Anna Wintour defends Kamala Harris Vogue cover

Chloe Street
·3 min read
 (Getty Images/Tyler Mitchell for Vogue)
(Getty Images/Tyler Mitchell for Vogue)

US Vogue Editor in Chief Anna Wintour has spoken in defence of the February Vogue cover starring Kamala Harris, which has been accused of “disrespecting” and “whitewashing” the Vice President elect.

The chosen cover shot featured Harris in a casual brown Donald Deal suit and Converse trainers standing before a pink satin drape. A second more formal image, also released by Vogue on Instagram on Sunday, featured Harris in a powder blue Michael Kors suit, standing before a gold background.

In addition to controversy over the casualness of the image and allegations of lightening the tone of Harris’ skin, it was alleged that Kamala Harris’ team had agreed on the blue suit image to be used as February’s print cover, and that the Vogue team had gone against this decision at the last minute, choosing the brown suit image instead, without approval from Harris’ team.

“There was no formal agreement about what the choice of the cover would be,” Anna Wintour told the New York Times in an interview on their Sway podcast, which was taped before the covers were released, but has recently been amended by host Kara Swisher with updated comment from Wintour on the controversy.

The fashion editor, who was recently named Condé Nast’s chief content officer, said that Vogue "heard and understood" the criticism and that "it was absolutely not our intention to in any way diminish the importance of the Vice President-elect’s incredible victory."

She goes on to describe how she and the team at Vogue “felt very, very strongly that the less formal portrait of the vice president-elect really reflected the moment that we were living in.

“And we felt to reflect this tragic moment in global history, a much less formal picture, something that was very, very accessible and approachable and real, really reflected the hallmark of the Biden-Harris campaign and everything that they are trying to, and I’m sure will, achieve.”

It is perhaps notable that Tyler Mitchell, the shoot photographer, has only posted the blue suit image to his Instagram feed.

Kamala Harris styled herself for the shoot, and Wintour praises her "assured sense of style” in the episode. "She was very clear on what she wanted to wear.”

While this may be true, the images have been lambasted for their underwhelming set design and art direction and poor lighting, with one Twitter user likening them to “homework finished the morning its due.” And compared to the magazine’s powerful cover of Hilary Clinton in 2016, and Elle magazine’s pitch perfect Kamala Harris cover in November.

Accusations that the cover is “anti-black” have come at a bad time for Wintour, who last year was forced to make a public apology after a furore erupted over accounts of discrimination in the New York Condé Nast office, in which several employees spoke out about racial discrimination in the workplace and pay inequities.

“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," she said at the time. "We have made mistakes too, publishing images or stories that have been hurtful or intolerant. I take full responsibility for those mistakes.”