Vogue Editor Anna Wintour Defends Controversial Kamala Harris Cover

Kamala Harris on the cover of Vogue. (Credit: Tyler Mitchell/Vogue

Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour is defending the magazine’s February cover featuring Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as “charming,” after it was ripped to shreds on social media.

The controversial cover shows Harris wearing Converse sneakers along with a black jacket, matching pants and a white T-shirt, while standing in front of pink and green curtains — in a nod to the colors of her sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha.

In an interview with the New York Times’ “Sway” podcast posted on Tuesday, Wintour called the image “welcoming.”

“I think it’s very much in character,” she said. “And I think the fact that the cover itself is so charming and so relaxed — and for me, so surprising and so real — and as I listen to the President-elect and the Vice President-elect talk about empathy, and unity, and bringing people together, to me, this cover symbolizes that. I feel it’s a very welcoming image.”

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Wintour noted that the photo was shot by Tyler Mitchell, who is Black and previously shot Beyoncé and pop star Harry Styles in a Gucci dress for the magazine’s December cover. Wintour also said Harris wore her own clothes for the shoot and “looks fantastic.”

Kara Swisher, who hosts the “Sway” podcast, reported the image of Harris in sneakers will be used on the cover of the Vogue print edition, instead of the more serious image mutually agreed upon with the Harris camp. A second photo of the California senator in a powder blue suit will be featured both as a digital cover and inside the magazine.

While Wintour praised the print cover,  many social media users have accused the longtime Vogue editor of having a questionable history when it comes to featuring Black women on the cover.

Twitter user @ghosts_hmu tweeted in a thread: “This keeps happening: Vogue features a poorly done cover of a Black woman; everyone from former Vogue employees to prominent photographers and editors to activists speak out against Wintour’s history of disrespecting Black women; and then… nothing changes.”

@Dianelyssa recalled Simone Biles’ August Vogue cover from last year, writing: “I still don’t think we’ve fully recovered from what Anna Wintour and Annie Leibovitz did to our good sis Symone Biles! I mean!”

Others thought the lighting used on Harris was subpar for a fashion magazine.

@Karen_Santiago1 tweeted: “What bothers me about the #vogue cover is not Kamala Harris’ informal dress, it’s the art direction & lighting. The set looks sloppy, haphazard. Simply inappropriate for the gravity of the role & our current political climate. And the lighting is bland, should be more dynamic.”

Still, former Vogue editor-at-large André Leon Talley praised the cover.

“Its GREAT. JUST GREAT! GREAT,” he wrote Tuesday on Instagram. “I predict its going to set a trend for all young women all over the world… There are girls who will see in this cover, something wonderful.”

The controversies surrounding Wintour and race don’t just end at which cover images she decides to choose.

In October, the Times ran a piece in which Wintour’s employees alleged she fostered a toxic work environment that did not offer advancement for women of color.

The Vogue February issue is now available.