Has the criticism of VP Kamala Harris' Vogue cover been a little too harsh?

Kamala Harris speaks during a campaign stop on October 27, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Joe Buglewicz/Getty Images)
Kamala Harris speaks during a campaign stop on October 27, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Joe Buglewicz/Getty Images)

The US edition of Vogue helmed by Anna Wintour, released its two February 2021 covers this week featuring Kamala Harris shot by Tyler Mitchell. 

The official print cover caused quite a stir. On this cover, US Vice President elect Kamala Harris is seen in Converse sneakers, and as many pointed out, in poor lighting looking washed out. 

The digital cover features a tighter shot of the VP-elect in a blue suit – an image that was approved by her team for use.

Although the print cover's backdrop is an ode to the VP-elect's sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha, and she is reportedly styled in what she felt most comfortable in, Harris’ team and Vogue had agreed that the blue suit image styled by Gabriella Karefa-Johnson would grace the cover, leaving her team “blindsided” by the publication’s choice.  

Vogue and Anna Wintour have defended their print cover selection, releasing an online article detailing the significance behind the image chosen.

“The team at Vogue… felt the more informal image captured Vice President-elect Harris’ authentic, approachable nature,” a Vogue representative told ‘Us’

In a statement to the New York Times, Anna Wintour said: “Obviously we have heard and understood the reaction to the print cover and I just want to reiterate that it was absolutely not our intention to, in any way, diminish the importance of the vice-president-elect’s incredible victory.” 

“And 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," the fashion arbiter's editor-in-chief said, adding how she felt the picture was “very, very accessible and approachable and real”. 

Perhaps the "accessible and real" portrayal is owed to the fact that VP Kamala Harris has made Converse sneakers her signature, as she sported various pairs throughout her campaign.

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 31: Democratic Vi
US Vice President Kamala Harris (D-CA) shows off her shoes after a person inquired about them during a stop at Buccaneer Park on October 31, 2020 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)  

Vogue also told the Guardian that their “approach to working with Vice-President-elect Harris and her team was to capture her as a leader and as a person, and as she was most comfortable.

“We collaborated closely on all creative decisions including that she would dress and style herself for the shoot, and both looks were selected by the VP-elect and her team."

READ MORE: Anna Wintour finally admits Vogue hasn’t done enough for black people in its 128-year existence   

In an eloquently worded op-ed on the contentious cover, Washington Post senior critic-at-large Robin Givhan captured the internet's underwhelmed, disapproving reception of the cover, writing; 

“The nation’s first female vice president elect has been photographed for the cover of February’s Vogue magazine and a vocal chorus on social media is displeased with the images. In the midst of a pandemic, in the aftermath of a riot at the Capitol and during the lead-up to a historic transfer of power that has become violent, what should have been a blissfully distracting, glossy celebration of a barrier-breaking moment has become a cause for disappointment.

"Not because of what was in the frame, but because of what was absent. The cover did not give Kamala D. Harris due respect. It was overly familiar. It was a cover image that, in effect, called Harris by her first name without invitation.... There’s nothing inherently wrong with this picture. And in some ways, it’s an audacious way of depicting this new political era and its break with the past. The problem is that it’s on the cover."

"The picture isn’t juxtaposed with one of constituents or staff or family. She’s a woman alone in sneakers sharing space with the Vogue brand.... And in using the more informal image for the print edition of the magazine, Vogue robbed Harris of her roses. Despite its freighted history of racial insensitivity and recent accusations of disrespect and promises to be more inclusive, Vogue as an institution hasn’t fully grasped the role that humility plays in finding the path forward. A bit of awe would have served the magazine well in its cover decisions. Nothing about the cover said, 'Wow.' And sometimes, that’s all Black women want, an admiring and celebratory “wow” over what they have accomplished.” 

Compiled by Afika Jadezweni 

Sources: Cover Media, The Guardian, Washington Post

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