VP Harris For Vogue: Magazines with Big Names and Inadequate Representation Just Can’t Get It Right.
Shockingly enough, despite the confounding and unprecedented political unrest this country continues to face, fashion still found a way to be a part of the conversation.
Donald Trump single handedly destroyed the American political system on January 6 as growing tension over his divisive and dangerous rhetoric finally boiled over in a showdown that put the heart of American politics and top leaders of both parties in grave danger.
As expected, news channels across the country have provided 24-hour coverage on everything from impeachment and the future of the Republican Party to the possibility of VP Pence activating the 25th Amendment. But social media, political activists and Black culture had other problems to resolve following the leaking of the Kamala Harris cover shoot with Vogue.
A leaked image from Vogue’s February issue shows Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris posing in a “washed-out” photo that has since stirred up controversy. The image, shot by esteemed photographer Tyler Mitchell, captures Harris wearing a Black suit jacket by Donald Deal, Black pants and casual Converse sneakers. True to her Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, Harris posed in front of a pink and green back drop wearing a staple pearl necklace.
Tyler Mitchell was previously praised for his breathtaking imagination which captured an iconic image of Beyoncé Knowles for the September issue of Vogue. Full of color, contrasting tones and textures, the images are indisputably captivating.
Offended supporters of VP Harris took to Twitter to express their disappointment; some described it as unsophisticated, garbage, and disappointing. Anna Wintour responded to critics expressing “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.”
As it seems, Anna Wintour and Kamala Harris’s team were not on the same page. Harris's’ team told the Associated Press that the leaked photo was not agreed upon as the cover shot, confirming that her team was informed of the image switch along with everyone else Saturday evening.
Despite Ana Wintour’s reassurance that none of this was intentional, outrage is to be expected considering what global vogue photographers are able to do with the same, if not less, resources.
Vogue Africa continues to demonstrate its ability to bring to life pigmentation, unlike the photo of Kamala Harris — which clearly does not compliment her complexion. While photographer Mitchell appears to have what it takes, there needed to be more consideration of how her dark suit paired with a light background may overstate the outfit and back drop, and therefore understate her skin tone. Unfortunately, there is a habit of photographers and magazines not taking care with Black subjects.
The bigger issue, however, is the casual nature of the shot. Previously, Kamala Harris appeared in TIME Magazine and ELLE — in both magazines she appeared Regal and Professional. Obviously, as the Vice President of The United States should.
Of course, considering the surge in young voters and the shift in societal culture from overtly professional to self-expressive can justify a shot that is casual. VP Harris and her team noted that this photo was intended to be used as an image inside of the magazine, however, Vogue decided otherwise.
While anyone familiar with magazines knows that photographers tend to take a less professional approach once readers have passed the cover shot, there is still no justification for shooting a Vice President-elect in sneakers…and Converse at that. Though society has progressed, the prestige of the Office remains constant.
Adding more fuel to the fire, on January 20, Kamala Harris will become the first Black female Vice President of the United States. This image and the audacity of a photographer, in any capacity, to even support an official image of her wearing sneakers further perpetuates a narrative that even at their highest status, Black woman must still appear delicate and soft in the face of power.
The outrage inspired by this image shows a minor shift in cultural standards. We ought to be inspired that people — of different races and ethnicities — saw the disrespectful undertone of presenting the VP in that kind of light.
As we move forward towards Inauguration and more Color in the White House, both Mitchell and all his photographer colleagues should be weary of the longstanding stereotypes against Black woman and the historical context of the Office of The Vice President of The United States.
We have progressed as a country and more boundaries can be broken because of that, but every time someone artistically conceptualizes the Office Senator Harris will soon hold, we should ask our self:
Would anyone ask President-elect Joe Biden to pose for an official photo in Converse Sneakers?