fashion

Vogue to print alternative Kamala Harris cover following photo backlash

Published 20th January 2021
Kamala Harris vogue covers January 2021.
Credit: Vogue
Vogue to print alternative Kamala Harris cover following photo backlash
Written by Oscar Holland, CNN
Contributors Jacqui Palumbo, CNNJasmine Wright, CNN
American Vogue will publish a new version of its February issue, fronted by a different image of Kamala Harris, after the original cover photo was criticized for appearing casual and "washed out."
The widely preferred alternative cover, which features Vice President-elect in a light blue suit against a gold background, was originally created for the magazine's digital edition, but will now appear in a limited print run, Vogue announced Tuesday.
"In recognition of the enormous interest in the digital cover, and in celebration of this historic moment, we will be publishing a limited number of special edition inaugural issues," Vogue wrote on its website, with similar messages posted to social media.
The original print cover, which features Harris in a black jacket and Converse sneakers, sparked backlash after it was leaked last week. Fashion critics and social media users said that it appeared poorly lit, while others suggested it was "disrespectful" to the Vice President-elect.
Both images were taken by Tyler Mitchell, who famously became the first Black photographer to shoot an American Vogue cover when he captured Beyoncé for the magazine's September 2018 issue.
Washington Post's senior critic-at-large Robin Givhan, wrote that while "there's nothing inherently wrong" with the picture, in selecting the more informal one as its cover, "Vogue robbed Harris of her roses."
Others said the image made the Vice President-elect's skin appear "washed out" and was out-of-keeping with Vogue's glamorous aesthetic. Playwright and lawyer Wajahat Ali described it as a "mess up," adding that Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour "must really not have Black friends and colleagues."
Vogue said that the apple green and salmon pink background on the current print cover had been inspired by the colors of Howard University's Alpha Kappa Alpha, the "first historically African American sorority."
Vogue said that the apple green and salmon pink background on the current print cover had been inspired by the colors of Howard University's Alpha Kappa Alpha, the "first historically African American sorority." Credit: Tyler Mitchell/Vogue
Wintour later defended the choice, saying that the magazine's creative team had felt that the casual look was the right for the current climate.
"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 said in statement to the New York Times last week. "We are in the midst ... of the most appalling pandemic that is taking lives by the minute, and we felt to reflect this tragic moment in global history, a much less formal picture, something that was very, very accessible, and approachable, and really reflected the hallmark of the Biden-Harris campaign..."
Harris' team had initially believed the blue and gold cover, which attracted praise online, would appear on the print edition, according to a source familiar with discussions, though Wintour said there had been "no formal agreement."
When the digital cover, which sees Harris wearing a powder blue Michael Kors suit, first emerged last week, social media users described it as "presidential" and "more appropriate." Erica Baker, a software engineer and commentator on diversity, had tweeted that the image is "much more neutral, much better edited, much more magazine cover quality."
Vogue said that only a "limited quantity" of magazines will be printed with the alternative cover, and they are only being made available in the US.