Must-Watch MSNBC Anchor Tiffany Cross on Kamala Harris and Fashion in Politics

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Allyson Payer
·8 min read
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If you find yourself at home on Saturdays between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. EST, do yourself a favor and turn on The Cross Connection, hosted by Tiffany Cross on MSNBC. You will feel significantly smarter and more enlightened after watching it—I can personally attest to this. One of MSNBC's newest hosts, Cross has the unique ability to break down the news in an understandable, relatable way (she even has a segment called Make It Make Sense). She has years of experience in politics and media, producing, covering and working on campaigns, and co-founding The Beat DC, a national platform intersecting politics, policy, business, media, and people of color. She's also the author of the acclaimed book Say It Louder!: Black Voters, White Narratives, and Saving Our Democracy, which was released last summer.

Ahead, I had the opportunity to ask Cross everything I wanted to know about the power of fashion in politics, her thoughts on the style legacies of Kamala Harris, Jill Biden, Michelle Obama, and even Joe Biden, and how to continue to make inclusivity a priority after the Black Lives Matter movement. You will feel smarter and more enlightened after reading her invaluable insight.

Shop Tiffany's book:

Tiffany D. Cross Say It Louder!: Black Voters, White Narratives, and Saving Our Democracy ($22)

There will be an intense focus on what Kamala Harris and Jill Biden wear over the next four years. How do you expect their styles to evolve during this time?

I hope they both uplift American designers of color. We’ve seen that women with global political positions can greatly influence sales for designers. After Vice President Harris wore Timberland boots, search for the shoes increased 376% week-on-week, according to the data. This administration has said economic equality is one of their key issues. Uplifting Black and brown designers, who are often small business owners, certainly speaks to that.

Pictured: Vice President Kamala Harris at the 2021 Presidential Inauguration

Pictured:Vice President Kamala Harris at COVID-19 Memorial

Pictured:Vice President Kamala Harris in California

Pictured: First Lady Dr. Jill Biden at the 2021 Presidential Inauguration

Pictured: First Lady Dr. Jill Biden at the Major Joseph R. "Beau" Biden III National Guard/Reserve Center

What's your take on the symbolism of fashion and how lawmakers use it to make a statement this day and age?

Focusing on what people wear may seem frivolous to some, but fashion indisputably takes a position as a cultural touchstone and people continue to use it to make political statements. When freshman Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) wore a mask on Capitol Hill that read "Breonna," not only was she affirming the science community by following CDC guidelines, but she was also educating some of her GOP counterparts—many of whom were embarrassingly unfamiliar with the story of Breonna Taylor and mistook the mask for the lawmaker’s name. What we wear can tell a story and, sometimes, influence policy. Rep. Marilyn Strickland (D-WA), became one of the first three Korean American women elected to Congress as well as the first Black representative from Washington. She wore a traditional Korean hanbok as she took the oath of office. Fashion is a celebration of our respective cultures and I love to see it.

I love how stylish and colorful your on-air looks are. How do you decide what to wear, and how has working in politics in D.C. for so long shaped your wardrobe?

Thanks! When I'm on air I like for the viewer to feel like we’re having a real conversation in their living room. I want them to feel like they know me because there is no different me when the cameras stop rolling. And what I wear speaks to who I am. D.C. is a very conservative town when it comes to attire, but nothing about me is conservative. I’m definitely a rule-breaker and that extends to fashion. I love to wear bright yellow in January or go sleeveless in December. I wear white after Labor Day and think sneakers go with everything. And after a year of wearing a lot of couch clothes, my desired couture as of late is definitely comfort. If I can’t breathe in it, I’m not wearing it. I wear what speaks to me and not what has the most popular or expensive label. I could wear a designer belt with a $20 dress I found at a consignment shop and still manage to convince myself I’m on a runway where intellectual exchange is my main accessory.

Pictured: Tiffany Cross on-air

Ever since the Black Lives Matter movement last summer, so many industries (the fashion industry included) have really woken up to racial inequalities, and there are great efforts being made to be much more inclusive. How can we all ensure that everyone stays engaged with this and continues to make it a priority?

I hope power brokers lean into spaces and conversations that make them uncomfortable. Equality doesn’t mean "allowing" people of color access. The rising majority of America is no longer asking; we are actively shifting power. From runways to boardrooms to the federal government, we are creating spaces where we are the decision-makers. As we take the helm it's imperative that every industry acknowledge their exploitative cultures of prejudice, appropriation, tokenism, and discrimination. Black women are core consumers in the fashion market with a $1.5 trillion buying power. We should certainly be among those leading these conversations and changes.

If you were Kamala Harris' stylist, what would your main goal be when choosing looks for her?

The Vice President is strikingly beautiful. The power of the patriarchy once made it more challenging for beautiful women to be taken seriously as leaders so some women try to tone down their beauty. It’s impossible for Vice President Harris to do that. I’d put her in beautiful and practical pieces that celebrate every part of her. During the impeachment hearings, Trump’s attorneys kept showing her support for Black Lives Matter in their defense video montage as though it was something controversial. If I could dress her for one event, it would be the next tie-breaking vote that she has to cast in Congress. I’d put her in a Spring 1986 Howard University AKA jacket, a Black Lives Matter T-shirt, pearls, aviators, jeans, and some Chucks. The only thing that would make this better is her strutting on the Senate floor and twirling on her way out as she tossed the peace sign. Fashion can be political. It can also be pretty. I’m here for both.

Pictured: Vice President Kamala Harris at a virtual roundtable with local Black Chambers of Commerce

Let's talk about another very influential woman with great style. 100 years from now, what do you think Michelle Obama's sartorial legacy will be?

Well considering that Forever FLOTUS Michelle Obama’s impact on fashion brands was so consequential that it was the subject of a study by a New York University professor in the Harvard Business Review, her sartorial legacy definitely cast a wide net of influence. The Obama administration was during the rise of social media so we got a unique lens into what Mrs. Obama wore to state dinners or just landing on Martha’s Vineyard. She not only loved fashion; fashion loved her. She hosted a fashion education workshop at the White House, she invited students to witness Jason Wu donating his first inaugural gown to the Smithsonian, and her garb was frequently described as sartorial diplomacy. One hundred years from now I think people will still see that she was the most authentic First Lady the country had seen and her attire was an extension of knowing her and loving her.

Pictured: Former First Lady Michelle Obama departing for Martha's Vineyard

Pictured: Former First Lady Michelle Obama departing for Martha's Vineyard

Pictured: Former First Lady Michelle Obama at a State Dinner in 2016

What message(s) do you think Joe Biden is trying to send with his clothing choices, and what changes have you noticed in the way he dresses since becoming President?

When First Lady Jill Biden decorated the White House lawn with Valentine’s Day messages, President Biden wore a black leather bomber jacket and jeans and looked like one of the lead characters from Top Gun. It was really a sweet tender moment between the two made only better with his dapper popped collar look. We see this President in jeans a lot which makes him appear that much more accessible. Everyone is enduring the global pandemic right now. Very few of us are putting on suits every day. His fashion choices make him feel like he’s one of us going through the same things we are. Now that he’s not campaigning, he doesn’t have to worry about looking presidential. And he can just be.

Pictured: President Joe Biden on February 5, 2021

Pictured: President Joe Biden on February 8, 2021

Next up, 5 black designers who are painting the future of fashion.

This article originally appeared on Who What Wear

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