In an unprecedented move, British Vogue has named its May cover star not only the most stylish man of the year but also the Most Influential Man of the year.

The cover of the prestigious fashion magazine’s May issue — a month before the Cannes Film Festival — depicts the British actor Robert Pattinson in a dazzling array of ensembles. The 41-year-old portrays a sophisticated Everyman who’s not afraid to experiment with style, and it seems that fashion fans agree: this month’s cover is the best yet.

“It’s the most eclectic array of clothes I’ve ever seen on a man,” says Neiman Marcus fashion director Lucy Roberts. “He looks like a mixture of Joe Abercrombie and Mick Jagger. It is such a unique combination. One moment he looks like Joe Abercrombie, the next like Mick Jagger and in another he could be Edward Burne-Jones. It is really amazing.”

The photoshoot that followed was such a creative process. The team went through multiple looks both on and offscreen before settling on the cover image. Most notably, Robert experimented with different hair and makeup styles, and even donned a full-body gorilla suit — which was completely seamless. He also stuck around for the entire shoot, which lasted 12 hours. “Usually we do a photoshoot and then we leave,” says makeup artist Dermot O’Leary. “But, with Robert, we stayed and had a few drinks and then ate dinner. It was like a day out with friends.”

For fashion fans, the cover is a dream come true. Not only does it feature one of the most famous men in the world, but it also marks a significant moment in Vogue’s history, as the publication is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year.

Robert’s Biggest Challenge

While the cover is undoubtedly exciting, it’s not all champagne and caviar. Behind the scenes, the actor was facing one of the biggest challenges of his career. The British tabloid Daily Mail published an article in February 2018 alleging that, since 2012, the star had been “unfairly targeted” by the paparazzi, who have followed him from London to Paris and back again, and even clocked him at the Burberry PR signing at Bergdorf Goodman. The publication cited an “angry ex-girlfriend” who claimed that Robert’s lifestyle had bankrupted her.

The Mail reported that, after the actress and singer Kate Bosworth broke up with Robert in 2012, she wanted nothing more to do with him. However, the tabloid said, the pair remained friends, with Kate frequently inviting Robert to her gigs — which is when the persistent paparazzi stalkerazzi began to appear. According to the article, Kate even encouraged Robert to start dressing in women’s clothing. The Mail quoted an “angry ex-girlfriend” who said, “She would tell him, ‘You’re gorgeous, what are you waiting for? Start dressing like a woman.’ She even said, ‘Don’t be afraid to try on some of my clothes, it will make you feel stronger.’”

Robert didn’t deny any of it and told Vogue, “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being photographed or being followed by the paparazzi, as long as it’s done in a tasteful manner. I think it’s really important to have the courage to stand for what you believe in, even if it means suffering a little bit or being harassed by the paparazzi.”

In fact, the actor had a dream team of lawyers working on contingency to protect his identity. The Daily Mail, however, wasn’t finished. They followed up their initial story with another alleging that Robert was “sidelined” by the Duchess of Cambridge, who, the tabloid said, was “petulant” and “immature” for keeping him away from the public. During this time, Kate’s sister Pippa Middleton began to publicly criticize Robert for not stepping up and acting more masculine.

The Cover That Defined Him

Even if you haven’t been following fashion closely for the past year, you’ll likely have heard of the “Kate debacle.” As she began to speak out against the paparazzi harassing her brother, thousands of Kate-worshipping fans took to the comments sections of online tabloids, criticizing Pippa and even going as far as to call her a liar.

After reading the comments, Kate took to Instagram where she shared a series of photos of her brother. One of the pictures shows Kate and Robert, revealing her hand on his chest. Below the image, the internet meme known as “Kate is Taylor Swift” began to trend. (You can see some of the memes in the gallery above.)

In the caption, Kate wrote, “I couldn’t understand why my friends and family were so upset with me. It wasn’t like I was keeping Robert hidden or any of that. The truth is, I love having my hand on his chest. To me, it’s proof that we’re both still human. I just wanted to show everyone that we’re not robots and that we do have emotions.”

The photos received an immediate boost in popularity, with more than 500,000 likes as of this writing. For his part, Robert appreciated the well-deserved support. “I think my Instagram has reached an all-time high,” he told Vogue. “With every new post, it just goes to show that there’s not a lot that I can’t do. I have a dream team of lawyers working tirelessly to ensure that my identity is never revealed. So, if you ever see something that appears to be attached to my person, it probably is — with a good lawyer by my side.”

Needless to say, it’s been a year of triumph for Robert. In October 2018, he received the British Empire Medal for his services to British culture. And now, as the Most Influential Man of the year, he’s set to make history as the face of GQ. (He was previously featured on the cover of the men’s lifestyle magazine in 2014.)

“It’s been quite the ride,” says Roberts about the past year. “The fact that he’s now on the cover of GQ makes it seem like a lifetime ago. It’s been an incredible year.”

A Record-Breaking Year

This year has been an exceptional one for celebrity fashion, with major stars set to grace magazine covers in the coming months.

On March 20, Vogue premiered its “Most Influential Men” special issue, which features not only Robert but also Tom Hanks, Will Smith, Al Pacino, Orlando Bloom, Michael B. Jordan, and a host of others. (You can see the trailer for the issue above.)

Each personality is introduced with a series of stylish outfits and the opportunity to showcase their unique fashion styles. Naturally, the magazine’s decision to honor the most influential men of our time was both exciting and controversial. (Tom Hanks was named Most Influential Man of the year while Smith received the Best Dressed award.)

“It is a difficult job to choose just one man to represent the title of Most Influential Man,” says Anna Wintour, Vogue’s chief editor. “Each of these men has had a profound effect on our world and it is interesting to see how they have influenced fashion. However, ultimately, we decided to go for a man who, more than anyone else, represents the millennial generation.” (Tom Hanks and Smith are both 76; Bloom is 70; Jordan and Pacino are both 68; and Albert Brooks, who received the Best Dressed honor, is 72.)

A Fashion Icon

The fact that a man as unique and stylish as Robert has remained absent from the cover of a national fashion magazine for so long is arguably surprising. The 41-year-old star has been in the news a lot over the past year, with the most notable story being his near-fatal car accident in May 2018. (He suffered a fractured pelvis and a broken femur in the crash.)