Bono Takes Issue with Vanity Fair

U2 rocker will guest-edit the magazine's July issue, which will focus on Africa and strive to highlight both the positive and negative aspects of the poverty-stricken continent

By Natalie Finn Mar 07, 2007 1:54 AMTags

Bono is taking a page from Vanity Fair. Actually, make that several hundred pages. 

The U2 frontman and activist has signed on to helm the magazine's Africa-themed July issue, which will hit newsstands in early June. making him the publication's first-ever guest editor.

"As guest editor, I want Africa to appear an adventure, not a burden, and put faces and personalities to the statistics we read elsewhere," the Dublin native said in a statement.  

"Five thousand Africans die every day of a preventable, treatable disease [HIV/AIDS]. If [VF editor-in-chief Graydon Carter], his team, and I succeed, the reader will care more about the daily squandering of these noble, entrepreneurial, optimistic lives…people who are familiar to us in every other way than circumstance." 

Or, as he told the New York Times earlier this week, "Africa is sexy and people need to know that." 

Meaning, there's certainly more to Africa than the dour newspaper headlines, sad pictures and grim statistics that are fed to the rest of the world on a near-daily basis, although some would argue that America and other countries are not nearly privy enough to what's really going on within the continent's borders.   

In response to possible criticism that Bono's involvement with a glossy, celeb-driven (albeit journalistically sound) publication like Vanity Fair will serve to make Africa more of a chic cause-du-jour—or, even worse, just a quick page-flip for the idle rich—rather than act as a catalyst for more serious, widespread involvement, the former Nobel Peace Prize finalist didn't sound too concerned. 

"We need to get better at storytelling," Bono told the Times. "Bill Gates tells me this all the time. We've got to get better at telling the success stories of Africa in addition to the horror stories. And this magazine tells great stories." 

Carter, who presided over his magazine's first "Green Issue" last year, featuring George Clooney, Al Gore, Julia Roberts and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on the cover, also sounded excited about what his upscale periodical can do for Africa's image. 

"We'll be telling great stories about Africa's successes and turnarounds," Carter said. "We certainly won't ignore the continent's problems—but we'll cover African music, art and literature. We want to really surprise people in a positive way." 

Besides, Bono, who was honored Friday with a special NAACP Image Award for his dedication to fighting poverty, AIDS and other scourges in Africa, surely won't let this high-profile opportunity to draw attention to the issues closest to his heart slip away. 

The "Pride" rocker already has experience utilizing his star power within the field of journalism, having guest-edited a special edition of the British newspaper The Independent last May and serving as the first-ever guest editor for the French paper Libération in August.  

Also, according to the Times, a private equity group that counts Bono as a partner has bought an interest in Forbes magazine.  

Last year Bono launched the Project Red campaign, which has enlisted culturally relevant retailers such as Apple and the Gap to contribute their proceeds from so-called Red merchandise to fighting disease in Africa.