As though it isn’t torture enough that People Magazine still exists in 2017, recently they’ve completely outdone their routine rewarding of celebrity mediocrity with extensive media coverage, and selected their “Sexiest Man Alive” for this year. As though it isn’t torture enough to have a glorified popularity contest (that I haven’t been able to stomach or respect since the day I was made aware of its existence) occurring annually, no one agreed with this year’s decision and now everyone has to see even more of this nonsense clogging up internet space that could be used for literally anything else and be considered more productive.
The trouble of Blake Shelton not deserving to be named sexiest man alive doesn’t lie in the general opinion that Shelton is only sexy if you’re a proud monthly subscriber of Tractor and Machinery Magazine or even in the fact that the sexiest thing Shelton has ever really accomplished is managing to date Gwen Stefani. The trouble lies in the reach of it all. Since the award’s creation in 1985, there have been two recipients who have not been white men: Denzel Washington in 1996 and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in 2016. No other ethnicities have made the list, except for The Rock being Samoan. It’s draining to have publications diminish the beauty other races in this way — overwhelming stating that white men are the male standard of beauty. It isn’t reasonable or positive to consider them as such. The jig is up.
There can be no argument made against the fact that People Magazine does not care about representing people of color. It never has. Just about every time I have ever seen the magazine, the cover has centered around some fair-skinned celeb doing something unremarkable — or around the royal family, even though they have little to do with this country. There has been some controversy over People Magazine not covering enough Black people, and over their sexiest man alive almost always being an older white man, but none of this has been enough for them to implement any change in their caucasian glorification.
There are thousands of men of color who should have been considered the sexiest man alive before Blake Shelton… or Channing Tatum… or Harrison Ford? It’s like Avan Jogia isn’t real. Dev Patel must never have been born. Kofi Siriboe? Michael Jordan? Does Adam Rodriguez not exist? And the most offensive snub for the award, in my opinion: Idris Elba. The man is aging like fine wine, has a British accent (which I guess some women find attractive for some reason), and is one of the most moving actors of this time in history, and still hasn’t made the cover of the magazine.
There have been 30 years of white men being named the sexiest alive — most of whom were questionable choices and several of whom have even received the title more than once.
This society sells us dreams of diversity in more ways than just throwing two Black men against a sharp white background twice every 32 years. The two non-white men who were considered sexiest don’t even stand to serve as sufficient evidence of diversity. They’re too predictable. Denzel Washington was the first in 1996, and it’s difficult to debate that he isn’t deserving in any way. The other recipient being The Rock was also a safe choice. He is light-skinned, has had all his curly hair shaved off for quite some time now and is racially ambiguous to the extent that one must search the internet to be fully sure he’s Black. He is as close to Eurocentric beauty standards as they could’ve gotten, without forfeiting any of their counterfeit diversity.
Needless to say, Eurocentric beauty standards are dangerous. Perpetuating them is deeply injurious to the self-esteem of people of color, especially children. Everyone is aware of this. Suggesting that white people are the sexiest people alive year after year can only really have a positive outcome for other white people.
In no way am I saying that white men don’t deserve to be represented as sexy. I am a firm believer in the fact that representation matters. I am filled with joy when I see unproblematic people thriving in society. There is just so much value in allowing people of color a positive self image through the privilege to internalize the world celebrating someone who looks like us just for being alive and beautiful. People Magazine hasn’t given us that option. It wouldn’t even be so dispiriting to see people of color neglected if People Magazine would be transparent about intention, hurry along the process, and change their official name to White People Magazine.