I understand that now millions of white people are marching in droves alongside black people in global protests against injustice. I’m here for it. For the most part, the awakening seems genuine with many white people, admitting they had never until now, realized the societal disparities between the races in day to day life. As hard as that is to believe, it is plausible given how people can live in a bubble and only rely upon media to inform them of the world they don’t know distortedly.
Then some seem entirely disingenuous in this new era of white people wokeness, as they pledge solidarity in helping to bring an end to America’s systemic racism. One such person comes to mind; a quite famous person actually who seems to have recently been shamed into admitting her shortcomings in not just race relations, but people relations in general. That shamed person is Anna Wintour. The shamer is style legend Andre Leon Talley, who, in his new memoir ‘The Chiffon Trenches, refers to Wintour as “not capable of simple human kindness.” Ouch, Honey!
It seems Wintour is ready to show some human kindness now though – maybe because of Talley’s book or perhaps it has to do with a string of recent embarrassments over at the juggernaut Conde’ Nast publishing house where Wintour serves as the artistic director.
According to Page 6, Wintour sent out a note last Thursday, prompted by the previous week’s unexpected resignation of Adam Rapoport, the editor-in-chief of Bon Appétit. Rapoport resigned due to the fallout from a photo that surfaced featuring him in brownface. That ignited further conversations of other internal race-based issues, including pay equity in Condé Nast’s video division. As the artistic head, given our current landscape of nationwide demand for racial equality, Wintor undoubtedly realized she had to address it.
As reported by Page 6, an excerpt of the Wintour’s letter offered the following,
“I want to say plainly that I know Vogue has not found enough ways to elevate and give space to Black editors, writers, photographers, designers, and other creators. We have made mistakes, too, publishing images or stories that have been hurtful or intolerant. I take full responsibility for those mistakes.”
On the one hand, that seems like heartfelt sentiment; however, as her letter continued, her message seemed a bit schizophrenic:
“It can’t be easy to be a Black employee at Vogue, and there are too few of you. I know that it is not enough to say we will do better, but we will — and please know that I value your voices and responses as we move forward. I am listening and would like to hear your feedback and your advice if you would like to share either.”
So let me get this straight, Wintour has been editor-in-chief of Vogue since 1988 and artistic director for Condé Nast since 2013, but it’s only now that she values black voices? It’s only now, in 2020 that she has a great epiphany and offers admission to not elevating black editors, writers, photographers, designers, and other creators under her watch? In Thirty-two years? Anna, Guuuuuurl!
That’s a long time to deny talent black professionals their deserved opportunities and career advancement.
As for Talley, he remains an iconic public figure, towering above most both professionally and physically – standing at 6′ 6.” He has always been honest and outspoken about race relations, with the unique perspective of a black man, raised by a grandmother who was a cleaning lady. He grew up to become one of the world’s foremost experts in arguably the “whitest” industry that exists – luxury fashion.
My personal encounters with him have always been remarkably kind, starting with a chance meeting during Fashion Week, being starstruck, and slipping him my music demo. I was a struggling artist in New York City at the time. Two days later, I came home to find a voicemail from Andre saying he liked one of the songs so much he arranged a direct meeting between me and his best friend, the legendary record mogul Steve Stout. Ultimately, nothing came of that meeting, but it didn’t matter. For me, the fact that Andre Leon Talley thought I was talented enough to go out on a limb for has stuck with me my whole life, and I wear it like a badass badge of honor.
Beyond fashion commentaries, Talley has also always been outspoken about the racism in fashion, like, for example, it was common in the 80s, 90s, and somewhat today for a designer to book just one black model for their show amidst 30 white models. It was like a box checked to meet a quota. He called out American designers specifically for this disparity. Whereas such outspokenness could have ended some careers, Talley was too powerful and could make or break a designer in one scathing review. Still, with that power, his reputation is one of integrity, not vindictiveness.
Anna Wintour’s integrity, on the other hand, is now being questioned.
Despite Talley’s current claim that Wintour ‘dumped him’ for “being too fat and too old,” he also still regards his new book to be a love letter of sorts to Wintour – even if peppered with deliciously shady tea spillage as you navigate through to get to the “love” parts.
Even though now he refers to their relationship as an “iceberg,” there is love there. After all, it was Anna who hired him years ago as the first black male director of a major fashion magazine. Wintour is to be commended for that. But Talley became a formidable fashion presence in his own right with a personality even larger than Wintour’s, from which she too benefited.
Keeping it real as he always does, Talley summed it up in a recent interview with Gayle King,
“I owe to her the pioneering role that I had of a creative director of Vogue. I was the first black man to ever be named such. I owe that to Anna Wintour. I owe her much. And I think, in turn, I think she owes me.”
Read more of what Andre has to say about Anna, at Page 6