American Vogue’s February cover with US Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, its first featuring an elected official, sparked debate among fashion critics and on social media after it leaked online over the weekend and was subsequently released by Vogue.
By printing the casual image, depicting Harris in Converse sneakers, as its cover rather than a more polished portrait of Harris in a blue suit (which Vogue released as a digital cover alternative at the same time), the magazine effectively “called her by her first name without invitation,” wrote The Washington Post’s Robin Givhan. Others online criticized what they described as washed-out lighting and a lack of glamour.
Harris and her team were also disappointed by the image choice too, according to several reports on Monday, though the Vice President-elect’s office has not commented on the controversy. Sources said Harris and her team expected the more formal blue suit portrait would be chosen as the print magazine cover. “Harris’ team was unaware that the cover photo had been switched until images leaked late Saturday,” reported the Los Angeles Times, citing a person involved with the negotiations with Vogue. A source told CNN that the VP’s office asked for a new cover, but the magazine went to press in mid-December.
Harris and her team had not been granted approval of the cover image, according to a source familiar with Vogue, and it is not standard practice at the magazine.
A representative for Vogue told the LA Times and other outlets that the more casual image was chosen for its “authentic, approachable nature, which we feel is one of the hallmarks of the Biden-Harris administration.” The Vogue article said Harris styled herself for the photographs.
Vogue’s cover story also specified that the green and pink background of the portrait shot by Tyler Mitchell was intended as a tribute to her Howard University sorority, the historically-Black Alpha Kappa Alpha. Mitchell became the first Black photographer to shoot a cover of Vogue in 2018 when he photographed Beyonce for the September issue.
He recently photographed another American politician, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for Vanity Fair’s December issue. That cover also generated criticism, mostly from conservatives who objected to the price tag of the expensive designer pieces she wore, from Loewe, Christopher John Rogers and other brands.