Anna Wintour didn’t foresee any criticism about the leaked Kamala Harris February cover. The longtime Vogue editor in chief opened up about the historic feature to the New York Times’ Kara Swisher for a new episode of the Sway podcast. The audio, released today, was recorded several days before the divisive cover prematurely made its way to social media. In the 30-minute interview, Wintour tells the host that she “cannot imagine…anyone is going to find this cover anything but [joyful, optimistic], and positive.”
Wintour told Swisher that the cover was the result of a months-long conversation between Harris’ team and the Vogue features department. In the now-viral image, shot by Tyler Mitchell, a casual and smiling Vice President-elect is seen, styled by herself, in a black pantsuit and her signature Converse sneakers. Wintour said, to her, the image represented a woman who is “in control of her life who’s going to bring us where the President-elect, the leadership, that we so need.” She added, “And to me, it’s just a very important, but positive, statement about women, and women in power.”
However, the image was criticized by many online, including Washington Post’s Robin Ghivan who wrote in a widely circulated op-ed: “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.”
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After the cover was shared rapidly on Sunday, Wintour gave a follow-up statement to Swisher and the New York Times. She said: “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. We want nothing but to celebrate Vice President-elect Harris’s amazing victory and the important moment this is in America’s history, and particularly for women of color, all over the world.”
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Wintour also said “all of us at Vogue” felt very, very strongly that the less formal portrait of the Vice President-elect really reflected the moment that we were living in, in the midst of the most appalling pandemic that is taking lives by the minute. And we felt to reflect this tragic moment in global history, a much less formal picture, something that was very, very accessible, and approachable, and real, really reflected the hallmark of the Biden-Harris campaign and everything that they are trying to.”
An additional digital cover shows a more formal Harris in a powder blue pantsuit by Michael Kors against a gold backdrop. This cover seemed to be far more positively received online—on Instagram, it has 736,000 likes versus the former cover’s 474,000. It is apparently being considered by Condé Nast whether this image will become a second edition of the souvenir print edition.