André Leon Talley on Blackness, Religion, and the Importance of Divas

Rest in peace, André Leon Talley. Here, the late legend in his own words.

1/19/2022 7:35:00 AM

Rest in peace, André Leon Talley. Here, the late legend in his own words.

The author of 'The Chiffon Trenches' talks about attending virtual church services, combating racism in fashion, and why he never keeps a diary.

magazine piece cites your fond writing of de la Falaise as an inability to cease compartmentalizing your experiences with racism. But I think sometimes we have to compartmentalize those things in our memories. Do you view that sort of compartmentalization as a defense mechanism, or self preservation?

White Girls,If I chose to walk away when I was told that someone called me “Queen Kong,” if I chose to forgive Loulou de la Falaise for using the term “n—r dandy,” I forgave because there were mountains of layers of complex relationships—with Loulou de la Falaise, particularly, that showed me that perhaps she was high on substances the point at which she said that at a party, a luncheon. She was a woman who depended a lot on substance abuse, alcohol and whatever else she did, she drank a lot and she lived and she partied hard, but this was, for her, a slap. She perhaps was angry with me and thought that this was the best way to hurt me, but as I laughed, and I did laugh when she said that, I was shocked at the same time. I could have stopped and said, “Listen, get out of this party. Go! How dare you?” But I was not brought up to make public scenes. I compartmentalize all the pain, as I did from my childhood, from my sacred garden, my sexual abuse. I’ve had great avenues of pain in my life.

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Heaven is about to undergo an extreme make-over except for the single strand pearly gates! 💔 All this stress he was under. Where were you? Another one bites the dust Ebonyteach 😢 Rest In Peace 🌹😇 💔💔💔💔 ~ 🖤★🖤 Rest in Peace 💔 Rip. Long live the King.

André Leon Talley Dies: Onetime Vogue Editor-At-Large, Fashion Icon Was 73André Leon Talley, the fashion icon who was once Vogue’s creative director and later its editor-at-large in the U.S. has died. The news was first reported by TMZ and later confirmed via a sta… What the fuck does onetime mean why is your headlines always do sassy OMG Sad news to hear! May he rest in peace

lotta folks have been dropping lately.

Fashion Icon André Leon Talley Is Dead at 73Vogue editor and fashion industry icon Andre Leon Talley is dead at 73.

Global Fashion Trailblazer André Leon Talley Dead At 73: ReportsThe former Vogue editor-at-large advised designers, dressed celebrities and made a splash in the fashion world for decades. He had to go but Murdock is still here? Nah! 😩😩 Omg no way….😪 May he Rip 🙏

Influential fashion journalist André Leon Talley dies at 73 | AP NewsNEW YORK (AP) — André Leon Talley, the towering former creative director and editor at large of Vogue magazine, has died. He was 73. Talley’s literary agent David Vigliano confirmed Talley’s death to USA Today late Tuesday , but no additional details were immediately available.

André Leon Talley, trailblazing fashion journalist, former Vogue creative director, dies at 73Trailblazing fashion journalist André Leon Talley died Tuesday in New York at the age of 73. His death was confirmed on his Instagram account. Que en pace descanse Rest In Peace RIP,u will be missed. Aw Leon

Fashion icon Andre Leon Talley dies at 73Fashion icon André Leon Talley died Monday in New York at the age of 73. 😔💜💐💚🎗💪🧥⭐️💜🪐🙏🕯🪦🕯😴🕯✌️💚💐💜🙏 Condolences to his friends & family. He had some good ideas! He will be missed. ❤️ May he RIP 🙏🏻

of you written by Hilton Als for the New Yorker , reportedly called you a racial slur, the n-word. The New York magazine piece cites your fond writing of de la Falaise as an inability to cease compartmentalizing your experiences with racism. But I think sometimes we have to compartmentalize those things in our memories. Do you view that sort of compartmentalization as a defense mechanism, or self preservation? As you well know, if you’ve read my memoir, it’s not only about racism, but it’s about sexual abuse, child abuse. When you have been abused as a child, your whole innocence has been taken away from you from a young age. You learn to survive by making your own world. When people have done racist things, my faith and my Christianity says to me: It is wrong, yet they can be forgiven. They have wronged me, it is wrong what they have done, but they can be forgiven. Especially in terms of Loulou de la Falaise, who was a friend. This was taken out of context when this man wrote this piece in the New Yorker magazine. He took it out of context. He has since written a book where referred to me as a white woman [Talley is referring to Als’s 2013 book White Girls, in which Als placed people of all races who have been shaped by their relationship to white femininity into the category of “white girls.”] He has referred to me and Truman Capote as white women. I think this person has an agenda, and the agenda was to perhaps show me or portray me as something that was less than a person who was aware of Blackness . Not the color of being black, but Blackness. I am a man of Blackness. I know when a racial injustice has happened to me. If I chose to walk away when I was told that someone called me “Queen Kong,” if I chose to forgive Loulou de la Falaise for using the term “n—r dandy,” I forgave because there were mountains of layers of complex relationships—with Loulou de la Falaise, particularly, that showed me that perhaps she was high on substances the point at which she said that at a party, a luncheon. She was a woman who depended a lot on substance abuse, alcohol and whatever else she did, she drank a lot and she lived and she partied hard, but this was, for her, a slap. She perhaps was angry with me and thought that this was the best way to hurt me, but as I laughed, and I did laugh when she said that, I was shocked at the same time. I could have stopped and said, “Listen, get out of this party. Go! How dare you?” But I was not brought up to make public scenes. I compartmentalize all the pain, as I did from my childhood, from my sacred garden, my sexual abuse. I’ve had great avenues of pain in my life. As far as Blackness is a concern, I want to address this: my Blackness is paramount to me as a man. My Blackness is always uppermost in my life. I always have had a sense of Blackness. I think that when people try to write and analyze me, they perhaps think I’ve fallen short of being Black, as a Black man. I have not fallen short of being a Black man. I’m aware of my Blackness, I’m aware I’m a Black individual who came from enslaved people from Africa, who was a descendant of great, great generations of talent and geniuses, and people of color who are great masters in fields of science, art, literature, politics. I think, as an individual, I have indeed given a lot. I have shown my Blackness through my work, my individuality, my personality, and my quiet advocacy. I get a lot of criticism: “Well, you were the only person on the front row, you didn’t do anything to help others!” I did do things to help others, by example. When I was hired and got to the front row, wherever I was seated on the front row, I was not hired to be an advocate of civil rights, I was hired to be a fashion editor. People forget, I was hired to work in the institutions of white supremacy. I was there in the ‘70s and there was no way I was going to bring with me “pied piper-ness” of Blackness. My Blackitude was prominent in everything I did, in my education, and in my articulation of my knowledge. I’ve always had this body of knowledge. And if you really want to go back, someone should have said to the person who wrote that in the New Yorker , “Go back and look at Nancy Cunard’s great anthology called Negro .” She published a great anthology called Negro, and this thing was a jazz term called “n—r dandy.” Now, Loulou said it out of context. She should not have said that. But she was by no means a racist. However, the other girl, the PR girl [Clara Saint], she was hurtful and cruel when she said that, calling me “Queen Kong.” She was putting me down, she was dehumanizing me. Queen Kong, King Kong—this was the most dehumanizing thing that had ever happened to me, other than having been kicked by a white sheriff on a highway as I was hijacked by a white hitchhiker from a festival in Atlanta, Georgia one year. This was a very, very hard thing to take and internalize. As I internalize, and tend to compartmentalize the racism that was thrust upon me, it made me stronger as a human being. I think there is no denying that you exist in a pantheon of individuals, specifically Black individuals, who have opened up space for others to join. As you write in your memoir, you are the only Black person who has held the title of creative director at Vogue — That was historic, and I got there through many, many ladders. I had the rungs of the ladders and I climbed them. If I had that title, I deserved it because I was educated and very smart. As a Black man, you have to be 500 times smarter than the white person sitting next to you on the front row, because you are Black and because of the fact that you are Black, you have not had the opportunities. You have overcome all kinds of odds to get there. I had overcome the odds to get to the front row of the fashion world. I had overcome the odds of lack of opportunities. I had a scholarship, I spoke impeccable French, I could articulate, I knew who Marcel Proust was and had read Marcel Proust, I had read Gustave Flaubert. I had done my homework. The tower of strength of my Blackness is my body of knowledge in memory and in experience, and therefore I am unique. When you speak of me, you must speak about my talents and knowledge, and that I also shared that knowledge and experiences of my education through the fashion world. I was able to associate and conflate certain moments and experiences such as [Yves Saint Laurent’s] “Porgy and Bess collection” of January 1978, which was my first big success in my career. I was allowed to write the front page review of it, and everyone thought that was beautiful and wonderful. Diana Vreeland thought so, John Fairchild thought so, Sir John Richardson, the great Picasso expert thought so. Everyone was talking about it, but they were talking about it because I was smart. I was smart. And I always was aware of my Blackness. I would be ridiculously, almost pathologically insane had I not been aware of my Blackness and what I could contribute to the world. I set an example through all those great years of being the first Black creative director. I set that example being at Women’s Wear Daily —which I’m very proud of, those great years. I set that example with Graydon Carter and Tina Brown at Vanity Fair , when I did the spoof on Gone with the Wind that was long before there was a satire written by Alice Randall. That was one of the high moments of my life. I have it somewhere framed. Since that piece, Graydon and I have remained friends. I so admire what he’s done with Air Mail since he’s left Vanity Fair . He controls his narrative. His narrative is big, and so is mine. I have control of my narrative. I think my Blackness was always very on the front, on the epidermis—you could see that I was Black, no one could say I was aping to be white. Although I was in a white culture, institution. Predominantly, any Black man who lives in this country and is successful is part of the white supremacy of America. President Barack Obama had to walk through lanes of whiteness to get to where he was to become the first African-American president. You have to. This world is a world of white redundancy, supremacy, and white terror. And I am all aware of the terror of the white world, which certainly I experienced when Michael Coady [former WWD CEO, Talley’s boss in the late 1970s] told me I was sleeping with every designer, male or female, in Paris. Someone asked me an interview, “Well, how is that racist?” I said, “That’s more than racist! Are you insane?” Back in those days, we did not have human resources offices. Someone said to me, “Well, why didn’t you try to save your job?” We did not have human resources in those days! I had to internalize, compartmentalize, go to the church, meditate, and decide I would resign. I did not confer with anyone. I had no one to talk to. We did not have human resource offices that we could go to and complain about these kind of things. So, I feel I am a tower of strength. Vanessa Friedman in The New York Times , “Today fashion has no more room or patience for such divas — not in magazines or modeling or designer ateliers.” Do you agree with that? Is there room for divas? Well, it depends on who you think a diva is. Divas come in all permutations and rainbows and sizes. I think “diva” is a compliment. I think Rihanna is a diva, a wonderful diva. So is Lady Gaga, so is Beyoncé. I think the late great Nina Simone was a diva. I disagree with Vanessa, I think there is room, whether you call them divas or not. I think there’s room for divas like Mariah Carey. Divas are marvelous people. Yves Saint Laurent was a diva. Karl Lagerfeld was a diva. John Galliano maybe has evolved from being a diva to being a more humble diva. He’s a genius. I equate divas with uniqueness, inspirational personalities. Divas impact the culture and the world. Divas are Marian Anderson. Divas are Leontyne Price. Divas are Judith Jamison, the former director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. She was one of the great principal dancers of the theater. Divas are great, great singers of opera. Jessye Norman. I don’t think that you want to tear down the institution of diva-ism or diva-dom, because you’re going to always have divas and divas are important to the culture. Related: