Since the beginning of 2022 when Russian forces invaded Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has made numerous appearances in American media to bring awareness to the ongoing war between two nations.
The war on Ukraine has made headlines for months, with President Zelensky being the poster boy for the war-torn country. News outlets have shown us a distraught Zelensky in military gear, he’s made an appearance at the Cannes Film Festival, and the Grammys has even brought him on as a surprise cameo to rally support for Ukraine. The media has made it a mission for everyone to know about what’s going on in Ukraine. Recently, Zelensky and his wife, Olena Zelenska, were featured by Vogue, causing a divide between users on the internet. It seems that people have had enough of the photo-ops and poses.
What Users Are Saying about the Photoshoot
The tweet showcased several photos of the Zelenskys from their Vogue shoot; Olena looking fashionable in a blue dress with Volodymyr’s arm around her. In another photo, Ukrainian soldiers stand alongside Olena as she looks into the distance, her fingers gripping the collar of her coat as her hair gracefully blows away from her face. In the third image, the Zelensky’s hold hands in a room, with Volodymyr looking serious and staring straight into the camera. In acknowledging these fashion-esque photographs, I can’t help but feel that its intended message of bringing awareness to Ukrainian troops has been overshadowed by the vanity of the shoot. It seems that many others share the same sentiment.
One user, @Irajule13, commented, “Do we even have any Afghans, Iraqis, Iranians, Yemeni, Palestinians, Kenyans, Rwandans - those whose country has been ravaged & torn by wars for DECADES - featured & being on front cover in fashion & lifestyle magazines... looking dapper, clean cut & posh?”
And another comment by @TaraBull808 says, “So our trillions of dollars are going to a Vogue photo shoot in the midst of a war. Makes sense.”
One young girl from Ukraine with the username @kovaleeeva defends the photoshoot by stating, “Each photo carries a story. Our history. Show the face of our president and his wife Elena. And our faces in theirs. Faces that show grief. This is not a model shoot. Not fancy.”
“Not sure I understand what the issue is,” said @cfmann54, “Not buying a Vogue magazine but from the pictures posted, it seems like an attempt to show the human element of the conflict. Even the great leader of Ukraine has an obviously very concerned spouse. Perhaps I’m naive but I don’t see [the] issue.”
I have to admit that there’s something tone-deaf about posing dramatically in front of cameras as your citizens stay behind in your war-torn country. I can’t help but picture the Zelenskys getting their hair and makeup done behind the scenes, Olena standing in front of a fan to simulate a soft breeze in her photos, the camera man cheering them as he captures their picture-perfect poses. While the Zelenskys may have had good intentions, a Vogue photoshoot was probably one of the least tasteful ways to bring awareness to the struggles of grief, war, and pain inflicted on Ukraine.
We can’t put all of the blame on the Zelenskys for this. American media focuses on dramatizing news pieces. It’s as if Hollywood is working behind the scenes on the set of many programs. Perhaps it’s because we love to consume romanticized pieces, regardless of whatever they may be. In the end, Vogue and the President of Ukraine achieved their goal of bringing publicity to Ukraine once more.