Hitting newsstands August 11 is the first Oprah-less O magazine cover. Oprah Winfrey gave up her cover spot for the first time in the magazine's 20-year history to honor Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old who was killed this past March by Louisville police officers.
Here is part of her explanation on why she put an illustration of the young murder victim on the cover:
Breonna Taylor was 26 years old. Breonna Taylor loved cars and treated her 2019 Dodge Charger like a trusted friend. Breonna Taylor loved chicken any way you could cook it. Breonna Taylor put hot sauce on everything, especially eggs. Breonna Taylor appreciated every kind of music and the dances that went along. Breonna Taylor treated all her friends like besties. Breonna Taylor was a force in the life of her 20-year-old sister. Breonna Taylor felt meaning and purpose in her work as an emergency room technician. Breonna Taylor was saving to buy a house. Breonna Taylor had plans. Breonna Taylor had dreams. They all died with her the night five bullets shattered her body and her future.
I think about Breonna Taylor often. She was the same age as the two daughter-girls from my school in South Africa who've been quarantining with Stedman and me since March. In all their conversations I feel the promise of possibilities.
Their whole lives shine with the light of hopefulness. That was taken away from Breonna in such a horrifying manner.
Imagine if three unidentified men burst into your home while you were sleeping. And your partner fired a gun to protect you. And then mayhem.
What I know for sure: We can't be silent. We have to use whatever megaphone we have to cry for justice.
And that is why Breonna Taylor is on the cover of O magazine.
I cry for justice in her name.
Working as a digital portrait artist, I reimagine an existing image and can quickly switch moods or colors. The original photo is one Breonna took herself and has been featured in the news many times. Looking at it, I see an innocence, simple but powerful. It was critical for me to retain that. And there was a sparkle in Breonna's eyes—a young Black woman posing in her Louisville EMS shirt, happy to be alive. I started by sketching out the concept first using Procreate for the iPad. At this stage, I get familiar with the pose and figure out the colors—they're my absolute favorite thing to play around with. Using Photoshop, I did a rough painting of Breonna, solidified my color choices, and, in the process of creating the final portrait, focused on the texture and details.
So many things were going through my mind—Breonna's life, mostly, and how it ended so abruptly and unnecessarily. Every stroke was building a person: each eyelash, each wisp of hair, the shine on her lips, the highlight on her cheek. I had that season when I chose to shut down my feelings around the killing of unarmed Black people because I couldn't take living day to day in such a state of awareness. Now I was as up close and personal as I could ever get to this woman and, consequently, to this very real problem. I felt a new level of determination and pressure to get it right, but I tried not to let that affect me. My greatest work happens when I simply enjoy it and let my hands do what they know how to do."