American author and fashion icon André Leon Talley is perhaps best known for his role as an editor for Vogue magazine. He has mentored some of the most popular celebrities in the entertainment industry, including: Tracy Reese, Rachel Roy, Jennifer Hudson, Mariah Carey, Kimora Lee Simmons, and Venus Williams. His work as a judge on Tyra Banks’ America’s Next Top Model further cemented his prominent position in the fashion world.
Born in Durham, North Carolina on October 16, 1949, Talley was left to be raised by his grandmother. Talley attended North Carolina Central University and later received his master’s degree in French from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. His first reported job was as an assistant to New York City artist and fashion icon Andy Warhol for $50.00 per week.
In 2003, Talley constructed and released his autobiography titled A.L.T.: A Memoir. Writing about his upbringing in Durham, Tally shared, “We always had clothes to wear and food on the table, but we lived on limited means. Our roof leaked buckets of water when the snow melted, and if the pipes froze, my grandmother heated water on the wood-burning stove so I could take a ‘bird bath’ before school.” He also recalled how segregation and attacks on the black population hit close to home. He said that “for a long time my grandmother would not allow white people to come into our house. That was her rule. The only white man who ever came into the house was the coroner.”
Talley has received awards throughout his career as an editor, journalist and fashion designer. Among them: Eugenia Sheppard Award and the Council of Fashion Designers of America, 2003, for fashion journalism.
When President Barack Obama was introduced to the world as the new Commander-in-Chief at the Inaugural Ball in 2008, his wife – First Lady Michelle Obama – was wearing a dress designed by relatively-new fashion designer Jason Wu. Talley was the conduit between the two forces and had made the first introduction.
* Photo by David Shankbone