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Why Meghan Markle and Nicole Kidman were missing from British Vogue and Edward Enninful’s final cover that ‘needed almost as much planning as D-Day’

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Already hailed as one of the greatest magazine covers of all time, the photo of 40 of the world’s most famous women required an army of hair and make-up artists and more than 1,000 WhatsApp messages to pull off.

Who else but British Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful could have persuaded Hollywood A-listers including Jane Fonda and Oprah Winfrey to leave their egos at the door to pose alongside supermodels Kate Moss, Cara Delevingne, Cindy Crawford and the infamously tetchy Naomi Campbell?

Victoria Beckham happily perched inconspicuously at the end of a row, while music superstar Miley Cyrus flew 5,000 miles by private jet to spend less than 15 minutes having her picture taken.

In an age when we are inured to computer-generated pictures where people don’t need to be present for a mass photo, this cover was breathtaking in its creation. 

An iconic goodbye! Victoria Beckham has joined Kate Moss and Gigi Hadid as 40 legendary British Vogue cover stars came together for epic shoot to mark Edward Enninful's final edition

An iconic goodbye! Victoria Beckham has joined Kate Moss and Gigi Hadid as 40 legendary British Vogue cover stars came together for epic shoot to mark Edward Enninful’s final edition

Jodie Comer and Adwoa Aboah looked in high spirits as they beamed the for the camera

Jodie Comer and Adwoa Aboah looked in high spirits as they beamed the for the camera 

Miley Cyrus and Kate Moss put on a leggy display in mini dresses for the photoshoot

Kate looked phenomenal

Miley Cyrus and Kate Moss put on a leggy display in mini dresses for the photoshoot 

Some have compared it to The Beatles‘ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover from 1967 with its collage of famous people from Marilyn Monroe to Albert Einstein.

Enninful has said of his valedictory edition cover-shoot: ‘I never expected all 40 to turn up.’

Miley Cyrus, who interrupted a series of showcases at LA’s Chateau Marmont hotel to fly to and from New York in a day, said: ‘To get one of these women on a cover takes months. To get 40? Unheard of.’

The Mail on Sunday has spoken to Vogue insiders and others closely connected with the shoot to piece together the logistics of an event one source joked ‘needed almost as much planning as D-Day’.

Continuing the Churchillian comparison, she added: ‘You have no idea how much blood, sweat and tears went into making this happen.’

The project was so secret that Enninful covered the glass walls of his office in Vogue House in brown paper to escape prying eyes.

He chose the 40, all of whom had been a cover star during his controversial editorship, and personally emailed them within days of the announcement last June that he was stepping down. 

It has been suggested that the Duchess of Sussex, who guest-edited the September 2019 edition of British Vogue, was ‘snubbed’ by not being included. But a source said she was never considered because only women who had appeared on the cover were invited.

Linda Evangelista and Salma Hayek arrived at the shoot together after having a sleepover the night before in preparation for the shoot

Linda Evangelista and Salma Hayek arrived at the shoot together after having a sleepover the night before in preparation for the shoot 

(L-R) Gemma Chan, Simone Ashley, Rina Sawayama, Anya Taylor-Joy, Maya Jama, Precious Lee, Jameela Jamil

(L-R) Gemma Chan, Simone Ashley, Rina Sawayama, Anya Taylor-Joy, Maya Jama, Precious Lee, Jameela Jamil 

Indeed, the only person who had to drop out was actress Nicole Kidman, who was forced to pull out when the Hollywood actors’ strike ended and she had to return to the set of the erotic thriller Babygirl.

The photoshoot was done at Highline Stages in New York’s Meatpacking District, a 45,000 sq ft collection of studios. It is believed the date was December 5, 2023.

American photographer Steven Meisel, 69, a Vogue favourite who became famous shooting his friend Madonna for her explicit 1992 book Sex, had around a dozen assistants helping him set up the photo. He played Tom Jones’s What’s New Pussycat? as the cover was shot.

A source said: ‘The actual picture took just 15 minutes to shoot. Steven is meticulous about planning. He used stand-ins to set up the lighting, so it was simple to get the women to stand in their assigned positions and he was ready to go.’

Casting agent Jill Demling was in charge of wrangling the celebrities. She said she lost count of the number of WhatsApp messages sent as she organised the shoot at 1,000, saying: ‘I was in shock how it even came together. I’m always worried until they actually show up.’

Kate Moss posed up a storm alongside Victoria Beckham and Christy Turlington

Kate Moss posed up a storm alongside Victoria Beckham and Christy Turlington 

Christy Turlington joined Maya Jama, Selma Blair and Precious Lee on set

Christy Turlington joined Maya Jama, Selma Blair and Precious Lee on set 

Enninful and British Vogue’s fashion editor Eniola Dare chose the outfits, sticking to a neutral palate of black and white. 

A source said: ‘Vogue is about fashion but this was about the women. The clothes had to be beautiful but they couldn’t overpower or distract from the women.’

A Vogue spokesman told the MoS that many stars paid their own way to the shoot but declined to say if any got a fee. 

Actress Salma Hayek, who called the image ‘a statement of sisterhood’, jetted in from Paris and spent the night before at the home of her friend, supermodel Linda Evangelista.

Cindy Crawford and her model daughter Kaia Gerber carpooled together from the family’s £12 million Upper East Side apartment.

The call-sheet showed arrivals were ‘staggered’ to allow hair and make-up to be completed without stars getting backed-up.

Models Anok Yai, Iman and Jourdan Dunn arrived first at 8am.

Kate Moss’s daughter, Lila, appeared at 8.30am with supermodels Amber Valletta, Karen Elson and Karlie Kloss.

Moss herself was given a 9.30am slot alongside Cindy Crawford and Maya Jama. Supermodel Gigi Hadid turned up at 10.30am with her three-year-old daughter Khai.

Oprah Winfrey was one of the last to arrive, at 1.30pm, wearing a purple tracksuit. She was given a standing ovation by the crew.

Celebrity make-up artist Dame Pat McGrath, originally from Northampton, was in charge of the overall ‘look’ – described as ‘natural, radiant and powerful’ – while hairdresser Guido Palau, who is said to get paid up to £50,000 a day for commercials, oversaw a battalion of crimpers.

Kate, Cindy Crawford, Jourdan Dunn, Karlie Kloss and Irina Shayk looked incredible

Kate, Cindy Crawford, Jourdan Dunn, Karlie Kloss and Irina Shayk looked incredible 

So how many did you manage to spot? 1. Anok Yai, 2. Kaia Gerber, 3. Naomi Campbell, 4. Dua Lipa, 5. Maya Jama, 6. Kate Moss, 7. Cynthia Erivo, 8. Simone Ashley, 9. Lila Moss, 10. Ariana Debose, 11. Jameela Jamil 12. Oprah, 13. Salma Hayek, 14. Christy Turlington, 15. Selma Blair, 16. Miley Cyrus, 17. Iman, 18. Linda Evangelista, 19. Jane Fonda, 20. Cara Delevingne, 21. Gugu Mbatha-Raw, 22. Gigi Hadid, 23. Adwoa Aboah, 24. Victoria Beckham, 25. Paloma Elsesser, 26. Gemma Chan, 27. Jodie Comer, 28. Precious Lee, 29. Amber Valletta, 30. Adut Akech, 31. Cindy Crawford, 32. Karen Elson, 33. Irina Shayk, 34. Laverne Cox, 35. Anya Taylor-Joy, 36. Serena Williams, 37. Rina Sawayama, 38. Karlie Kloss, 39. Vittoria Ceretti, 40. Jourdan Dunn

So how many did you manage to spot? 1. Anok Yai, 2. Kaia Gerber, 3. Naomi Campbell, 4. Dua Lipa, 5. Maya Jama, 6. Kate Moss, 7. Cynthia Erivo, 8. Simone Ashley, 9. Lila Moss, 10. Ariana Debose, 11. Jameela Jamil 12. Oprah, 13. Salma Hayek, 14. Christy Turlington, 15. Selma Blair, 16. Miley Cyrus, 17. Iman, 18. Linda Evangelista, 19. Jane Fonda, 20. Cara Delevingne, 21. Gugu Mbatha-Raw, 22. Gigi Hadid, 23. Adwoa Aboah, 24. Victoria Beckham, 25. Paloma Elsesser, 26. Gemma Chan, 27. Jodie Comer, 28. Precious Lee, 29. Amber Valletta, 30. Adut Akech, 31. Cindy Crawford, 32. Karen Elson, 33. Irina Shayk, 34. Laverne Cox, 35. Anya Taylor-Joy, 36. Serena Williams, 37. Rina Sawayama, 38. Karlie Kloss, 39. Vittoria Ceretti, 40. Jourdan Dunn

Most women arrived with their own ‘glam squads’, meaning McGrath supervised more than 40 make-up artists.

She told the MoS she felt ‘inspired’ by Enninful, who she’s known since he was 18: ‘Being able to work as creative make-up director for the shoot… was an absolute honour.

‘When you have some of the world’s most iconic talent spanning all age groups, the make-up vision is to uplift and empower their natural beauty and inherent glamour. The result was incredible – an image that will go down in fashion history.’

Photographer Ned Rogers was tasked with taking arty black and white snaps backstage, including a poignant one of Winfrey arm-in-arm with 86-year-old Jane Fonda, who used a walking stick due to an injured foot, which was in a protective boot.   

Another picture showed Cara Delevingne strolling down a hallway wearing a white T-shirt and black ‘granny’ knickers.

Perhaps surprisingly, considering the star wattage and egos, the gossip is that there was no prima-donna behaviour. ‘The mood was celebratory. 

Everyone did what they were asked to do and stood where they were told,’ a source said. ‘At the end, everyone clapped and cheered.’

There was a champagne after-party at Casa Cipriani in Lower Manhattan, where everyone enjoyed views of the Statue of Liberty.

Inevitably, such a high profile piece of celebrity choreography has attracted some criticism.

In London, there has been some carping among staff at Conde Nast, Vogue’s parent company, who have been stung by lay-offs and cost-cutting. 

The company recently moved from Vogue House, its legendary London headquarters, to a less glamorous building in Covent Garden.

Many believe Enninful – who is maintaining ties with Vogue as ‘global creative and cultural adviser’ while being free to take other work – has used his final issue as editor to highlight his impeccable contacts and cock a snook at his boss Dame Anna Wintour. 

Vogue PRs have denied any fall-out between Enninful and Wintour, who was the role model for Meryl Streep’s icy editrix in The Devil Wears Prada.

Pickets protesting at job cuts outside Conde Nast’s New York office have been chanting: ‘The boss wears Prada, the staff get nada!’

ONE insider said: ‘This cover isn’t about the women. This is all about Edward. There’s a reason his nickname is Edward Enninful-of-himself. 

‘With this cover, he’s saying: ‘Look at who my friends are! Look who I can get to turn up!”

The 51-year-old is said to be ‘exploring’ lucrative deals including a possible Hollywood film based on his meteoric rise as a Ghana-born immigrant to Britain, who defied the odds to become one of the most powerful men in fashion.

Though a typical cover shoot for Vogue is said to cost £40,000 to £50,000, sources suggest the budget for the March cover ‘will only be known by a handful of people’ but could be more than £200,000. 

If true, one fashionista said it meant a huge hole had been blown through the budget for the new British Vogue editor Chioma Nnadi.

Regardless of cost, in the world of super-celebrity, as the 19th Century circus owner Phineas T Barnum said: ‘All publicity is good publicity.’

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