Vanity Fair has announced that their September issue's cover will feature a portrait of Breonna Taylor, the Louisville, Kentucky EMT killed in her apartment by police acting on a "no-knock" warrant. The cover art was done by Amy Sherald, former first lady Michelle Obama’s portrait artist, and is part of a special issue edited by best selling author Ta-Nehisi Coates.
The issue dives into being Black in America and the Black Lives Matter movement. Sherald told the magazine that she saw Taylor as “American girl, she is a sister, a daughter, and a hard worker,” adding when it comes to who she crafts her portraits on, “those are the kinds of people that I am drawn towards.”
The artist also viewed the opportunity as a way to keep the “moment and to activism—producing this image keeps Breonna alive forever.”
Sherald says she studied Taylor’s photos and read up on her story and life in order to create the image she had not only in mind but that she wanted to portray on someone whom she had never met.
“She sees you seeing her. The hand on the hip is not passive, her gaze is not passive. She looks strong!” Sherald said. “I wanted this image to stand as a piece of inspiration to keep fighting for justice for her. When I look at the dress, it kind of reminds me of Lady Justice.”
Also in the issue is an essay by Taylor’s mom, Tamika Palmer, who wrote, “Breonna was everybody’s sister and daughter. As easily as this happened to Breonna, it could’ve been anybody else’s child.”
The issue also features photos of Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who was with her the night she was killed. The issue also unveils the engagement ring that Walker planned to use to propose to his girlfriend.
Palmer, who spoke to Inside Edition Digital in June, said that Walker was planning on marrying her daughter.
“[It was] hilarious to watch the two of them. Breonna bosses everybody around. Not just Kenny, everybody. I was saying to Kenny, ‘Don't let her boss you around. Don't let her talk to you like that.’ He said, ‘Oh, I'm [going to] marry her one day.’ I'm like, ‘Okay, if that's the punishment you want,’ but he absolutely adored her, and that's all he would say,” Palmer recalled to Inside Edition Digital.
The images inside the issue also feature the bullet holes in the apartment and features Taylor’s sister, Juniyah Palmer, standing between the exterior windows where he sister was sleeping.
The cover of the magazine was unveiled on “CBS Sunday Morning” over the weekend. Editor-in-Chief Radhika Jones and guest editor Coates discussed the special issue.
“It felt like somebody handed me a responsibility,” Coates said. “Obviously I was flattered, I was enormously humbled. But I felt like it was a charge, like somebody said, 'Okay, now you have to …' You know what I mean? Go and fulfill that. Because if you don't, you're gonna be the guy that made Toni Morrison wrong! How would you like that? You want that to be your legacy? And I don't."
The special issue is called “The Great Fire,” named after a poem about white Chicagoans who disliked the influx of African Americans in their city in the early 20th century.
Taylor's Vanity Fair cover marks the second magazine cover she will posthumously grace for September, following the final issue of Oprah's "O" magazine.
In documentation previously obtained by the Louisville Courier-Journal, police were authorized to carry out a “no-knock” warrant on Taylor’s Louisville, Kentucky, home on March 13 as part of a narcotics investigation on a home 10 miles away. Neither Taylor nor her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, were the investigation's target. Police had suspected, though, that Taylor’s home was used to receive drugs.
Authorities said they identified themselves, despite the “no-knock” warrant. Police said the officers were “immediately” met by gunfire when they entered Taylor and Walker's home, at which point they returned fire.
Walker called 911 during the ordeal and he was informed he'd shot an officer. He was initially charged with attempted murder, but his charges were later dropped after he said he shot in self-defense thinking he and Taylor were victims of a home invasion.
In the wake of Taylor's death, the city has banned "no-knock" warrants.
In June, Officer Brett Hankison was fired from the Louisville Metro Police Department; he is currently contesting his termination with legal council. Officer Myles Cosgrove and John Mattingly have been reassigned. None of the officers have been arrested or charged in Taylor’s death.