What went wrong with Kamala Harris's 'Vogue' cover images?

The magazine has been slated for its cover featuring the vice president-elect, with images branded a 'washed out mess'

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Just over a week before she makes history to become inaugurated as the next vice president of the United States, Kamala Harris has been revealed as Vogue's next cover star.

But the moment has been overshadowed by a wave of controversy sparked by the release of two cover images from the shoot, in which many have accused the publication of “whitewashing” and “disrespecting” Harris.

One of the images, set to be used as the cover for the print edition of the magazine, shows Harris full-length, stood in front of a pink satin drape, dressed casually in jeans, Converse, a white T-shirt and a blazer.

The shot has been branded as a “washed out mess of a cover.”

"Kamala Harris is about as light skinned as women of colour come and Vogue still [messed] up her lighting," one Twitter user wrote.

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.

The Washington Post's senior critic-at-large Robin Givhan, said that while "there's nothing inherently wrong with this picture," choosing to go with an informal cover image of the vice-president-elect "robbed Harris of her roses".

"A bit of awe would have served the magazine well in its cover decisions. Nothing about the cover said, 'Wow.' And sometimes, that's all black women want, an admiring and celebratory 'wow' over what they have accomplished," he wrote.

Reports suggest that while Harris’s team had some control over the shoot, with the vice president-elect herself selecting the blazer and Chuck Taylor Converse shoes she is wearing in the image, they were “blindsided” by the choice of cover image, believing the more casual shots would be featured inside the magazine.

Instead they expected the second shot, reportedly set to be the cover image for the digital edition, in which Harris is seen in a powder-blue Michael Kors suit, arms folded, in front of a gold drape, to be the main image used.

Harris's niece, Meena Harris, tweeted, "Please don’t ask me about the cover this week has been hard enough." She later posted excerpts from the story, with the digital cover, showing her aunt in the blue suit.

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

A spokesperson 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.

“To respond to the seriousness of this moment in history, and the role she has to play leading our country forward, we're celebrating both images of her as covers digitally."

In an article released to accompany the cover, 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."

The cover is also likely to be a sting for the Trump administration, with the President recently complaining that, during his four-year term, his model wife Melania had not graced the cover of Vogue or other high-end fashion magazines, something that former first lady, Michelle Obama, did many times.