Chelsea Manning, the former US Army analyst turned whistleblower, has graced the pages of Vogue magazine’s September issue.
Manning was photographed in a red swimsuit on a beach by acclaimed photographer Annie Liebovitz for the magazine’s 125th anniversary September issue.
The 29-year-old was sentenced to 35 years in prison in 2013 after one of the most high-profile intelligence leaks in modern times. In 2007, while on leave from service in Iraq, Manning sent hundreds of thousands of classified and sensitive documents to WikiLeaks, including the video known as Collateral Murder that showed US military killing dozens of unarmed Iraqi citizens.
Manning came out as transgender the day after she was sentenced. Lawyers successfully advocated for her to undergo hormone therapy while in prison. After six years behind bars, she was released from Fort Leavenworth prison on 17 May when, in one of his final acts as US president, Barack Obama commuted her sentence, saying “justice has been served.” Manning has been living in New York since her release.
In an interview with Vogue’s Nathan Heller, Manning spoke about her childhood in Oklahoma, her parents’ separation, her growing awareness and confusion around her sexuality and gender identity, and her decision to enter the military in 2007 in the hope that it would help her “figure [herself] out”.
She told Heller she accepted responsibility for her whistleblowing actions: “I think it’s important to remember that when somebody sees government wrongdoing – whether it’s illegal or immoral or unethical – there isn’t the means available to do something about it … Everyone keeps saying: ‘You should have gone through the proper channels!’ But the proper channels don’t work.”
She also spoke about her time in prison, the psychological toll of which involved her making multiple suicide attempts and being shut away in solitary confinement.
Since her release from prison, however, Manning’s online persona has been a font of joy and positivity. In spite of relentless targeting by trolls and detractors, her tweets are frequently peppered with rainbows, hearts and smile emojis.
Manning is not the first trans woman to feature in Vogue’s pages, with models and trans women such as Hari Nef and Andreja Pejic having previously featuring in the fashion magazine. Earlier this year, French Vogue made headlines when Brazilian model Valentina Sampaio was revealed on the cover of their March issue – the first time the magazine had featured a transwoman on the cover.
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