For the first time in over two decades, Oprah Winfrey is nowhere to be seen on the cover of O magazine.
Instead, Breonna Taylor is front and centre.
The decision to place Taylor on the September issue’s cover — one of the long-running publication’s final print editions before it goes completely digital — was explained by Winfrey on the publication’s website.
“She was just like me,” Winfrey wrote. “She was just like you. And like everyone who dies unexpectedly, she had plans. Plans for a future filled with responsibility and work and friends and laughter.”
Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT, was shot eight times by officers with the Louisville Metro Police Department on March 13, after they entered her apartment with a no-knock drug warrant searching for another suspect. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who was there at the time, believed the police were intruders and responded to their entry by firing shots from a legally owned firearm.
Winfrey continued her statement, outlining a personal conversation she had with Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, who was “having a particularly bad day dealing with the loss and the grief of knowing that her daughter is gone forever.”
Winfrey explained that Palmer couldn’t stop seeing Taylor’s face and smile everywhere she looked, and was constantly grieving over the harsh reality that no one had been charged for the “reckless” killing of her daughter.
“Imagine if three unidentified men burst into your home while you were sleeping,” Winfrey wrote, describing the circumstances of Taylor’s death, “and your partner fired a gun to protect you. And then mayhem ... 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.”
The cover illustration of Taylor was done by Black digital artist Alexis Franklin, who explained in another O article that as she was completing the image, “every stroke was building a person,” and she had based the drawing on an original photo that Breonna had taken of herself that had “an innocence, simple but powerful,” within it.
Franklin said that she had previously tried to shut down her feelings around the killing of Black people because she “couldn’t take living day to day in such a state of awareness,” but was forced to confront these emotions when constructing the cover.
“Now I was as up close and personal as I could ever get to this woman and, consequently, to this very real problem,” Franklin said. “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.”
Further investigations following Taylor’s death revealed that no drugs were found at her residence. A lawsuit filed by Taylor’s family states that the suspect police were searching for had already been arrested earlier that day.
None of the officers involved in Taylor’s death have been charged, more than four months later, though Louisville detective Brett Hankison was fired in June. The two other officers are on administrative leave.