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Memo Pad: People Are Talking About... Soon To Be a Ph.D Thesis..

Vogue is getting lots of buzz for its decision to put NBA star LeBron James on the cover of its April Shape issue — but perhaps not the kind it was hoping for.

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PEOPLE ARE TALKING ABOUT...: Vogue is getting lots of buzz for its decision to put NBA star LeBron James on the cover of its April Shape issue — but perhaps not the kind it was hoping for. James, the first African-American male ever to appear on the magazine's cover, is shown with his mouth open in a hulking pose while holding model Gisele Bündchen by the waist. But the image has been compared by some to King Kong sweeping away a helpless white damsel in distress and triggered debate on "The Today Show" on Wednesday morning as to whether it is offensive. James, meanwhile, said in Sunday's Cleveland Plain Dealer that he was fine with the photos, and a spokesman for Vogue said: "The Shape Issue celebrates athleticism from start to finish. LeBron is on the cover with Gisele because he is a basketball star and he was photographed in that spirit. We think LeBron and Gisele look amazing together on the cover."

But several African-American editors and critics polled by WWD were more critical. Men's Fitness editor in chief Roy Johnson was taken aback by James' image, but also reflected on the larger issue of the lack of sensitivity at mainstream magazines to stereotypes. "It's a reminder that as African-Americans, we have come very far to have an African-American male featured on the cover of Vogue, but we have very far to go to continue to educate people within our industry regarding the power of images and the potential impact they can have on their readers."

Emil Wilbekin, editor in chief of Giant, also said he felt the cover didn't accurately reflect the athlete, describing him as "cool" and "gentlemanly." Wilbekin just finished a yearlong consulting project with Microsoft as a reporter and blogger for James' Web site, lebron.msn.com, and followed the player through the NBA finals, to China and various events such as his appearance on "Saturday Night Live." "The fact the best NBA ballplayer is on the cover of women's Vogue is a step forward," Wilbekin said. "But when I saw the image, I was a little disappointed."

Bethann Hardison — who has mounted a campaign for more diversity in fashion — also believes the cover reflects a lack of judgment on Vogue's part in deciding to use that image. '"Him, there with his mouth wide open, there could have been another shot. There are enough people talking about it that find something about it uneven."
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