Anna Wintour has been widely regarded as one of the most influential individuals in the fashion industry. Her aggressively decisive attitude, paired with the iconic bob and shades combo, has long been a constant in the ever-changing industry. But these are all things that cancel culture doesn’t care about.
Andre Leon Talley, the former editor at Vogue, has detailed some of his experiences with Wintour during their time together at the magazine where Anna has been editor-in-chief since 1988. Despite Wintour making Talley “the highest-ranking black man in the history of fashion journalism,” his new memoir “The Chiffon Trenches” is filled with anecdotes that prompt the question of whether or not Wintour’s reign is coming to a halt.
Talley shares stories of Wintour’s sizable superiority, including racist jabs towards him and persistent nagging over the weight gain that followed the death of his mother. Despite being one of only two Vogue staffers invited to Wintour’s wedding, when Talley was let go of his contract at Vogue, he was told by an unnamed staffer. “This was clearly a stone-cold business decision,” he wrote. “I had suddenly become too old, too overweight and too uncool, I imagined, for Anna Wintour.”
Talley shares that ultimately, Wintour’s inhumanity was upsetting to him. He even makes the conclusion that Wintour is incapable of simple human kindness.
“I have huge emotional and psychological scars from my relationship with this towering and influential woman, who can sit by the queen of England, on the front row of a fashion show, in her uniform of dark glasses and perfect Louise Brooks clipped coiffure framing her Mona Lisa mystery face,” said Talley.
Talley remembers Wintour was prone to sporadic bursts of annoyance toward her coworkers. The silent treatment seemed to be Wintour’s go-to way of going about her differences.
Another friend of Wintour, Graydon Carter, the former editor of Vanity Fair, assured Talley that he was not alone in his experiences.
“One day she treats me like a good friend and a colleague, and the next day, she treats me as if she had just handed over her keys to an unknown parking valet,” Carter said of Wintour.
Exceptions to Anna’s wrath do exist. In Talley’s memoir, he alludes to Wintour being image-obsessed, being careful to make her best friends people who are the most successful in their chosen fields. Talley describes her as, “immune to anyone other than the powerful and famous people who populate the pages of Vogue.”
Talley insists that he loves Wintour. “People may see my book as a vengeful, bitchy tell-all, it is not.”
This is not the first time Anna has been subject to the threat of cancel culture. As a matter of fact, her career has been ridden with stories shared by colleagues of her diva-like antics. The speculations and mysteries behind her have played a crucial role in curating the image of Wintour the public has grown to know and love.
Arguably the most iconic portrayal of Wintour’s bizarre behavior was in the classic hit The Devil Wears Prada. The movie is based on the New York Times bestseller written by Lauren Weisberger, who was once an assistant to Anna Wintour.
Former employees and colleagues of Wintour in the past have said that the portrayal of the tyrannical character Miranda Priestly, consistently believed to be based on Wintour, is very accurate in its portrayal of the editor-in-chief.
Morley Safer, a CBS news correspondent who covered Wintour for a 60 Minutes profile, compared the movie’s portrayal of Wintour as a “teddy bear” relative to the real thing.
Wintour was a good sport about the movie and even made an appearance at the film’s premiere. In an interview with Barbara Walters, she went as far as to give the film her seal of approval.
“Anything that makes fashion entertaining and glamorous and interesting is wonderful for our industry. So I was 100 percent behind it,” Wintour said of the film.
It is safe to say Vogue has seen better days. In addition to Talley’s memoir, the coronavirus pandemic has had catastrophic effects on the fashion industry. Vogue’s famous Met Gala was canceled for the first time in its history. Wintour even had to take a 20% pay cut from her $2 million dollars annual salary.
“I think it’s really giving the industry a pause,” Wintour said on CNBC’s Closing Bell. “I think everybody is rethinking what the fashion industry stands for, what it means, what it should be.”
So will this be the end of Anna Wintour? She has narrowly avoided giving up her reign time and time again. If she could get away with telling Oprah to lose weight for a Vogue cover (Anna called this a “gentle-suggestion”), will André Talley’s memoir really be the straw that breaks the camels back? Only time will tell.