The life and legacy of a fashion icon André Leon Talley

Andre Leon Talley, Tyra Banks at arrivals for THE CW: WELCOME TO REALITY Network Premieres Party, Simyone Lounge, New York, NY February 23, 2010. Photo By: Rob Rich/Everett Collection

From humble beginnings in Durham, North Carolina, to becoming one of the most influential fashion journalists of all time, fans will forever see André Leon Talley as a fashion icon.

André Leon Talley is a household name for many within the fashion world. He is well known for his elaborate think pieces and editorials in Vogue Magazine and his alluring designer capes and caftans.

His presence within the fashion community was like no other. He was often the only person of color sitting in the crowd of a fashion show but would later become Vogue’s first African American male creative director.

Being a Black gay man, Talley had to overcome many barriers growing up during the Jim Crow era in the South. He refused to let his differences get in the way of chasing after what he truly loved, fashion.

In his early years, Talley found himself heavily intrigued by the fashion industry after discovering his first “Vogue” magazine. This magazine would be the first of many that Talley would indulge in to feed his love for anything related to fashion.

His grandmother raised Talley for most of his life, and she played an integral role in his life and sense of style. Despite not coming from a wealthy background, his grandmother made sure Talley and herself were dressed in the best they could afford.

Witnessing his grandmother’s appreciation for beautiful fashion pieces such as gloves, hats and handkerchiefs, a young Talley would often save his earnings to spoil his grandmother with a few garments to add to her collection. Despite his grandmother not having the most expensive clothes, she turned her outfits into fashion.

“You don’t have to be rich to have great taste. Taste is something that comes from within and from your environment,” Talley said in an interview with Sangita Patel. “You find beauty in your experiences as a human being, and you get through the day better if you can be positive about the word beauty.”

During his time in high school, Talley experienced bouts of bullying from his peers due to his tall and unique appearance. Despite it all, he never allowed them to steal the thing he prides himself in, his knowledge.

“Knowledge is power, and knowledge is armor, so when in doubt, you refer to the knowledge and associate all the things you’ve taken in,” Talley said. “As Judge Judy says, they don’t keep me here for my looks; they keep me here for my knowledge, and that is my motto.”

Talley has always shown immense appreciation for education and letting curiosity take him to the next level in life. He earned his bachelor’s degree in French literature from North Carolina Central University, a historically black university in Durham.

Later on, Talley would receive a scholarship to attend Brown University, where he worked towards getting his master’s degree in French literature in 1973. From that point, he worked his way up into the fashion industry by starting as a receptionist at Interview Magazine until finally making his way to Vogue in 1983.

His time at the fashion publication was nothing short of amazing and far from an easy task. He faced many moments of adversity and racism as he continued to make headway into these predominantly white spaces.

His legacy as a Black fashion icon landed him in many rooms and roles throughout the years as he became one of the judges for a popular TV show, “America’s Next Top Model.” Talley’s words would become law in the land of fashion as he spent years educating himself on all things art and fashion.

Talley pursued his wildest dreams while uplifting Black people within the fashion industry. His dedication to fashion will be recognized forever, along with his outstanding contributions to this industry, the Black community and art as a whole.