After being released Sunday, Tyler Mitchell’s cover shot of Harris wearing a Donald Deal jacket with dark jeans and Converse sneakers set off a social media firestorm with some critics calling it “disrespectful,” “poor quality” and “a washed-out mess,” among other things. Others suggested another one of the lensman’s images, of Harris wearing a powder blue Michael Kors Collection suit, would have been more appropriate. Some claimed that was the photo Vogue and the Harris camp had agreed on for the cover.
In response, Team Vogue issued a statement Sunday afternoon, saying they loved the image and felt the more informal photo captured the Vice President-elect’s “authentic, approachable nature.” They also added a second cover digitally of Harris wearing Michael Kors Collection. The controversy hadn’t subsided Monday, when The Washington Post’s Robin Givhan wrote an article that noted that “Vogue got too familiar, too fast.”
Talley spoke enthusiastically about Vogue’s choice, however. “Women today are empowered and women of power must be looked at in 2021 in a different prism. If Kamala Harris decided to be photographed in two ways, both are totally valid — the Michael Kors [Collection] pantsuit as well as the black uniform with the Converse sneakers. This is her uniform. The pink-and-green backdrop of that print cover reflects the colors of her sorority, AKA [Alpha Kappa Alpha] at Howard [University]. Therefore, she is signaling to all the Black women in the AKA sorority, ‘Look at your sister. Look at what your sister has done.’ This is inspirational and aspirational,” Talley said.
“Tired of this cancel culture,” he said. Talley added that he has also grown weary of all the nitpicking and people creating “a controversy that has been knitted, knitted brows over nothing over the internet. I am going to get in trouble for saying it, but I’m going to say it. I don’t care. They’re going to attack me. I couldn’t care less.”
As a history-making politician — the first female vice president in the U.S., as well as the first Black and Asian American to be elected to the office — Harris’ power comes from her very being, Talley emphasized. “This is history. What she wears is of no importance. Her power comes from her very being. She is there on that cover as that human being, as that individual, who is Kamala Harris, who has gone through the journey from her immigrant parents in California to attorney general, the only female Black senator to vice president,” Talley said.
Now is not the time for people to be sitting around whingeing about Harris not wearing a skirt or a suit, or not looking like a vice president behind a desk with a flag, he said. “She is still empowered with that look, and that is an original look that she has worn. She has chosen to wear Converse sneakers. They were not imposed upon her. That is her invention. We saw it several times all over the campaign trail. That is her sense of elegance and comfort.”
Having chronicled his 30-some-odd years and unceremonious departure from Vogue in his memoir, “The Chiffon Trenches,” Talley was nothing but positive in discussing Harris’ images for the magazine. “It just reflects that Vogue creates its own norms, and its own originality…people can have their own opinions about it. Both covers work. I know nothing about the controversy of how this was chosen. I would imagine Anna [Wintour] made the final decision and I’m sure that Kamala Harris is pleased with both images because she’s a strong woman.”
Talley added, “I don’t know her but she projects strength and power. And she’s fierce.”