In case you weren’t won over to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s personal fan club by his demands for $7 billion per month from the West (read: U.S. taxpayers), maybe this will convince you: a cover story in Vogue!
While war ravages his country — a war which Zelensky insists the West enter — the president and his wife are enjoying their newfound spotlight, posing for a gushing Vogue puff piece with the glossy, dramatic photos to match.
You can both agree the deaths of innocents in Ukraine are tragic and be unsettled by the Zelenskys’ use of that tragedy to bask in the fawning adoration of global outlets. In fact, those two beliefs aren’t contradictory but complementary.
Instead of negotiating a settlement that could likely help cease the death and despair that his citizens are enduring, Zelensky is trying to escalate the Russia-Ukraine war by dragging the West into direct conflict with Russia, a nuclear power. He is milking the world’s sympathy for photoshoots in Vogue while his people suffer. While no one contests that Russian President Vladimir Putin bears full responsibility for the reprehensible war, Zelensky has shown little interest in negotiations that could potentially avoid the long, brutal slog he wants Western dollars to prolong.
I don’t blame the Zelenskys for wanting to draw attention to their struggle. I do blame them for trying to guilt the West into escalating it. And after seeing the Vogue cover story, I blame them for thinking their veneration in the minds of Americans is so sacrosanct that sitting under hair and makeup artists for an almost comically dramatic photoshoot would not make anyone question their sincerity.
“On one day she [Olena Zelenska, Ukraine’s first lady] wore an ecru silk blouse with a black velvet bow tied around the neck and a black mid-calf skirt, her ash-blond hair swept up in a loose bun,” Vogue writer Rachel Donadio gushes. “The next day, it was wide-leg jeans, chunky white sneakers with yellow and blue detailing, a nod to the Ukrainian flag and a fundraising project by the brand The Coat, her hair loose on her shoulders, and a rust-colored button-down shirt.”
“I couldn’t help but think the shirt had the same rusty hue as the burned-out Russian tanks that I saw lining roads in Irpin and Bucha,” Donadio continues in a line that miraculously made it past an editor. How can we make people take the war more seriously? I know, talk about tanks but make it fashion!
In case describing what she’s wearing wasn’t enough, Vogue tells us whom Mrs. Zelenska is wearing. “In this story the first lady wears Ukrainian designers such as Bettter, Six, Hvoya, The Coat, Kachorovska, and Poustovit,” states the caption on a photo of the president and his wife embracing at a table while staring wistfully into the camera. It’s also noted who served the Zelenskys as stylist, style assistants, makeup artist, hair stylist, and producers.
The article talks about how Zelenska listened to Aerosmith and The Beatles as a teenager and about her favorite movies. One photo shows the Zelenskys holding hands at an ornate, inlaid-wood table, with self-portraits of themselves sitting on the furniture in the background.
In another photo, Zelenska poses with her hand in a fist over her heart, every hair perfectly in place as she appears to walk through a war-torn scene, past a bullet-riddled plane painted with the colors of the Ukrainian flag and surrounded by “a group of female Ukrainian soldiers.” That girl-power message is made explicit earlier in the piece, when Donadio quotes a former Vogue editor to say, “The female voices in this war need to be heard, need to be represented.” Because nothing says “taking war seriously” like criticizing war for not involving enough women.
The Vogue shoot comes on the heels of Zelenska’s visit to Washington, D.C. “Whether Zelenska’s visit to Washington yields real results, it was a reminder of the power of image-making. And images matter,” the puff piece said of her charm offensive. The glossy Vogue images do indeed matter to Americans battling inflation and wondering whether billions of their tax dollars helped fund the photoshoot — but perhaps not in the way Vogue intended.