Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, the first woman of colour to hold the second-highest office in the US, will appear on the cover of fashion magazine Vogue in February. Yet the image chosen came under fire for being poorly lit and styled after the magazine tweeted it on Sunday.
In the picture in question – one of two that will be used for the digital version of the magazine – the Vice President-Elect stands in front of a pink drape with a pale green background, casually dressed in a two-piece suit and Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers.
One Twitter user called it “a washed out mess”.
Kamala Harris is about as light skinned as women of color come and Vogue still fvcked up her lighting. WTF is this washed out mess of a cover? pic.twitter.com/5O2q0axA0G
— E. Vaughan (@HypeVaughan) January 10, 2021
Another felt it disrespected the Vice President-Elect in its sloppiness. “Folks who don’t get why the Vogue cover of VP-Elect Kamala Harris is bad are missing the point. The pic itself isn’t terrible as a pic. It’s just far, far below the standards of Vogue. They didn’t put thought into it. Like homework finished the morning it’s due,” wrote LGTBQ rights activist Charlotte Clymer.
Later on Sunday evening, the magazine released a second image which featured Harris dressed more formally in a powder blue suit in front of a gold backdrop.
Vice President-elect @KamalaHarris is our February cover star!
Making history was the first step. Now Harris has an even more monumental task: to help heal a fractured America—and lead it out of crisis. Read the full profile: https://t.co/W5BQPTH7AU pic.twitter.com/OCFvVqTlOk
— Vogue Magazine (@voguemagazine) January 10, 2021
In a statement, Vogue said it went with the more casual image for the print magazine’s cover because it represented the “authentic, approachable nature, which we feel is one of the hallmarks of the Biden-Harris administration”.
Vogue also clarified that the clothing hair and makeup styling was made by Harris’ team. The salmon pink and green and are the official colours of Kappa Alpha, the first historically African American sorority which Harris belonged to at Howard University.
Is the Harris team unhappy?
US news outlet CNN reported a source close to Harris’ team saying they were disappointed with the cover choice and had believed that the more formal image was going to be used. The team even asked if a new cover could take its place, although the magazine had already gone to print in December, according to CNN.
The pictures were shot by Tyler Mitchell, who gained fame as the first Black photographer to shoot an American Vogue cover in the magazine’s history — it featured Beyoncé in 2018. While Mitchell did not directly weigh in on the debate on Sunday, he tweeted the cover of Harris in the powder blue suit that evening.
Vogue has come under fire in the past for not being sensitive to minorities. In an internal memo circulated to staff in 2020, the paper’s editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, apologised for “mistakes.”
“Vogue has not found enough ways to elevate or give space to Black editors, writers, photographers, designers, and other creators,” Wintour wrote. “We have made mistakes too, publishing images or stories that have been hurtful or intolerant. I want to take full responsibility for those mistakes.”
Featured image: Tyler Mitchell/Vogue