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Jonathan Short

Body Image

Allure Magazine’s Tone-Deaf Zoe Saldana Cover

Legendary magazine pulls a tabloid move and trumpets the ‘Star Trek’ star’s low weight.

You probably didn’t know it, but we can now confirm that actress Zoe Saldana weighs in at a feather-light 115 pounds. As Allure describes the Star Trek star in so few words on the cover of its June issue, “Zoe Saldana: 115 Pounds of Grit and Heartache.”

In this digital world, where a website’s survival often comes down to traffic, or the number “page views” and “hits” it gets, many news sites often run sensational headlines to drive clicks. (Not that The Daily Beast would ever do such a thing.) But plastering an actress’s weight on a gossip website or the cover of a magazine, ostensibly without said actress’s permission, is extraneous and in poor taste. We expect as much from the tabloids, but Allure is generally smarter than your average supermarket rag.

Yes, the beauty glossy’s content consists largely of product reviews and tips like “15 Concealers That Actually Work” and “How to Shop for Skin-Care Products”—but it also runs thoroughly researched features and thoughtful pieces by smart contributing writers like The New Yorker’s Rebecca Mead. And Allure’s founding editor-in-chief, Linda Wells, is a force herself, having seen the magazine’s circulation climb from 250,000 in 1991 to more than 1.1 million readers today. As a 2009 Matrix Award recipient, she was one of seven women honored for her work in the communications industry.

It’s hard to imagine the canny Wells approving a cover line that reveals so little about its subject. Since when is it headline-worthy that Saldana is gritty and tough despite being so slight? While we’re at it, we might as well throw her height in there and note that at 5-foot-7, 115 pounds is rather slim indeed.

It’s not yet clear in what context Saldana’s weight is revealed in Allure’s latest profile of the actress, but why draw attention to it on the cover, especially when the magazine has leaked much more interesting things about her on its website? How she feels about being criticized for not being dark-skinned enough after she was cast as Nina Simone in an upcoming film, for instance. “It doesn’t matter how much backlash I will get for it,” she says. “I will honor and respect my black community because that’s who I am.” Or how open she is about her sexuality (“I might end up with a woman raising my children.”)

There’s enough pressure as it is for women, particularly women in the fashion and entertainment industries, to conform to mainstream body-image standards—an issue that Allure has addressed many times in its 22 years of existence. The magazine should know better than to put so much weight on what number its cover girl tips the scales at.

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