A Vogue cover isn’t just a picture. Like The Washington Post‘s Robin Givhan points out, it’s a keepsake: a memory, a symbolic representation of a moment. Kamala Harris’ Vogue should have been breathtaking. It might have been worthy of an extraordinary, long-overdue moment. (In case you’ve just woken up from a coma, Harris is making history as the first female vice president, as well the first Black woman and woman of Asian heritage to hold the office.) Instead of instilling awe, the her Vogue cover ignited fury.
Sources have confirmed to CBS that Harris’ team was “blindsided” by the cover that Vogue sent out to its subscribers. It depicted Harris in Converse sneakers, against a backdrop that gives a nod to her Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. Harris had agreed to a different cover, in which she, arms crossed, smiles confidently in a light blue Michael Kors Collection suit. The agreed-upon picture became Vogue‘s digital cover only. As per Givhan, Harris herself chose her outfits for the shoot. Vogue’s photographer, Tyler Mitchell, and the shoot’s chief editor, Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, are both Black.
But Vogue’s Editor-in-Chief, Anna Wintour, has faced searing criticism from both inside and outside Vogue’s walls for her approach to fashion. A Black ex-staff member told The New York Times, “At Vogue, when we’d evaluate a shoot or a look, we’d say ‘That’s Vogue,’ or, ‘That’s not Vogue,’ and what that really meant was ‘thin, rich and white.'”
Why Vogue's print cover is problematic for Harris followers
Two issues with Harris’ Vogue cover have social media screaming. First is that Vogue ignored Harris’ cover choice. As one photographer wrote on Twitter, “it’s incredibly rude for that change to have been made by the Vogue team alone. It’s a violation of the photographer-subject relationship and of the agreement between the VP’s team and Vogue.”
Second, there is a clear difference between the two photos in question. In response to Vogue’s physical cover, The New York Times writer and author Wajahat Ali snarked, “I’ll shoot shots of VP Kamala Harris for free using my Samsung and I’m 100% confident it’ll turn out better than this Vogue cover.” Ali’s sentiments capture the essence of The Post Robin Givhan’s, argument: while the picture Harris chose exudes power, the picture Vogue chose was “overly familiar” and is the equivalent of calling “Harris by her first name without invitation.”
Vogue, meanwhile, has excused itself to CBS. “The team at Vogue … felt the more informal image captured Vice President-elect Harris’s authentic, approachable nature — which we feel is one of the hallmarks of the Biden/Harris administration,” the magazine told the news outlet.
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