André Leon Talley Says His Relationship with Anna Wintour Is Currently 'at an Iceberg'
The fashion editor still insists his new tell-all memoir is a "love letter" to his former Vogue boss and friend, Anna Wintour
The famed writer and former Vogue creative director spoke with Gayle King on CBS This Morning to discuss his new book, The Chiffon Trenches, (out May 19) where he addressed how his 30-year friendship with Wintour eventually grew out of vogue.
Talley began working at the fashion magazine in 1983, where he quickly rose to creative director (and Wintour's right hand) before leaving in 2013. (He contributed for a few more years after.) Now, the 71-year-old North Carolina native is detailing how their friendship finally broke, citing the way he was unceremoniously dropped from emceeing the famous Met Gala red carpet in 2018.
"I think my relationship is in an iceberg with her," Talley told King on Monday. "I hope that it will not be that forever."
Talley has frequently said his book is in many ways a tribute to Wintour, while also writing that the Vogue editor-in-chief is "not capable of simple human kindness."
King asked him to clarify the contradiction. "I looked at that Andre and I went, 'Love letter?' If that's your idea of a love letter I'm thinking I don't want you to like me at all," King said. "How do you explain that? I thought this must be very painful for her to read. Seriously."
"Indeed, it is probably very hard for her to read," Talley replied. "It was painful for me to write this."
He explained that he sent Wintour the final proof of a book before its publication and asked her to tell him if she disliked anything in it. "She called me, she complimented me, she said, 'Thank you for saying very nice things about me. I don't want certain pages in the book,' — and I removed them instantly," Talley said, noting the pages he omitted were about her family, including her daughter Bee Shaffer Carrozzini's wedding and her doctor son Charles Shaffer.
"And so this is a painful thing for me, but it is a love letter because it's a love letter about the joys as well as the lows of my life. And the joys of my life have been with Anna Wintour," he explained. "I owe to her the pioneering role that I had of a creative director of Vogue. I was the first black man to ever be named such. I owe that to Anna Wintour. I owe her much. And I think, in turn, I think she owes me."
When asked to elaborate on what Wintour owes Talley, he replied: "She owes me kindness and simple grace and being decent when things go south."
"I understand changes are made in a corporate institution at Vogue, when she decides that I'm no longer working on the carpet for the Met Gala, just call me and say 'André we're moving in a new direction, you've been wonderful, I love what you're doing, but now we're going with the young influencers who know nothing because they have 20 million followers on YouTube.' Just say it to me. No one had come to say to me why I was taken off the red carpet."
In an interview with PEOPLE, Talley explained that he was removed from his post as the Met Gala red carpet host and replaced by YouTuber Liza Koshy in 2018. "I had suddenly become too old, overweight and uncool for Anna Wintour," Talley told PEOPLE. "I don’t think she understands what she does to people." He added that he has "huge emotional and psychic scars" from their relationship.
A source close to Wintour told PEOPLE exclusively: "Anna considered André a friend for over 30 years and naturally was saddened by the way he chose to portray many aspects of their friendship, but he is of course entitled to tell it as he remembers it. She wishes him the best."
"I love her," Talley said. He knows the reaction to the book so far has indicated he may feel otherwise. "People see my book as a vengeful, bitchy tell-all. It is not. My book is in many ways as a love letter to Anna Wintour."