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The biggest Vogue of the year, the vaunted September issue (832 pages, four pounds, three ounces), is now on the stands. On its cover is arguably the biggest star of the moment, Beyoncé.
Among celebrity profiles, Vogue is very nearly the holy grail. Submitting to a top-tier magazine profile means a peek behind the well-guarded curtain, a soul-baring interview plus a few hours gamely spent on publicist-arranged fun. For Vogue, they have fed elephants (Reese Witherspoon), browsed Birkins (Anne Hathaway), even wept, albeit over onions cut in a cooking class (Scarlett Johansson).
It is part of the bargain struck between celebrities and the news media, where face time and a few juicy first-person revelations are traded for a starring role.
But inside Vogue’s September issue, Beyoncé says not a word.
The magazine’s photo shoot with her is accompanied instead by a short essay on her star quality by Margo Jefferson, who won a Pulitzer for criticism while at The New York Times. “It was definitely posed to me as … call it a think piece if you want,” said Ms. Jefferson, reached by phone. “I had no contact with her camp.”
This is unusual for Vogue. A review of five years’ worth of cover articles indicates that she is the only celebrity cover star not to submit to some type of interview (and on the occasion of her two previous Vogue covers, in 2009 and in 2013, she did). When models appear on the cover, as in the case of last September’s issue, they typically do not get the same profile treatment, but even the “Instagirls” of September 2014 — Cara Delevingne, Karlie Kloss, et al. — answered a few questions online. Not only did Michelle Obama agree to an interview when she appeared on the cover in 2013, she even brought along her husband.
It may be unusual for Vogue, whose representatives declined to comment, but it is no longer unusual for Beyoncé. At some imperceptible point around 2013 to 2014, she appears to have stopped giving face-to-face interviews. A member of her team told a reporter in May that despite numerous appearances, she had not answered a direct question in more than a year. Her publicist declined to clarify this stance. (When Beyoncé does answer questions, it tends to be in writing or, for TV, taped.)
If she is avoiding the news media, it is not avoiding her. Her music scales the charts, and her media domination continues on her terms. In her not-talking mode, she has appeared on the covers of, and in lavish photo shoots, for Time, Out, CR Fashion Book and T: The New York Times Style Magazine. For these magazines, working around a silent star has required dexterity. CR Fashion Book had the poet Forrest Gander “remix” written statements from her into a kind of free verse. Out profiled her team, the long-serving and devoted operators of the Beyoncé machine (and was granted a Q. and A. with her by email).