'Vogue' editor Anna Wintour addresses Kamala Harris cover controversy

Fashion title accused of whitewashing and disrespecting the vice president-elect

FILE PHOTO: Anna Wintour arrives at the 72nd Annual Tony Awards in New York, NY, U.S., June 10, 2018.   REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

Vogue's editor-in-chief Anna Wintour has defended the magazine's controversial cover featuring vice president-elect Kamala Harris.

Before Harris's inauguration on January 20, she was revealed as the prestigious fashion title's next cover star. But it was a moment marred by controversy, as many have accused the publication of "whitewashing" and "disrespecting" the woman about to become the first female, black and Asian-American vice president in the US.

The image, set to be used as the cover on the print edition of the magazine, is a full-body shot of Harris standing in front of a pink satin drape, dressed casually in jeans, Converse trainers, a white T-shirt and a blazer.

(COMBO) This combination of pictures created on January 12, 2021 shows
two handout photo obtained on January 12, 2021 courtesy of Vogue, of US Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in a Michael Kors Collection suit on the February 2021 cover of Vogue magazine(L) and against colors inspired by those of her Howard university sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Vice President–elect Kamala Harris(R) as she wears a Donald Deal jacket and Converse sneakers on the February 2021 cover of Vogue magazine.
 A Vogue cover photo of Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris dressed casually has sparked controversy with critics saying it diminishes her achievements, forcing editor Anna Wintour to defend the image on January 12, 2021. Criticism of the cover has spread on social media since it was released on January 10, 2021, with users insisting the portrait of Harris wearing sneakers is disrespectful to the first Black woman to be elected vice president.

A Vogue cover photo of Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris dressed casually has sparked controversy with critics saying it diminishes her achievements, forcing editor Anna Wintour to defend the image on January 12, 2021. Criticism of the cover has spread on social media since it was released on January 10, 2021, with users insisting the portrait of Harris wearing sneakers is disrespectful to the first Black woman to be elected vice president.

 - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO /VOGUE/TYLER MITCHELL/VOGUE.COM/AMERICANVOGUE.COM/HANDOUT - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS --- NO ARCHIVE ---

RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO /VOGUE/TYLER MITCHELL/VOGUE.COM/AMERICANVOGUE.COM/HANDOUT - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS --- NO ARCHIVE ---

 / AFP / Vogue / Tyler MITCHELL / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO /VOGUE/TYLER MITCHELL/VOGUE.COM/AMERICANVOGUE.COM/HANDOUT - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS --- NO ARCHIVE ---

RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO /VOGUE/TYLER MITCHELL/VOGUE.COM/AMERICANVOGUE.COM/HANDOUT - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS --- NO ARCHIVE ---

It was allegedly chosen against the wishes of Harris who is said to have preferred another, more formal shot taken of her wearing a blue Michael Kors suit.

Wintour, in a statement to The New York Times, said: "Obviously we have heard and understood the reaction to the print cover and I just want to reiterate that it was absolutely not our intention to, in any way, diminish the importance of the vice president-elect's incredible victory."

She also denied that the magazine had agreed with Harris's team on a final image.

"There was no formal agreement about what the choice of the cover would be ... And when the two images arrived at Vogue, all of us felt very, very strongly that the less formal portrait of the vice president-elect really reflected the moment that we were living in."

She added that she believed the image to be "very, very accessible and approachable and real."

Before the outcry, Wintour was also recorded on The New York Times's Sway podcast as saying: "I cannot imagine that there's anyone that really is going to find this cover anything but [joyful] and positive."

It appears she and her team missed the mark, however, as the shot was branded a "washed-out mess of a cover" and far too casual.

The fashion critic at The Washington Post said the photographer "did not give Kamala Harris due respect. It was overly familiar ... Vogue overstepped. It got too chummy too fast."

Playwright and journalist Wajahat Ali also branded the cover “a mess”. “Anna Wintour must really not have black friends and colleagues," he wrote.

"I'll shoot shots of VP Kamala Harris for free using my Samsung and I'm 100 per cent confident it'll turn out better than this Vogue cover," he added.

Both images were shot by Tyler Mitchell, who was the first black photographer to shoot a Vogue cover in 2018.

A representative for the publication told CNN that the team "loved the images Tyler Mitchell shot and felt the more informal image captured vice president-elect Harris's authentic, approachable nature – which we feel is one of the hallmarks of the Biden/Harris administration."

In the cover feature, Vogue explained that the green and pink shades seen in the background were a tribute to Harris's sorority days, inspired by the colours of Howard University's Alpha Kappa Alpha, the "first historically African-American sorority".