As reported in July, Beyonce curated much of the shoot and all photos were taken by 23-year-old Tyler Mitchell, the first black photographer to shoot a cover in the 126-year history of the publication.
In two covers -- one for subscribers and one on newsstands -- Beyonce poses with minimal makeup, which she said was by choice.
“I think it’s important for women and men to see and appreciate the beauty in their natural bodies,” she said. “That’s why I stripped away the wigs and hair extensions and used little makeup for this shoot.”
Each image in the issue contains lengthy captions from Beyonce herself, in which she addresses body image, her marriage, racial representation, her hope for her children and more.
On body image, the mother of three spoke about pressure to get back into shape after having a baby.
“After the birth of my first child (Blue Ivy Carter, 5), I believed in the things society said about how my body should look. I put pressure on myself to lose all the baby weight in three months, and scheduled a small tour to assure I would do it. Looking back, that was crazy.”
The 36-year-old approached things differently after giving birth to twins Rumi and Sir Carter via emergency cesarean section in June 2017, adding that she was on bed rest for more than a month and was swollen from toxemia.
“After the C-section, my core felt different. It had been major surgery. Some of your organs are shifted temporarily, and in rare cases, removed temporarily during delivery,” she wrote. “I am not sure everyone understands that. I needed time to heal, to recover. During my recovery, I gave myself self-love and self-care, and I embraced being curvier. I accepted what my body wanted to be. ...
“To this day my arms, shoulders, breasts, and thighs are fuller. I have a little mommy pouch, and I’m in no rush to get rid of it. I think it’s real.”
Beyonce said that her husband, Jay-Z, was a source of support through it all.
“My husband was a soldier and such a strong support system for me. I am proud to have been a witness to his strength and evolution as a man, a best friend, and a father. I was in survival mode and did not grasp it all until months later.”
Beyonce’s choice to bring on Mitchell was deliberate in order to open doors for black talent, who are rarely seen in fashion photography.
“Until there is a mosaic of perspectives coming from different ethnicities behind the lens, we will continue to have a narrow approach and view of what the world actually looks like,” she wrote.
More from Beyonce in the September issue of Vogue, including her photo shoot with Mitchell, Coachella, her heritage and the legacy she wants to leave her children, is at Vogue.com.