Her cover counterparts–Marion Cotillard, Shailene Woodley, Naomie Harris, and Reese Witherspoon–all flash at least some skin. McCarthy, on the other hand, is almost completely covered, her hair partially shielding her face, her hands shoved in an oversized coat that engulfs her frame. Slate calls McCarthy the issue's "token plus-size cover girl"–ouch.
Considering that McCarthy once said she wanted to start a plus size line because she was tired of looking "like a 98-year-old woman or a 14-year-old hooker," we're curious how she feels about the covered-up cover. She did design her Emmy gown in 2011, and while it was also covered up, it was also more figure conscious.
It's no secret that high fashion mags don't always know quite what to do with a plus size woman, probably in large part because the high fashion options stop short of a size 12. When Adele covered Vogue UK, the magazine didn't quite know how to feature her curves (the US version figured it out).
Gabourey Sidibe was one of Elle's cover girls for the 2010 Hollywood issue–and the glossy received plenty of flack for the way it cropped Sidibe (not to mention accusations of white-washing). When the actress recently appeared in Harper's Bazaar, she appeared similarly covered up in a leather coat and headdress. Octavia Spencer covered the Hollywood issue (again, cropped) last year–only her cover wasn't available on newsstands.
So perhaps Elle will feel it is a huge step forward to feature a full-length shot of McCarthy rather than the standard close-crop. And McCarthy isn't the first plus sized woman to cover Elle this year; Adele scored a cover of its Women in Music issue.
Still, it will be a welcome change when a plus size woman can be featured on the cover of a major glossy wearing the same on-trend looks as her straight size counterparts–and when she isn't just one part of a multi-cover issue.
Update: According to US Weekly, Elle has issued an official response to the controversy surrounding the McCarthy cover:
On all of our shoots, our stylists work with the stars to choose pieces they feel good in, and this is no different: Melissa loved this look, and is gorgeous on our cover. We are thrilled to honor her as one of our Women in Hollywood this year.
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