivor, activist, legend”.

The magazine’s profile of Yousafzai captures her prolific achievements and also covers a breadth of personal topics such as her next move after Oxford and the possibility of finding a partner.

The interviewer writes: “She is certainly winning. Worldly yet guileless, she is the first to suggest we take selfies together, and is never less than sincere. Our conversations almost always come back to the subject of girls’ education, not in a tedious way, but because it sits forever at the forefront of her mind.”

When asked if she would consider a career in politics, Yousafzai is quoted as saying: “It is not something I have rejected completely.”

In the photographs, Yousafzai wears headscarves and loose tunics by renowned fashion labels Stella McCartney, Gabriela Hearst and Michael Kors.

“The headscarf, she explains, is about more than her Muslim faith,” reads an excerpt from the interview.

“It’s a cultural symbol for us Pashtuns, so it represents where I come from. And Muslim girls or Pashtun girls or Pakistani girls, when we follow our traditional dress, we’re considered to be oppressed, or voiceless, or living under patriarchy. I want to tell everyone that you can have your

own voice within your culture, and you can have equality in your culture,” Yousafzai is quoted as saying.’

Twitter users also praised British Vogue editor in chief Edward Enninful for the decision to feature Yousafzai on the cover. Ghanaian-born, west London-raised stylist Enninful was appointed to the position in 2017, becoming the publication’s first Black editor.

Though a handful of users pointed out the publication’s role in pushing unhealthy standards of beauty for millions of women, one user said: “I am not a fan of Vogue for its exploitation of the female body. But this month they got it right. This is what #beauty looks like.”

Culture critic and writer Hamna Zubair said Yousafzai’s Vogue cover is a step forward for South Asian and Muslim representation.

“Malala being featured on the cover of Vogue, a magazine that traditonally celebrates a quite narrow and Eurocentric brand of beauty, is a significant win for South Asians and Muslims. The fact that she’s wearing a headscarf makes the prize sweeter. After all a few months earlier a proposed bill in France suggested a ban on headscarves in certain public places... but seeing Malala glowing on the cover of Vogue in a headscarf counters the notion that overt religious or cultural symbols are necessarily always oppressive,” Zubair told Dawn.

Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2021

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