At first glance, a Vogue cover photo of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in her signature Converse sneakers and a black jacket is nothing out of the ordinary. But it is precisely this casual nature of the photo that is drawing criticism from social media users.
“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,” wrote Washington Post critic Robin Givhan in a poignant criticism. “In using the more informal image for the print edition of the magazine, Vogue robbed Harris of her roses.”
The cover of Vogue’s February issue shows Harris in an outfit of her choice, standing with her arms crossed in front of pink and green drapes — likely a nod to her college sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha. One tweeter called the leaked image a “washed out mess,” and another decried the “poor quality” of the photo.
In short, many argued that the image did not live up to expectations for the iconic glossy, famous for its ability to beautifully showcase celebrities and even politicians in couture.
A second photo, a waist-up shot of Harris in a powder blue suit, was received more warmly by the public. It was this second photo that Harris’ team believed would grace the magazine’s cover, according to The Associated Press. A source told the AP that Harris’ team let Vogue know they are disappointed by the magazine's decision on what photo to use on the print cover.
In a statement, Vogue officials said the “informal image captured Vice President-elect Harris's authentic, approachable nature — which we feel is one of the hallmarks of the Biden/Harris administration.”
The photos were taken by Tyler Mitchell, who, in 2018, became the first Black photographer to do a cover shoot for American Vogue. He shared images of Harris posing in the powder blue suit on Instagram.
Social media users have also pointed out the overall anti-Blackness rife in the fashion industry. Last year, Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour apologized for publishing culturally “hurtful and intolerant” content and not doing enough to elevate Black talent. The apology came around the time Black creatives started the #VogueChallenge, in which they created their own version of Vogue covers.
In a searing op-ed, Essence editors declared that the vice president-elect deserved better than such a "casual" cover.
“With everything happening in our country and with so many issues to be addressed and resolved globally, the micro-aggression of visually diminishing her position with the chosen cover image is especially disappointing,” the editors wrote.
“She should be seen as an inspiration for every young girl and woman around the world to know that they can aspire to heights yet unseen, but she also must be fully respected according to the leadership role she will now hold.”