Part I: André Leon Talley's 'Anna' Interviews
Before he died, the late fashion icon shared his memories about Anna Wintour and his thoughts on her legacy.
Thank you for subscribing to Back Row, the fashion and culture newsletter able to publish without any influence from advertisers. The best way to support this publication while it is free to read is to buy a copy of my New York Times bestselling book ANNA: The Biography. If you are new here, subscribe to get more posts like this delivered to your inbox around twice a week.
When I first reached out to the late André Leon Talley to request an interview for my book ANNA: The Biography, he was unsure if he wanted to speak to me. Talley’s relationship with Anna Wintour began in the early eighties, when they both were just starting at American Vogue under Anna’s predecessor as editor-in-chief Grace Mirabella. Talley went on to become Vogue’s creative director when Anna became editor-in-chief in 1988, left the magazine briefly in the nineties, and then returned to work for many years as contributing editor. By the time I reached out, he had had a public falling-out with Anna.
Months went by before he emailed me to say he had decided he would speak to me. We had long phone conversations in March and April of last year. He was generous with his memories and surprisingly admiring of Anna, given that he had not long before been in the press calling her “a colonial broad.” Their relationship had perhaps never been entirely easy or straightforward to Talley, despite how close he felt to her. A turning point for him was not being asked to host the red carpet livestream at the 2019 camp-themed Met Gala – a role he had held for years – and never getting a call from Anna or anyone else at Vogue to tell him (he was replaced with a YouTuber). Yet he told me in April of last year, “I still love Anna deeply.” He added, “To this day, I still want the approval and the admiration and the acceptance of Anna Wintour. I mean, I really do want that, and I say that to you and for your book – I've never said it to anyone else.”
Talley died on January 18 at age 73. We won’t get to hear from him again, but he had a wealth of knowledge and insight about both fashion broadly and the woman who has led it for 34 years. This is an edited, condensed version of our interviews.
When you first started at Vogue and Anna was creative director, seemingly planted there by management to train for Grace Mirabella’s job, did you sense tension between the two of them?
Well, there was always tension between her and Grace. She wanted Grace Mirabella's job, she wanted to be editor-in-chief. I often went to Anna as the person who kept me under her wing when things were rejected by Grace. She said, “Don't worry about it, it'll be fine, I'm going to pass this story forward to Mrs. Mirabella.”
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Back Row to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.