Vogue magazine recently became embroiled in a “whitewashing” controversy when it tweeted photographs of its upcoming February cover star, US Vice President-elect, Kamala Harris.
Kamala Harris made made history as the first woman of colour to be elected vice president in America, however, people aren’t pleased how she is being portrayed in her photos. Two images were released, out of which one featured a full-length shot in front of what appeared to be a glossy pink silk drape. Users took to social media platforms, including Twitter, to express their discontent with the lighting of the two photographs.
Online critics accused the publication’s Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour and the magazine for supposedly “white-washing” the vice president-elect.
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“What a mess up,” wrote the New York Times contributor Wajahat Ali. “Anna Wintour must really not have Black friends and colleagues. I’ll shoot shots of VP Kamala Harris for free using my Samsung and I’m 100% confident it’ll turn out better than this Vogue cover.”
The lighting is poor, she doesn’t look fully made up and the quality of the photography and angle aren’t up to the standard of Vogue covers past. It just isn’t quality. pic.twitter.com/Sn6hDsr2QY
— Brooke W (@MamaWetzel) January 10, 2021
Vogue denied to the New York Post it had lightened Harris’s skin after the shoot. According to the Post, Harris and her team had control over her clothes, hair and makeup. She chose her own casual black jacket and pants and a pair of Converse Chuck Taylor boots for one photo, a powder blue Michael Kors pantsuit for the other. Each image was shot by Tyler Mitchell, who was 23 when he came to prominence photographing Beyoncé for Vogue in 2018. Mitchell has only posted one image – the Michael Kors one – on to his official Instagram account.
The Hollywood Reporter has said Harris’s team were “blindsided” that her choice of cover (the one featuring the Michael Kors pantsuit) was not the one the publication decided to go with. “Harris’s team was unaware that the cover photo had been switched until images leaked late Saturday, according to a person involved in the negotiations over how Harris would be featured on the cover,” says the article. “The person with knowledge of the negotiations said Harris’s team has expressed to Vogue its disappointment over the magazine’s decision.”
Vogue has not confirmed which of the two photographs it will use for its print cover, or if it will publish both but in a statement, a Vogue spokesperson told the Guardian: “The team at Vogue loved the images Tyler Mitchell shot and felt the more informal image captured Vice President-elect Harris’s authentic, approachable nature — which we feel is one of the hallmarks of the Biden/Harris administration. To respond to the seriousness of this moment in history, and the role she has to play leading our country forward, we’re celebrating both images of her as covers digitally.”
This is not the first time Vogue received flak for inaccurately portraying black stars. The August edition featured athlete Simone Biles in its US cover and received a similar amount of criticism over the fact that the photographer did no do justice to her.