Dakota Johnson Elle Cover

The 50 Shades of Grey movie seems virtually guaranteed to either make or destroy the careers of anyone associated with it. For the sake of Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, we hope it does well.

The movie has already gotten Johnson her first big magazine cover. She’s starring in the March issue of ELLE in a distinctly 50 Shades-themed editorial that’s a big get for any young actress, particularly a relative unknown like Johnson. She’s the daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith and she had brief run on NBC’s failed sitcom Ben and Kate, but if her star is rising it’s pretty much 100% about the sexy, sexy movie she’s about to be in. In fact, this is not really a cover about little-known actress Dakota Johnson at all. It is a cover about 50 Shades of Grey, and ELLE makes no bones about that.

dakota johnson elle picture 2

“Now on the cover of ELLE’s March issue…Anastasia Steele, ladies and gentlemen,” the magazine’s Facebook page announced, next to a teaser photo of Johnson in a “spank me” pose wearing a strapless bra, high-waisted blue trousers, and the highest Louboutins we’ve ever seen.

On the cover, the movie’s title is given in a font more than twice the size of Dakota Johnson’s name, and they’ve basically dressed her as a demure 60s schoolgirl who is about to get a spanking. She looks pretty, but you get the sense ELLE would have preferred to just write “Anastasia Steele” on the cover instead of Johnson’s name.

The focus might be more on the character than the actress, but that’s not uncommon when a relative unknown is cast in what is expected to be a blockbuster movie. They’re not letting her out of costume until the DVD is in the can. Rooney Mara got a similar treatment before The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo came out. In her profiles and on her red carpets, Mara was styled as edgy/goth as possible, and she emerged from that press push a bona fide fashion darling. Johnson looks nothing like herself in her new brunette girly-girly look,  but she seems pretty game and fearless in her accompanying interview. Of all the awkward sex scenes in the movie, she said, “I don’t have any problem doing anything. The secret is I have no shame.

If she can do that, she can run around in some fake hair for a while.

dakota johnson elle picture

Fashionista raises an interesting point in that March is the second most important issue of the year for a fashion magazine, after September. Normally that would mean the covers feature the year’s biggest stars in the season’s most remarkable looks. Instead of Angelina Jolie in Dior or Prada, ELLE has Dakota Johnson in a pretty but unremarkable green dress by John Galliano. (The label, not the designer.)

Fashionista’s Dhani Mau writes:

We can’t help but wonder if the magazine had a hard time getting major brands to lend key pieces — that several other magazines were most likely competing for — to a relative unknown starring in a movie based on an erotic novel.

That logic makes sense. And while we expect to see Dakota Johnson looking as innocent and wide-eyed as possible until 50 Shades comes out on DVD, maybe she’ll escape the movie with her career intact and a closet full of borrowed designer clothes waiting in the wings for when she decides to “reinvent” herself with an edgy makeover.

Photos via ELLE