HRH the Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle’s turn as guest editor of British Vogue has garnered attention around the world for featuring women who she describes as ‘forces for change.’ Alongside high-profile leaders such as New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, legendary actor and activist Jane Fonda and author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is Irish academic, disability rights campaigner and fashion-lover Sinéad Burke.
Shot in black and white, Burke poses in a shiny trench coat while looking intense and a bit like the star of a classic film noir movie. Inside is another dramatic black and shot of her with her arms outstretched wearing a simple high-necked dark dress from Prada with a stunning lace shawl draped over her shoulders and flowing behind her. Her words are just as stunning as the images.
Burke has been garnering increasing attention and support for her efforts to make people aware of the many ways that society excludes people with disabilities, including simple everyday things such as finding clothing that looks great. Her keen interest in design and fashion merges with her passion for building a more inclusive society, so this British Vogue cover and article are the perfect platform for her message.
Who Is Sinéad Burke?
Two things about Burke were obvious in her earliest childhood. First, she is a little person. (Specifically, she has achondroplasia and is three foot five inches tall.) Second, she loves education. A third thing became clear later in her youth; she has a passion for fashion. But because of her size, finding dazzling clothing wasn’t as easy as heading to the mall. She graduated college with a degree in education, and she’s been using her teaching gifts far beyond the confines of a classroom.
This issue of British Vogue isn’t her first magazine cover. Before this, she was featured on the cover of The Business of Fashion magazine. And it isn’t her first experience with British Vogue; she’s been a contributing editor before. Her social media presence is on point, weaving together her enthusiasms for style, education and inclusiveness with a fun and genuine voice. Fashion, she challenges us all, should be for everyone because everyone wears clothes. We buy them, so we are entitled to enjoy beautiful clothing and have options no matter what our size or shape. She’s got a gorgeous vision of a world where we all celebrate our unique beauty.
One to Watch
Burke is one to watch. Her social media feed includes selfies with RuPaul, Joe Biden, Will.I.Am and Saoirse Ronan. She’s done a TED talk and attended Davos. Currently, she is working on a PhD at Trinity College Dublin. She is also a member of the Council of State, an advisory body to the President of Ireland. And she’s not yet 30. Whatever Burke does after her British Vogue appearance is sure to be stylish, thought-provoking and extraordinary.
With this increased profile, Burke joins the ranks of Irish people advocating for human rights from labor organizer Mary “Mother” Jones to Amnesty International founder Sean McBride. And like many Irish activists, she does not view her mission as some grim duty but as a holistic challenge that includes art. Many Irish leaders are also writers and artists, so her focus on the visual fits perfectly into that tradition.