Zendaya first graced Vogue almost exactly two years ago, in a cover that was a little more doe-eyed, a little more floaty. This one has a flintier edge, from the metallic background to the gold dress — sexy armor — to the more assertive expression on her face. In terms of the progression of how Vogue is presenting her (more in a moment), it makes sense. I just wish I liked it as well. Zendaya can connect with her eyes, for sure, but she seems like she’s fighting a light that’s directly in them. And she looks like she’s standing in front of a shower curtain, or very crinkly plastic sheeting. My kitchen doors are taped off with that stuff right now; she might as well be in my living room.

And I have to say, if I’m gonna nitpick — which I am — I wish they’d scooted the orgiastic PETE cover lines down lower, so that I’m not looking right at her face and then immediately to yet another headline trumpeting a dude running for president. I’m absolutely not saying Vogue or other publications shouldn’t cover the male candidates just because women are running; rather, when your star here is a young woman whom you’re specifically framing as “one of the most politically vocal among a crop of ‘woke’ young stars,” it would be cool optics in that situation to use her cover to chant for one of the women aiming at the top job. Or all of them, frankly. (Besides which, I often feel like Pete is getting covered as if he’s the adorable, kicky mascot of the 2020 race, which is weird and patronizing.)

Anyhoo, back to Zendaya: The first Vogue cover story was a getting-to-know-her piece that, with an impressive array of anecdotes, sold her as the bright, forceful, playful person she seems to be — a perfect “Why should the Vogue reader care about this whippersnapper?” profile. Now she’s more established and taking bigger swings; this cover and profile are pegged to HBO’s Euphoria, a rather grittier gig than anything she’s had before, which does make sense of the harder-edged cover shot (even if visually I’m not wild about the one they chose). Interestingly, both profiles also hang on her family: In the first one, the writer meets her father and quotes him liberally; in this one, they talk while Zendaya picks up her younger nieces from school and then they all hang out at her house eating takeout with Z’s half-sister. There isn’t anything as riotously quotable as the first, but it’s a nice read, and I suspect you’ll come away with the same basic feeling: that she is cool, that you would like her, and that she is a force.

[Photo: Vogue]

Tags: Vogue, Zendaya