André Leon Talley Reminds Critics That Kamala Is Not Covering Vogue as a Fashion Star

Perri Konecky
·3 min read

Image Source: Vogue

When Vogue revealed its February issue with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on the cover, it immediately drew criticism, praise, and a whole lot of conversation all at once. As the first Black woman and first South Asian American woman sworn into either of the nation's highest two offices, Kamala is making history. But for her first cover on the fashion magazine, many criticized the lighting and styling as diminishing the great power she represents, while others appreciated her staying true to her classic Converse style. On Jan. 12, fashion journalist and former American editor at large of Vogue André Leon Talley shared his thoughts on the highly discussed cover, and he raised some powerful points about the image our future VP is portraying.

André has been open about his experience with racism in the fashion world, but off the bat, he declared the cover as "GREAT. JUST GREAT! GREAT." In an Instagram post featuring the full-body cover, he wrote: "She selected her personal wardrobe choices. Her work uniform with her ubiquitous Converse sneakers is aspirational. I predict it's going to set a trend for all young women all over the world, are going to dress like Kamala Harris. Not everyone evolves wishing to be a screen star, or a music vixen, or a Kardashian beauty empress. There are girls who will see in this cover, something wonderful."

Related: Kamala Harris's Vogue Controversy Continues as It's Revealed Her Team Chose Both Cover Outfits

He went on to praise photographer Tyler Mitchell and his modern vision, which is completely evolved from that of Vogue photographers from years before. "His work must be seen through the prism of 2021. We are after all dealing with serious issues: the global Pandemic, the sudden horror of domestic terrorism. Both the digital and the print covers are superb. Knitting controversy is utterly ridiculous. . . . Excellence is required and while fashion is always the core issue, yet the cultural pendulum swings. After all, no one is wearing a stiletto everyday during COVID."

"Her mere strength, her determination and her goals to work for all Americans is foremost."

André explained the preparation that went into Vogue's first profile on Michelle Obama, and how, yes, this is a fashion magazine, but the cover stars are beyond that. "Madame Vice-President-elect has a lot of work to do," he wrote. "And she is not thinking every day about how she is looking. Her mere strength, her determination and her goals to work for all Americans is foremost. A simple black jacket, a tee shirt, a simple strand of pearls, and her beautiful hair, her smile, her warmth suggests all the elegance one desires." As for the pink and green background representing her Alpha Kappa Alpha roots, André applauded it as "symbolic."

While it is understood Kamala's team approved her outfits and chose her styling, and André has made powerful points about Kamala's photos, there's no denying that there's still a lot of work to be done about Vogue's portrayal of Black women on covers.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 10: André Leon Talley attends the front row for Carolina Herrera during New York Fashion Week on February 10, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 10: André Leon Talley attends the front row for Carolina Herrera during New York Fashion Week on February 10, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)