André Leon Talley Critiques Anna Wintour's Apology to Vogue Staffers: 'Name What Your Mistakes Were'
The famed fashion journalist addressed Wintour's response to the discriminatory culture at Vogue calling out the editor-in-chief for her "entitled" attitude
In his new memoir The Chiffon Trenches, André Leon Talley opens up about his 30-year-friendship and notorious falling out with longtime Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. And now the fashion journalist and former editor-at-large of Vogue, 71, is sharing his candid thoughts about an internal email Wintour sent to Vogue staff members last week — which addressed the lack of diversity and "intolerant behavior" at Vogue as discussions calling out systemic racism remain at the forefront of the media landscape.
Talley joined actress and comedian Sandra Bernhard for an episode of SiriusXM’s Radio Andy, during which he brushed off Wintour's apology — that was first obtained by Page Six and published by several news outlets on Wednesday — as a reflection of her "white privilege" and shared his theory for what prompted his former boss to send the email.
"Recently, she who is the dame of American Vogue made a statement," Talley told Bernhard. "I want to say, also, as she made this statement, the announcement of the first Black female editor at Harper’s Bazaar, Samira [Nasr], that is news, ground-breaking. This has impacted [Wintour]."
Talley continued, "Clearly that statement comes because [Nasr] is going to run competition rings around her," further speculating that Wintour's "power-base has been somewhat affected by the competition of this young, African-American presence."
In her email, Wintour, 70, who serves as Condé Nast's artistic director and oversees Vogue, took "full responsibility" for not hiring enough Black creatives and acknowledged the hurt and pain Vogue employees of color must be feeling in the wake of George Floyd's death. But Talley said this just another example of her "entitled" attitude.
"The statement came out of a world of white privilege. I want to say one thing: Dame Anna Wintour is a colonial broad," Talley told Bernhard. "She’s a colonial Dame…she’s part of an environment of colonialism. She is entitled and I do not think she will ever let anything get in the way of her white privilege."
Talley then compared Wintour's apology to a statement NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made earlier this week, where he denounced racism and addressed the sports league’s highly-publicized kneeling protests — but failed to mention the face of the movement by name.
“[Goodell] did not name Colin Kaepernick by name,” Talley said of the former San Francisco 49ers player. “And as Reverend Al Sharpton said in his eulogy to Mr. Floyd, don’t apologize, give him back his job… No apology necessary. Give people back their jobs and name them. If you’re going to make a statement, name what your mistakes were."
“Own up to it, dear," he added. "All I’m asking for his human decency and kindness.”
Talley also spoke about this “amazing” historic push for change sparked by social media initiatives, nonviolent protests and riots, calling Floyd a “martyr” and saying that the world “is not going go back to the way it used to be” after this period of civil unrest.
Talley then repeated what has quickly become the motto of the Black Lives Matter movement after Floyd, an unarmed Black man, died while Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin had him pinned to the ground, “Get your knee off our necks!”
“You’ve been on our necks for 401 years!” Talley said, speaking to centuries of systemic oppression and racism in America, before seemingly taking another dig at Wintour: “Take your stiletto from Manolo Blahnik off my neck!”
PEOPLE has reached out to both Vogue and Talley for comment.
In his memoir, Talley references Beyoncé's historic September 2018 Vogue cover, for which the star was given full editorial control over her photographs and interview. At the time, Talley wrote an op-ed for Washington Post about the "historic blackness" of Beyoncé's cover shoot, captured by black photographer Tyler Mitchell. While Vogue's publisher praised his op-ed, Talley claims none of the top editors at Vogue reached out to him about the piece.
"Not one of those editors wrote me about the piece. Not one quick email from Anna Wintour," he wrote. "Editors I've worked with for decades didn’t understand the immense importance of this occasion simply because they are not capable of understanding. None of my contemporaries have seen the world through black eyes."
And while Talley has his own theory about why Wintour apologized to her team, according to Page Six, the fashion editor actually sent her email last week — before Harper's Bazaar's historic announcement (and before several former employees accused Condé Nast, the media company under which Vogue is branded, of discrimination and pay discrepancies on social media).
In the internal memo, the longtime Vogue editor-in-chief admitted to “hurtful and intolerant” creative decisions and addressed the fashion magazine’s lack of diverse representation.
“I want to say this especially to the Black members of our team — I can only imagine what these days have been like,” Wintour wrote. “But I also know that the hurt, and violence, and injustice we’re seeing and talking about have been around for a long time. Recognizing it and doing something about it is overdue.”
She continued: “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. We have made mistakes too, publishing images or stories that have been hurtful or intolerant. I take full responsibility for those mistakes.”
The famed fashion editor — whose longstanding reputation for being intimidating was the inspiration behind Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada — promised to “do better” moving forward and encouraged Vogue staffers to share their concerns with her.
“It can’t be easy to be a Black employee at Vogue, and there are too few of you. I know that it is not enough to say we will do better, but we will — and please know that I value your voices and responses as we move forward. I am listening and would like to hear your feedback and your advice if you would like to share either."
“I am proud of the content we have published on our site over these past few days but I also know that there is much more work to do. Please don’t hesitate to be in touch with me directly. I am arranging ways we can discuss these issues together candidly, but in the meantime, I welcome your thoughts or reactions.”