“I don’t have time for nonsense”

by Kitty Drake in March 2020
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Art & design Fashion & style

The cover star of The Gentlewoman’s twenty-first issue is Caster Semenya — the Olympian currently prevented from running middle-distance races under a controversial ban requiring women with naturally high testosterone to take hormone suppressants in order to compete. It is a statement to put Semenya — who has been told she is not a woman — on the cover of The Gentlewoman, and this statement is made with an elegance that befits her. Pictured smiling, dressed in Gucci and diamond studs, she is assured: “‘I don’t have time for nonsense.’ She looks exasperated. “If I want to be a leader, if I want to be a better person, I have to let go of whatever happened. I cannot undo it. I cannot change it.’”

On the second page of the magazine, there’s a beautiful, black-and-white photograph of Semenya’s back. Captioned “the view every other 800-metre-runner dreads”, it’s one of Gentlewoman’s characteristic editorial quirks. A fashion magazine with a reputation for graceful profiles and little nudity, this is a magazine that remains consistently surprising, and consistently unique, without ever stooping to shock-tactics. Fashion stories zero in on one detail of an outfit — in this issue it’s the ‘twist’ in your knitwear (“from jumbled jaquard to the loosest crochet loops”). Later, there’s a full shoot devoted to the photographing of just one single wallet.

But the highlight of this issue is Kathy Burke. It’s a Q&A, which is almost better than a written-through feature when the interviewee is this fabulous. My favourite quote: “I wasn’t in the pub much in my late 20s because I’d sort of fallen out of love with drinking on account of it turning me into a bit of an arsehole.”


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