How a 24-Year-Old Artist Ended Up Painting Breonna Taylor’s Portrait for an Unprecedented Cover of ‘O’ Magazine

For the first time in its 20-year existence, Oprah Winfrey handed over the cover of her eponymous magazine.

Alexis Franklin drew this portrait of Breonna Taylor for Oprah magazine. Courtesy of Oprah magazine.
Alexis Franklin drew this portrait of Breonna Taylor for Oprah magazine. Courtesy of Oprah magazine.

For the first time in its 20-year existence, Oprah Winfrey is not on the cover of her eponymous magazine. The media mogul has ceded the space to the late Breonna Taylor, asking readers to join the calls for justice for the 26-year-old emergency medical technician, who was asleep in bed when police shot and killed her.

The artist behind the cover art, which is based on a widely disseminated selfie of Taylor, is Alexis Franklin, a 24-year-old Black woman who works primarily as a church videographer. Self-trained, Franklin was determined to capture Taylor’s spirit in the portrait.

“There was a sparkle in Breonna’s eyes—a young Black woman posing in her Louisville EMS shirt, happy to be alive,” she wrote in Oprah magazine. “So many things were going through my mind—Breonna’s life, mostly, and how it ended so abruptly and unnecessarily. Every stroke was building a person: each eyelash, each wisp of hair, the shine on her lips, the highlight on her cheek.”

Franklin’s other high-profile projects include honoring Anita Hill for TIME magazine’s 100 Women of the Year project, celebrating the achievements of women over the past century. (The publication retroactively selected Hill as Woman of the Year for 1991 in recognition in her testimony against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.)

Franklin gained attention through her wildly popular Instagram account, where she shares photos of her finished digital portraits (as well as progress shots on her stories) with her 123,000 followers.

Anita Hill retroactively nominated as Woman of the Year for 1991. Art by Alexis Franklin; Mark Reinstein—Corbis/Getty. Courtesy of TIME magazine.

Anita Hill retroactively nominated as Woman of the Year for 1991. Art by Alexis Franklin; Mark Reinstein—Corbis/Getty. Courtesy of TIME magazine.

Franklin created the Oprah cover art using Photoshop, playing around with several background colors before settling on a rich yellow.

The new portrait is accompanied by a silhouette, also of Taylor, by artist Janelle Washington. The cut paper artwork features 89 names from the #SayHerName campaign, founded by the African American Policy Forum in 2014 to raise awareness of the Black women victimized by police brutality and racist violence.

Janelle Washington, Silhouette of Breonna Taylor. Courtesy of Oprah magazine.

Janelle Washington, Silhouette of Breonna Taylor. Courtesy of Oprah magazine.

Franklin said she tried to avoid news of police brutality in the wake of the 2016 police killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. “But when Breonna Taylor was killed, I couldn’t even try to shut it out. I was uncontrollably angry and hurt,” Franklin said. “I am so happy to play a small part in this long-overdue, world-changing narrative on racial injustice and police brutality.”

“What I know for sure: We can’t be silent. We have to use whatever megaphone we have to cry for justice,” said Winfrey in a column explaining the move. “And that is why Breonna Taylor is on the cover.”


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