When they decided to print special collectors’ covers for the magazine’s September issue, all about “icons of change”, the publishers of Elle knew immediately who the stars should be: the actors Kristen Stewart and Amandla Stenberg, both of whom have made headlines for their refusal to conform to traditional notions of sexuality; the singer Zayn Malik, who walked away from One Direction, the biggest pop band in the world, at the height of its fame; and the transgender model Hari Nef.
Nef’s cover is arguably the most radical of the four. It marks the first time a transgender woman has been on the cover of a major commercial British magazine. But beyond that it showcases 23-year-old Nef’s striking, singular beauty, the way in which she combines the stylish androgyny of a 60s French starlet with the heavy-lidded gaze of a silent-era movie star.
“I’d seen Hari walk the catwalk for Gucci and she seemed to highlight everything that is changing about the world right now,” said Lorraine Candy, editor-in-chief of Elle UK, adding that the magazine also employs a transgender woman as a columnist, Rhyannon Styles, who writes about her experiences as she transitions.