Unquestionably iconic Editor and Trailblazer Andre Leon Talley passed away on January 18th, 2022. Known for his larger than life personality, he became a cultural icon for merely being able to do his job and live out his dream of writing at The Most Venerable Fashion Magazine in the World: Vogue.
Andre was exceptional because he was able to do what many black writers are unable to: get a job at a white media entity. His superior knowledge, anchored by his social skills, wit, and charm, garnered him a seat at the table. He was frequently photographed front row at runway shows next to powerful editors like Anna Wintour or stately socialites à la Lee Radziwell.
He was so large a figure in the cultural purview, and so meaningful to so many, that some wondered why he would not be given a cover or even a mention on the front page of Vogue Magazine's latest issue, which features Kim Kardashian.
Of course we understand that print magazines typically take a minimum of 3 months to produce, and that this weighty Kim Kardashian issue, chock full of beautiful photos of her and her children lensed by Carlijn Jacobs, was no overnight affair. Careful planning, strategy, and coordination went into making this internet breaking oeuvre a reality. Vogue is well regarded because they produce conversation starting covers such as these.
But then, within minutes of Kim's issue hitting the internet, Ebony Magazine released their latest issue: an Ode to Andre Leon Talley. The Digital Special Issue features a painting rendered by Brandon Breaux, and an accompanying essay by Kimora Lee Simmons. According to a press release, "In the story, Simmons talks about Mr. Talley and his place as a cultural icon in the fashion world and beyond. The piece paints a holistic picture of a dynamic man and a creative force who emerged from the Jim Crow South and from the Civil Rights Movement to become a fixture in the front rows at Fashion Week, the first Black Creative Director at Vogue and a trailblazer in fashion. Simmons also shares how important Mr. Talley was to different circles from the halls of Vogue to the hip hop glitterati, stating that “he lived at the intersection of music, fashion and media.... André has inspired [Puffy, Pharrell, Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige, and Kanye West]."
While Ebony's cover was digital, it still speaks to the Importance of Ownership and Black Voices controlling their own narrative.
In our Black History Month Talk with Meta, we will discuss the importance of our Representation in Media, and also how we can tell our own stories when we have ownership. You can RSVP to the talk here.
Our community understands how important Andre is to the culture, and it took a black owned magazine to honor his legacy in a way his home, Vogue, has not-- yet.
Vogue Writers certainly paid tribute to Mr. Talley online. One of my favorite essays was written by Hamish Bowles, who called Andre a Fashion Oracle and a Truly Original Man. We still don't know if there is a written tribute to Talley inside Kim Kardashian's issue, or what Vogue has planned for the future.
What we DO know is that though death is unexpected, we must rally, no matter what. Regardless of what else you have planned or what else is going on, if someone passes away, you make arrangements. You reshuffle, reposition, and readjust.
Life stops to honor the dead.
I also know all too well, from experience, that while death should bring loved ones together, there are always people who hold grudges. Andre and Anna famously fell out over his bestselling book, The Chiffon Trenches, where Talley nurses bitter wounds against Anna for seemingly giving him the boot, replacing him at events like the Met Gala with Gen Z talent.
We always hope that everyone will know how to act once someone passes away. That they can remember the best in someone instead of focus on past missteps. But there will always be an outlier: the person who carries their grievances past the grave.
Let's hope that Anna Wintour is not one of them.
And that this gargantuan man, who changed the fashion industry by solely existing, is given the honor and respect he is due.
We shall see.
What do you think?