André Leon Talley (born October 16, 1949) is the former American editor-at-large for Vogue magazine, listed as Contributing Editor in the April 2010 masthead. Talley has been a front-row regular at fashion shows in New York, Paris, London and Milan for more than 25 years. He uses his influence to promote young fashion designers and mentors young talent in other fields.
Talley was born October 16, 1949, in Washington, D.C., as the son of Alma Ruth Davis and William C. Talley, a taxi driver. His parents left him with his grandmother, Bennie Davis, who was a cleaning lady at Duke University, in Durham, North Carolina. Davis raised him and, he claims, gave him an "understanding of luxury." His grandfather was a sharecropper.
Talley grew up in the Jim Crow Era South, where the segregation was clear. He recalls “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." His love for fashion was cultivated at an early age by his grandmother, Bennie, and his discovery of Vogue magazine, which he first found in the local library.
Talley was educated at Hillside High School, graduating in 1966, and North Carolina Central University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in French Literature in 1970. He was later granted a scholarship to Brown University, where he earned a Master of Arts degree in French Studies in 1973. At Brown, he wrote a thesis on Charles Baudelaire and initially planned to teach French.
Beginning in 1974, he worked at Andy Warhol's Factory in New York City and at Warhol’s Interview magazine for $50 a week. That same year he volunteered for Diana Vreeland at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He went on to work at Women’s Wear Daily and W, from 1975 through 1980. He also worked for the New York Times and other publications before finally landing at Vogue, where he worked as the Fashion News Director from 1983 to 1987 and then as Creative Director from 1988 to 1995. He pushed top designers to have more African American models in their shows. He left Vogue and moved to Paris in 1995 to work for W, and served as contributing editor at Vogue. In 1998, he returned to Vogue as the editor-at-large until his departure in 2013 to pursue another editorial venture.
From 2013 to 2014, he served as international editor of Numéro Russia, joining the team shortly after the magazine launched in March 2013 but resigned after twelve issues. He has been a member of the Board of Trustees of the Savannah College of Art and Design since 1995.
In the mid-2000s, an intervention was initiated by Anna Wintour to get Talley to lose weight. As seen on The Oprah Winfrey Show, he eventually lost a great deal of weight, and was eating more healthily.
In 2007, he was ranked 45th in Out magazine's "50 Most Powerful Gay Men and Women in America". In 2008, Talley advised the future First Family on fashion, and introduced Michelle Obama to the Taiwanese Canadian designer Jason Wu, from whom she bought several dresses including her inaugural gown. His most famous pairings of late have been with designers Tracy Reese, Rachel Roy, and singer/actress Jennifer Hudson. He is known as a very close friend of pop diva Mariah Carey, fashion designer Kimora Lee Simmons, and tennis star Venus Williams. As of March 2010, Talley was serving on the judging panel for America's Next Top Model (from Cycle 14 to Cycle 17).
In October 2011, the André Leon Talley Gallery opened in the SCAD Museum of Art.
- Sex and the City (2008)
- Valentino: The Last Emperor (2008)
- The September Issue (2009)
- "Say Somethin" (Mariah Carey's 2005 video)
- Empire season 2 episode 1
- "First Monday in May" (2016)
Awards and Memberships
Talley has been recognized for his important work.
- 2003: Eugenia Sheppard Award for Fashion Journalism, Council of Fashion Designers of America
- 2008: Honorary Doctor of Humanities, Savannah College of Art and Design
Talley wrote an autobiography entitled A.L.T.: A Memoir, published in 2003.
He also authored A.L.T. 365+, an art monograph designed by art director Sam Shahid, published in 2005. 365 features photos and captions from one year of his life.
Also co-wrote MegaStar with Richard Bernstein, a book with an introduction from Paloma Picasso, which has portraits of famous stars.