André Leon Talley Opens Up About Racism in the Fashion Industry and His Own Sexuality in Vanity Fair

Former long-time Vogue editor André Leon Talley has always been a larger-than-life force in the fashion world. But since stepping up his extracurriculars outside of Vogue--becoming Numéro Russia's editor-at-large, and reportedly developing a late night talk show with NBC--Talley has stepped out of the fashion bible's shadow, and into his own spotlight, starting with a profile in September's Vanity Fair.
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Former long-time Vogue editor André Leon Talley has always been a larger-than-life force in the fashion world. But since stepping up his extracurriculars outside of Vogue--becoming Numéro Russia's editor-at-large, and reportedly developing a late night talk show with NBC--Talley has stepped out of the fashion bible's shadow, and into his own spotlight, starting with a profile in September's Vanity Fair.
Photo: Getty

Photo: Getty

Former long-time Vogue editor André Leon Talley has always been a larger-than-life force in the fashion world. But since stepping up his extracurriculars outside of Vogue--becoming Numéro Russia's editor-at-large, and reportedly developing a late night talk show with NBC--Talley has stepped out of the fashion bible's shadow, and into his own spotlight, starting with a profile in September's Vanity Fair.

The outspoken and always quotable Talley opened up to the glossy's contributing editor Vanessa Grigoriadis about some pretty personal topics: his sexuality, struggles with weight, and how race has been a hindering factor in his career.

When questioned about being gay, or even thinking about being gay, Talley said, “No, no, no. I was just into my magazines and the drawings. I had a very strict upbringing, almost puritanical. I lived there all the way through college. I was in my grandmother’s house, and I respected that!”

Talley said he rejects being labeled as gay, though he says he's "had very gay experiences." Despite those "very gay experiences" Talley tells Vanity Fair, he's "never been in love with a man—only two women: one a fellow student in Providence, the other a society woman with whom he fell in love after a night of dancing in Manhattan."

Gay or straight, there's definitely one type of person Talley would never, ever, under any circumstances consider hooking up with--and that's a designer. "I swear on my grandmother’s grave that I never slept with a single designer in my life," he told Vanity Fair. "Never, ever desired, never was asked, never was approached, never, ever bought, in my entire career. Never. Not one. Skinny or fat. Never."

He also opened up about his experiences with racism in the fashion industry (Talley grew up in the segregated South). He admits to wondering why, with such a packed résumé, he's never been the editor of a major magazine. He says, “People stereotype you. What person of color do you know who’s in a position like that, be it a man or a woman, unless it’s Essence magazine?”

Fortunately, Talley has some pretty great friends to rely on if times get tough--namely, his former boss Anna Wintour and New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd. Of the meticulously put-together Wintour, Talley says, "I have never seen her hair pulled back. Never. Not even at tennis." Maybe he's never seen a hair out of place, but apparently the bosom buddies are so close, a colleague says, "This is the only man who could see Anna in her underwear." A rare privilege, indeed.

And then there's the interview's shining gem: Who does Talley wish were his friend? That sassy old bird, Judge Judy.