Ukraine first lady's Vogue cover shoot was panned. One media expert says it was because it wasn't relatable.

Ukraine first lady's Vogue cover shoot was panned. One media expert says it was because it wasn't relatable.
Ukraine's first lady, Olena Zelenska.Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images
  • Ukraine's first lady posed for Annie Leibovitz in a series of photos published by Vogue this week.
  • The photos have been criticized by some people, including Republicans and conspiracy theorists.

The Vogue cover shoot of Ukraine's first lady was widely panned on social media, with Republicans using it to criticize the US support for Ukraine, and conspiracy theorists to bolster their false claims.

Olena Zelenka, the wife of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, appeared in a series of photos for Vogue taken by the photographer Annie Leibovitz, who traveled to Kyiv for the shoot.

The pictures, which were published in a digital article titled "Portrait of Bravery" earlier this week, will be on the cover of the magazine's October 2022 issue.

One photo showed Zelenska sitting hunched on the marble steps of Ukraine's presidential palace amid sandbags while another showed her standing before the bombed-out remains of an Antonov An-225 Mriya, once the world's heaviest aircraft.

The story sparked backlash on social media, with some people saying it was a bad attempt to glamorize Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine, which appears to have no end in sight five months on.


Conspiracy theorists also latched onto the photos to falsely suggest that the war in Ukraine was fake, the BBC reported.

Some Republicans in the US used them to attack President Joe Biden' for sending weapons and financial aid to Ukraine in the last few months.

"While we send Ukraine $60 billion in aid Zelenskyy is doing photo shoots for Vogue Magazine. These people think we are nothing but a bunch of suckers," Rep. Lauren Boebert tweeted.

Rep. Mayra Flores also chimed in, tweeting: "Biden: Let's continue to send billions of dollars in foreign aid to Ukraine, they need it! Reality: The Zelensky family graces us with a photo shoot to be on the cover of Vogue magazine."

Robert E. Gutsche, a senior lecturer in digital media practice at Lancaster University, told Insider that the photoshoot was "exactly what we'd expect from Annie Leibovitz and from Vogue."


But while it might be visually pleasing for some people — Vogue readers, for example — others might not able to resonate with the "glitz and glam" of it amid the backdrop of a deadly war.

"I think it's that disconnect between the rubble, the blood, the broken economy, the people who have been dispersed ... across Europe and other parts of the world that isn't represented in these images," Gutsche said.

"It's the glitz and glam of war that really doesn't seem to fit here."

Gutsche said that while he believes the media shouldn't just portray images of casualties and blood, "there are lots of decisive moments in the photoshoot that I think are really open for a critique."

Zelenska has since defended her decision to take part in the Vogue photoshoot, telling the BBC on Thursday: "I am using every opportunity to speak about Ukraine. That was a massive opportunity because million of people read Vogue ... To be able to speak to them direct, that was my duty."


She also said the interview was short and only took a "few hours."

"There will be always someone criticizing ... I believe that it's better to do something and be criticized than do nothing," she added.

Vogue did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.