Soap Opera Digest : 52 Weeks, One Black Actor on The Cover

We Love Soaps
just released a tally of daytime industry bible Soap Opera Digest‘s last 52 covers and surprise, surprise, no black people made the cut. According to Roger Newcomb, the last black person featured on the cover of Digest was former The Young and the Restless star Victoria Rowell, and that was over a year ago. Coincidently, Conde Nast’s Portfolio reported last year that African-American women make up one of the largest percentages of soap viewers. Hmm, hardly any people of color on soaps, only two or three non-Anglo writers behind-the-scenes, no blacks featured on the cover of the magazines attempting to a cater to a broadcast medium viewed largely by black folks. I’m not a mathmatician, but I think I just might have stumbled upon one hypothesis as to why soap opera are dying.

The faulty logic the flatlining magazine industry has been peddling for years to justify blatantly discriminating against actors of colors is that "people of color don’t sell magazines". Tell that bold-faced lie to Barack and Michelle Obama. Every time the president and/or First Sistah so much as reach for a tissue these days, one of the celeb zines has them on the cover. A sadder example is the Chris Brown/Rihanna saga. These two weren’t worthy of covers when they were blowing up the airwaves, but when one of them allegedly whups the other ones’ ass in the streets of Beverly Hills, suddenly they are cover-worthy. This was also the unfortunate case with Jennifer Hudson. Why did it take this talented black woman’s family being brutally murdered for the Oscar-winner to become of interest to people writing "mainstream" cover stories? Thank God for zines like Upscale, Essence, Ebony and Latina, as well as websites like The Young, Black and Fabulous, for showcasing women of color, whether en vogue at the time or not.

Taking it back to the soap press, you mean to tell me Debbi Morgan, Darnell Williams and/or Kristoff St. John haven’t been worthy of any cover love in over a year? Sure their respective storylines on their soaps haven’t been great in awhile, but that didn’t keep Maurice Benard from getting the glossy, airbrush treatment eight times during the time frame Newcomb reported on. At least the editors of the weekly gossip rags are business-minded enough to put aside their antiquated biases and lopsided Madison Avenue logic, to capitalize on Obama fever. Oh well, I’m sure Ken Corday will explain it all in the next issue of Digest.

Update: After reviewing his tally again, Roger Newcomb discovered a Kristoff St. John thumb shot actually had made the cover once during the time period.

38 Responses

  1. Profile photo of season1217

    Jennifer Hudson has appeared on the cover of “mainstream” magazines well before the tragedy involving her family. She’s one of only a handful of black women to ever appear on the cover of Vogue. I don’t know if even Halle Berry has been on the cover of Vogue.

  2. Profile photo of Smitty

    I can’t say I am all that surprised. The fact that Victoria Rowell was the last black actor on the cover of SOD is sad and it says a lot about those running the magazine. The mainstream media doesn’t value black consumers. I mean look at what the CW has done to Everybody Hates Chris and The Game. These two shows have been banished to Friday Nights and still manage to do decent ratings for the channell considering they don’t give it much press and they don’t promote it but that’s a whole other issue. They can say they have low ratings all they want but I was looking at 90210’s ratings and they have slid tremendously during the season and everywhere you turn they are promoting that mess. Gossip Girl is the CW’s signature show and there ratings aren’t that good. It’s not even the number one show on the network but I bet you couldn’t tell. They barely get a million more viewers than Everybody Hates Chris and The Game. Imagine the ratings of those shows if they took them off of Friday Nights and put it on during the week. Ok sorry for the rant but I am going to try and get back on topic.

    Daytime isn’t going to learn. With an industry that is “dying” you would think they would be catering to the people who are still tuning into this industry. Victoria Rowell has been gone from Y&R for two years now. I am willing to bet that the magazine sales for SOD have been sliding. I don’t watch AMC but you mean to tell me the return of Angie and Jessie the first black supercouple didn’t garner a cover? I hope it did, but if it didn’t they should be a shamed of themselves. I love Nick Newman but how many times do you need to put on the cover him choosing between Phyliss and Sharon. It’s like they are the new Nikki/Victor/Ashley to SOD lord knows they gave them enough covers to last a lifetime. It’s 2009 and not 1909! This is unacceptable and I don’t blame just SOD, the blame also goes to the writers of the SOAPS. I am referring to the CBS soaps now because I don’t watch the ABC soaps. I personally can’t think of a storyline from the CBS Soaps that was interesting enough in the last year to get a cover! Since Y&R is my favorite soap it disgusts me even more. I know I love that MAB and company have taken over the show. It’s great again but they need to get the black story together and they need to do it IMMEDIATELY!!! Ok I better stop before I type something to crazy.

    Sorry for the scatterbrain. So many things were going through my head when typing this.

  3. Profile photo of Jamey Giddens
    Jamey Giddens

    I mean with consistency Season, and was really talking more about the weeklies. I was proud of Vogue for that, but after her family’s tragedy she was on the cover of People and other mags that rarely give blacks covers.

  4. Profile photo of troymcclure

    I am surprised Jessie and Angie didn’t get a cover when they came back. I have never seen them on AMC but even I know what a big deal they were.

    I agree with kennethzach, Don’t see the need for KSJ on the cover unless he is actually involved in a good and big stoyline.

    They really do need to mix it up a bit, not only with race but also with other soaps and actors.

    I am getting sick and tired of Eric Braeden, Allison Sweeney, Maurice Bernard and Joshua Morrow on the cover every week.

  5. Profile photo of bonobochick

    There are Black soap characters? :quest:

    Seriously, there are so few Black characters on soaps in the first place and I can’t think of any who are in front & center storylines. I think the last one I recall is Evangeline on OLTL.

    It’s sad. SOD is obsessed with Y & R covers any way, so I am not surprised they forget about Black soap characters since no one outside of Y & R really matters to them.

    By soap (and I don’t watch them all but I have an idea for most so pls correct me if I have the numbers wrong) the number of Black characters:

    AMC: 4
    ATWT: 3 (I count Dallas & Derek each as half a character)
    B&B: 1
    DAYS: 2 (plus Theo makes 3)
    GH: 1
    GL: 2
    OLTL: 5 (Hank and RJ count as half a character each since they dust them off to come out once in a while. I also counted Destiny and Shaun)
    Y & R: 5


    Seasons, I just googled it and Halle was on the cover of Vogue’s December 2002 issue:

  6. Profile photo of TV Gord
    TV Gord

    I agree with those expressing surprise that Angie and Jesse didn’t get a cover. It would be one thing if the magazine could argue that there weren’t any major storylines for black characters in the past year, but the return of the Hubbards was easily one of the top stories of the year. SOD should be ashamed of themselves, but I wonder how well the other soap mags stack up.

  7. Profile photo of shackfan

    It just proves that VR was right. And it is funny because didn’t i read some where that African American are the #1 soap watchers. Angie and Jessie should have been on the cover when they came back.

  8. Profile photo of Pure_Diva

    I’ve never watched AMC and even I know that getting Angie & Jesse back together was something big and significant. But Black actors and their stories not being featured are no surprise. I’m glad that somebody said something about it. Thanks, Jamey.

  9. Profile photo of Cyberologist

    this is one reason why soaps are dying they are not telling stories for the world we live in today. When African Americans do appear they serve propping duty (just bit day player storylines) with the exception of the Winters who were/are front and center.

    I have never subscribed or bought these rag mags because they show what I see on the TV the total and blatant disregard of African Americans who were extremely loyal soap viewers

    (that’s how I started watching when my aunt and her friends would watch and talk about them).

    With Victoria Rowell, Kent Masters King which is a crying shame her treatment by Frons, Guza and Phelps and Renee Goldsberry…their fans bailed.

    One thing I’ve noticed about African American Soap watchers when they bail they for the most part are gone never to return, that’s it. ABC lost their African American viewers for the most part. Their treatment of African Americans in this genre has not gone unnoticed….we know they do not have characters that are “leads” in top tier lead story under the sweeps umbrella ….when Lainey and Kelly both Drs and best friends of friends of Dr. Robin Scorpio /Dr Emily Quartermaine were left out of Wd UDie4 sweeps when it was an endowment Nik gave to the hospital for Dr. Alan Quartermaine…and a newbie Nadine and Leyla just sashayed right into a sweep storyline it was obvious these actors were being ignored…Lainey (before she was put on recurring) hadn’t had a story or love intrest since Justis got whacked…with the recent exception of the Hubbards…ABC does show their opinion of African Americans and we got the memo.

    So they will bring back the Gannons for a minute or two then they’ll be immediately regulated to bench duty. I would suppose they rarely get a cover or anything of significance in their magazines; I don’t even pay attention to them anymore so I really wouldn’t know.

    Its “always been this way” its not new. Its the same pattern they have played out for decades.

    Blacks have been ignored in daytime but its pretty much the same in this medium across the board.

  10. Profile photo of nysam

    Am I hallucinating? I thought Jesse and Angie had a cover when they married last May? Granted that was a long time ago, but I thought they were on the cover.

  11. Profile photo of CGat

    Yes, Guiding Light has THE most AA actors. But other than the fact that it got on the cover for being cancelled, GL hasn’t seen the cover but probably about 3 times since the turn of the century. Always Y&R. Who gives a flying crap about seeing “The Big Mustache” or another Newman on the cover EVERY SINGLE FREAKING WEEK. And it is sad that it has been an entire year with no AA actors on the cover. SOD covers are very over rated. Soap Opera Weekly generally has a broader spectrum of covers. As a consumer, more interesting, different covers.

    Also Might I note, After the Cancellation of GL, Soap Opera Weekly had a collage of old GL photos on the front, and the whole cover was dedicated to the cancellation of GL. What did Digest give it? A One Liner at the top.

    Digest, shame on you.

  12. Profile photo of Coffee_Junkie

    Am I the only one who hopes Murphy isn’t on the up and up? It’s going to be pretty boring watching him follow Katherine around (*Mr. Chancellor*) all day. Something needs to happen. I’m BORED already. Have Jill overhear him having a sinister phone conversation with someone, and when she tries to tell Katherine Kay tells her to go to hell.

  13. Profile photo of siomonstuart2003

    The AA viewership help Y&R the number one soap for the past 20 years. It is a shame that the industry doesn’t recognize that viewership and now the industry is in trouble. I get why Victoria rowell is piss at Y&R for the treatment of her on the show and it will be their fault for the sagging ratings for the show. I just wish that the bosses would realize that the AA can save the industry, but they wouldn’t until they all be canceled.

  14. Profile photo of kennethzach

    Angie and Jesse rock. I’ve been in love with the whole family since they came back to AMC.

    And the casting of their son was the best casting AMC has done in a very long time. He is so sexy, a great actor, and looks just like them. I’m hoping he gets some Emmy love.

  15. Profile photo of TV Gord
    TV Gord

    Soaps don’t get off the hook completely, though. If there were more minorities in front-burner storylines, they might qualify for covers more often.

    My cynicism about the way soaps treat minorities hit its peak a few years ago when either Eva La Rue or Sydney Penny returned to AMC and the actress playing her mother was trotted out for ONE scene that meant nothing to the storyline…and then a few weeks later it was announced that that actress playing Mama Santos had been bestowed with an award for the positive portrayal of Latinos/Latinas. Shameful.

    If SOD wants to come clean, they should come out with circulation numbers about how well issues sell depending on who’s on the cover. That could be very telling. Maybe it’s true that readers/consumers DO bear some of the blame. Hmmmm, plenty to think about with this topic.

  16. Profile photo of Jillian Bowe
    Jillian Bowe

    Pull this bus over! Jessie and Angie were NEVER on the cover!? WTF!? No way I can’t believe that shit period! I thought for sure SOD had them on the cover. Petitjolie Jack Abbott has an Asian son on Y&R but they have yet to bring him back or even mention his behind!

  17. Profile photo of Susan Lanigan
    Susan Lanigan

    Count me in as surprised that SOD didn’t put Angie and Jessie on the cover for their return. Well, frack that! They’re the reason I even bothered watching AMC again after the show killed Dixie with those damn pancakes! That’s just fracking ridiculous!

  18. Profile photo of monamis

    This Madison Ave myth that people of color don’t sell, is another remnant of the “center right majority generation” which is eating crow after this election.

    The All Black Italian Vogue sold out in 72 hours, not in Africa, but in Europe (Italy, Britain) and America!

    O Magazine, which features a black woman on the cover every issue, is consistently in the top 10 Subscription/Single Copy magazines!

    Soap magazines would have been crazy to feature the stupid Winter’s story lines that were very unpopular with most viewers, but they definitely missed the boat with not featuring Angie/Jessie on news stands.

    There is no way we can continue to have incestuous writing teams that can’t write for people of color like they are human beings, and expect this genre to thrive with demographics changing as fast as they are. Telenovelas are looking better by the day.

    The world and this country too are embracing people of all ethnic groups as beautiful and role models. If the soaps are to expand their audience in this generation, they’ll have to adapt…or they will continue to die.

  19. Profile photo of RogerNewcomb

    Thanks for linking, Jamey. My issue with them about this is – they are the #1 soap print publication. If they believe no African American characters really have story to justify a cover (we all know not everyone that gets a cover does), then THAT is a story in and of itself. How about for Black History Month a cover story on why we have less prominent African American characters than in the past? Or a minority report in general? Let’s see some real journalism on this subject and ask the executive producers and network heads the tough questions.

  20. Profile photo of Cyberologist

    Also, for “home subscribers,”

    a Darnell Williams-Debbie Morgan cover was distributed on the May 27, 2008 issue (newsstands got a DAYS cover with no Debbie-Darnell). So that’s one African American on the cover of SOD at newsstands, one for home subscribers in the past year.

    What’s up with the differentiation here
    home scubscribers vs newstand cover??

    why not both don’t get this one at all

    I recently cancelled soapnet for this very reason. People of color are totally MIA on their channel and their website…

  21. Profile photo of RogerNewcomb

    Cyberologist, a few years back, SOD did some type of survey with home subscribers. They didn’t release the results but apparently there are a number of GL and ATWT home subscribers (I’m assuming the data told them that home subscribers like more than Y&R, DAYS and GH). What they decided is – on some occasions (I’m not sure why or how they pick this), home subscribers get an alternative cover. The week that tiny pic of Kristoff was on the cover, I received Carly/Holden/Lily on my cover at home instead. I did get the Angie/Jesse cover at home but they weren’t even a tiny pic on newsstands.

    If you are a digital subscriber, you get the newsstand cover not the home cover. Most weeks they are the same. The main reason I maintain my home subscription is that it is the only way I’ll ever get a full ATWT or GL cover (or B&B or OLTL).

  22. Profile photo of SoapSlut

    thanks Jamey,
    I am soooooooooooo beyond sick of this point on soaps
    Bold and the Beautiful and GH are the worst.
    General Hospital has wasted so much great talent over the years. The actress that played Dara Jensen
    both actors that played Justus, though I thought the second one was best. Keisha Ward, who got the goods from Jason Quartermaine first, who everyone likes to sweep under the rug and forget was Jason’s first love.
    Abe and Lexie Carver are just window dressings and aside from Lexie’s baby switch/sleeping with Brandon storylines she hasn’t done anything in 20 years.
    Why haven’t they addressed on the bold and the beautiful who Marcus’ real dad is? Why wasn’t he used in the Steffy/Rick story over Ridge? Rick did steal his girl?! And I won’t even get started on ATWT…

  23. Profile photo of siomonstuart2003

    That’s why I don’t blame Victoria Rowell for speaking her my on DC about the lack of diversity and racist attitude in soaps today. Many people criticizes her for speaking her mind, but if Kim Zimmer does it, she gets praise for it. I think it is a double standard and racist attitude about the soaps today and that’s why they are dying. I think that Debbie and Darnell wants to speak out about the lack of diversity in daytime, but they would get backlash for their comments if they do speak up about it. I just makes me not care about daytime soaps anymore or to be invested in it if they don’t see my as a value contribute to the ratings.

  24. Profile photo of LovesDog

    The whole soap industry is stuck in a Leave to Beaver 1950s world. We have an African African President, Iowa of all places has legalized gay marriage, and Hispanics with be the largest ethnic group in about a decade. Yet none of this diversity is reflected in the storytelling or casting. They are writing themselves off the air and those soap mags are helping put themselves out of business by refusing to confront this lack of diversity.

  25. Profile photo of siomonstuart2003

    I love the Ward family on GH and the Winters and Barbers took Y&R to the number on spot for many years because of AA viewership. But the execs are racists and old fashioned and got rid of them and the ratings have fallen on both shows. The Winter family is still on, but the writing for the s/l sucks and the people on their acting sucks too. Bryant M. is the only one who can act and they are bumping him into recurring. Get rid of Can’t act Tyra and Ana and keep Devon on and put him with Colleen. MAB, you are making me mad here.

    PS, Roger, you should also talk about the sexist attitude of the writing and execs on daytime soaps. Why are women still today is made to look like a desperate woman but the men is made to look good? Something is wrong with that picture when they still are writing the show like in the 1950s instead of the 09s. Why the women on GH so desperate for Sonny that it is sad and depression to watch or a woman who can’t get help without a man to save her or a strong manipulative woman who is chasing after a losing of a man? ABC is good of women being portray in a negative light and the men to look like the heroes? Frons, Guza, Pratt, Brad Bell, Ken corday, Dena Higley and other writers are very bad of making women look pathetic in a industry that was design for the strong women to look up to. I also think that the fans have giving up on this industry because of the way they are being treated.

    Hit me back, do you also think that racism and sexism is playing a hand of sagging ratings for daytime soaps?
    Love to hear your comments on the topic.

  26. Profile photo of arielade

    Hi! I’ve been a fan of DC for over a year, but just figured out how to get my account to work! LOL

    Anyway, siomon, ITA about the rampant sexism on daytime, ESPECIALLY on GH! It’s completely out of control. Women and AAs are 2nd class citizens in this genre, yet makeup the overwhelming majority of the audience!

    And now….

    AMC MAY BE KILLING OFF SUSAN LUCCI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I quote from the new issue of SOD:

    “Though AMC Head Writer Charles Pratt, Jr. won’t reveal the identity of the character being killed off this month, he did hint that someone could figure it out by looking at contract expiration dates – and it just so happens that Susan Lucci’s (Erica) one-year pact with the show is set to expire soon. Coincidence?”


  27. Profile photo of soapster

    What is the point of supporting an industry that doesn’t value me as a person. I have no disillusion with the media I know that AA’s are not seen as big draws and I also understand why but you would think that in the soap industry where there is such a huge documented AA audience and with the industry losing so much of their viewers that they would reach out to each and every viewer that they could.

  28. Profile photo of toytoy74

    You took the words right out of my mouth on BOTH of your post. I was so glad that VR spoke up even though she got criticism for it. Hell we have eyes we knew that show was’nt even trying to represent AA peoples lives,but when Kim Zimmer spoke up she got a amen. I believe Jesse and Angie are the hottest thing on AMC right now even though they’ve been relegated to being the background to other characters foreground,they still steal the scenes. The casting of their son was $$,because of his resemblance to Darnell Williams and his stellar acting. I did not renew my subscriptions to SOD, or SOW because of this very thing.(That,and I get all my info from DC now ;)I’m at the point now where I realize we’re not the first viewers to bring this up,and we won’t be the last,but I see now after being a 30 year viewer(im only 34…lol..what can I say my ‘Big Mama” got me hooked in preschool) that nothing is gonna change. The Cordays,Frons,Blooms,and Phelps of the world are too narcissist to admit they have alienated viewers with their lack of diversity,and character development. When I read spoilers on certain tanking shows I cannot beleive what I am reading it is as if they read what the viewers said and did the exact opposite. It’s a freakin’ joke at this point. In this day and age you can’t get a soap to write a decent storyline for a caucasian character what chance in hell do my beloved Hubbards stand. IMO they killed Neil Winters character along time ago. Unless Tyra and singing daughter are gone by like next week, he’s gonna end up so back burner that he’ll pushing JT and Victoria storylines before too long.

  29. Profile photo of marceline

    Update: After reviewing his tally again, Roger Newcomb discovered a Kristoff St. John thumb shot actually had made the cover once during the time period.

    They must have had an intern working on the cover that week…

  30. Profile photo of monamis

    The hopeful thing about the impending death of soaps, is the new entertainment that will take it’s place.

    The world of television, is becoming very flat, and people have shown that with a flip camera, and compelling stories, anyone can make a serial drama.

    So hopefully this will inspire a whole new multi-ethnic generation to tell their stories. Slumdog was a great story, and a great example of the compelling nature of multicultural story telling.

    Apparently the generation of the captive babysitter soap viewers are tuning out, and our children, nieces and nephews have so many more choices that reflect them so much better with more coming down the line.

    Since this old “babysitter” model of “attracting” new viewers will not sufficiently replace the old viewers anymore, maybe they can license some of these characters out to new genres like romance novels or internet short films so that more skilled, modern and less oblivious writers can have a crack at developing them for a viewing public that likes serial drama, but also likes smart writing.

    It would be great to see a young writer’s take on Victor Newman, or a Nigerian film maker tackle the Winters.

    Serial drama remains the best exercise in character development we have in visual media, I’d hate to see some of these great characters die, just because inbred writing teams, don’t see the potential of stepping outside of the soap box.

  31. Profile photo of coloradobeast

    This could have been read as “One Asian American in 52 weeks,” or “One Native American.” Representation issues in daytime affect not only African Americans but other people of color as well, as is the case in society as whole. Also, by mentioning Maurice Bernard, it almost implies that if they are willing to put a Latino on their covers X number of times, why didn’t they do that for African Americans? This fails to take into account that Latinos as well are underrepresented in daytime and that this decision may have had more to do with the show that he was on General Hospital-which receives far more coverage in SOD than a show like AMC.As people of color, we need to all work together because we are all facing similar issues.

  32. Profile photo of Phoenix11

    Guiding Light actually has six. Clayton and Felicia Boudreaux, their children Remy and Mel, Mel’s daughter Leah [Bauer] and Remy’s ex-wife/gf Christina.

    Although we rarely see Clayton/Felicia, Remy/Christina [Chemy] are one of the more popular couples with fans and we want Mel in a frontburner story! I’m guessing with summer coming, we will also see more screen time for Leah.

    But then, until this month, Guiding Light was never on the cover either so it doesn’t really help! :)

  33. Profile photo of River

    All My Children actually has six current black characters (that I’m aware of anyways). I’m too young to have seen the early years of Jessie and Angie but I do know their worthy of better storylines.The writers need to give them a better storyline , I feel like the only time we see them is when their being a family or when Jessie shows up to scene of whatever crime only to talk. Maybe Pinevalley should start importing drugs and guns like the good old civilians of Port Chuck , that’ll give a little more action to the show. =D

    Then again….knowing the writers they’d probably have Jason and Ryan duking it out over Zach and Sonny’s territory.Or maybe Aidan because Ryan’s more of a lame version of Jax.

  34. Profile photo of petitejolie

    The last pseudo-part Asian on Y&R was Ji-Min and he didn’t last very long. A couple years back on AMC, they introduced some Asians and all of a sudden everybody was eating at the local Chinese restaurant.

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