BY BESSIE YUILL
Joshua Roberts/Getty Image
Vogue’s February cover photo of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris has sparked outrage online, as some Twitter users have called it “disrespectful,” “amateurish,” and even “anti-black.” The photo shows Harris, who was elected vice president in 2019 alongside running mate Joe Biden, wearing Converse sneakers and a casual black suit in front of a pink and green background. According to Vogue, the backdrop colors are a reference to her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, but the cover photo’s execution faced accusations of laziness and bad lighting when it was tweeted by the magazine on Jan. 10, 2020.
“This speaks volumes of how you view our Madame Vice President,” said Adrienne Lawrence, a host of The Young Turks.
Later that same day, Vogue’s Twitter released a second photo of the former attorney general, wearing a powder blue suit in front of a gold background. The more formal picture appeared to draw more praise, and it seems the Vice President-elect herself agrees. A source familiar with the photoshoot told CBS News that aides to Harris believed an image in the powder blue suit was going to be the cover photo.
“Without telling Harris’ team, Vogue changed it to the pink/green photo which the Vice President-elect’s team did not agree to,” the insider claimed. Harris’ team was “blindsided” by the cover, according to another source. CNN reported that Harris’ team even asked for a new cover, despite the fact that the print version went to press in December 2019.
The Kamala Harris cover is not Vogue’s first controversy
Vogue has faced criticism in the past for its images of Black celebrities. The August 2020 edition featured Olympic gymnast Simone Biles on the cover, and that shoot by photographer Annie Leibowitz also caused an uproar, according to Insider. Critics such as writer Britni Danielle pointed out that the cover photo’s dim lighting didn’t flatter the gold medalist’s dark skin tone.
“I adore Simone Biles and am thrilled she’s on this cover… but I hate these photos,” The New York Times national picture editor Morrigan McCarthy tweeted, specifically calling out “the toning,” how “predictable” she found the images, and the fact that Vogue supposedly “couldn’t be bothered to hire a Black photographer.” Vogue’s controversial editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, also admitted that she had failed to elevate black creators in a company-wide memo during the summer of 2020.
Tyler Mitchell, who took the controversial images of Kamala Harris, was the first Black photographer to ever be featured on the cover of Vogue when he shot Beyoncé in 2018, according to NPR. At the time of this writing, Mitchell has only posted the powder blue suit photograph on his Twitter and Instagram, without acknowledging the original cover photo. Harris has not publicly commented on the cover to date.