'Vogue' fashion journalist and icon André Leon Talley has died at 73 For decades, Talley was the larger-than-life creative director and editor-at-large of Vogue. His influence was felt on fashion runways, where he pushed to include more Black designers and models.

Fashion journalist and icon André Leon Talley has died at 73

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Fashion journalist Andre Leon Talley died yesterday. He was 73. For decades, Talley was a fashion icon and influencer. He helped shape Vogue magazine starting in the 1980s. He was a rare Black editor in a largely white industry and also a major figure in the LGBTQ+ community. NPR's Mandalit del Barco has this remembrance.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Andre Leon Talley was the larger-than-life creative director and editor at large of Vogue, considered the fashion bible. This is how musician will.i.am described him in the 2018 documentary "The Gospel According To Andre."


WILL.I.AM: He's the Nelson Mandela of couture, the Kofi Annan of what you got on (laughter).

DEL BARCO: At 6-foot-6, Talley held court in the world of high fashion wearing dapper suits, robes, capes and caftans. In the film, he talked about being a regal presence.


ANDRE LEON TALLEY: You can be aristocratic without having been born into an aristocratic family.

DEL BARCO: In his memoir "The Chiffon Trenches," Talley wrote that his clothes were like ceremonial 17th-century Italian armor. He wrote about being raised by his grandmother in segregated Durham, N.C. Going to church with her sparked his passion for fashion, as he told NPR in 2020.


TALLEY: I saw style in church. I saw style in my grandmothers, sisters. They were all beautifully dressed. Church was the nucleus of our lives. Churchgoing was pivotal to our existence.

DEL BARCO: Talley studied at North Carolina Central University, then got a master's degree in French literature at Brown. After grad school, he headed to New York to apprentice at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. With a letter of introduction from a classmate's father, he met the renowned fashion editor Diana Vreeland. She then introduced Talley to Andy Warhol. He began working for Interview Magazine and Women's Wear Daily, where he was its Paris correspondent.


TALLEY: This is Andre Leon Talley reporting live from Paris. (Speaking French).

DEL BARCO: That was long before his reign at Vogue. A post on Talley's official Instagram account Tuesday noted that he'd been a close confidant to other fashion icons - Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld, Paloma Picasso, Diane von Furstenberg. But he was also something of an anomaly in the largely white fashion industry. He told NPR his presence confounded some.


TALLEY: I was smart, and I showed it. It goes back to when people can't figure out who you are and afraid of you - and as you boldly with confidence show who you are to the world, certain people just have the fear of seeing someone tall and Black suddenly come on the surface.

DEL BARCO: In the documentary, Talley said he endured racial slurs.


TALLEY: People have said many bad things about me. They used to call me Queen Kong. I was like an ape. I was a gay ape Queen Kong. But I had to move on. I had to get on with my career.

DEL BARCO: He said he held his head high.


TALLEY: You don't make a loud noise. You don't scream. You don't get up and say, look, hey, I'm loud, I'm Black, and I'm proud. You just do it. And then it's recognized, and somehow it impacts the culture.

DEL BARCO: Talley's impact was felt at Vogue, where he wrote about Michelle Obama, and in op-ed pages where he talked about the significance of Vogue having its first Black photographer, Tyler Mitchell, shoot a cover. His impact was felt on "America's Next Top Model," where he was a judge, and at Met Galas where he was a red carpet correspondent. Here he is with Rihanna in 2014.


TALLEY: You - turn around and show Vogue the marvelous - the Vogue cover girl in Stella McCartney. Whoa.

RIHANNA: You look lovely yourself.

TALLEY: Oh, you look fabulous.

DEL BARCO: Talley's impact was also felt on fashion runways, where he pushed to include more Black designers and models.

Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.

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