Saturday, August 24, 2013

Vacation Post: Andre Leon Talley ... To Gay Or Not To Gay

So, in last week’s Random Musings I talked a bit about one Andre Leon Talley, and how she’s some sort of fashionista, or big deal in the fashion biz, or Anna Wintour’s Number 2, but also about how Andre just loves a caftan.

Well, after that post I found a snippet of an article where ALT, the former editor at large for Vogue and former judge on America’s Next Top Model, says she is not gay.

That’s me, clutching my pearls! I mean, do we need Gaydar here? Really? While we may have wondered about Ellen and Anderson and NPH and, hell, even Rosie, has anyone ever thought ALT is just a straight man in a dress?

Well, as it turns out, ALT isn’t really saying that he’s not gay; he’s just saying that he rejects the gay label, whatever that is? And then he says he’s had sex with women.

Say whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?

ALT talked to Vanity Fair contributing editor Vanessa Grigoriadis for the September issue, and says that “The world has become too casual, and people have become lazy. There was a time when people went on the airplane with gloves.” Talley then list the New Glove Ladies of the 2ist Century, like Kerry Washington, Michelle Obama, Beyoncé, Jackie O, and his friends Pauline de Rothschild and Gloria von Thurn und Taxis. “It’s about gloves, O.K., darling? It’s about gloves. Listen.”

Then he goes on to talk of his childhood in Durham, North Carolina, where he was raised by his grandmother in the 1950s and 1960s. Bullied in his black neighborhood, Little Andre found solace in fashion magazines, like Vogue, which he bought on the Duke University campus, and by reading John Fairchild’s memoir of couture, The Fashionable Savages, so many times he “practically memorized it.”

But, when Grigoriadis asks Talley if he thought he was gay, even in high school, he responds, “No, no, no. I was just into my magazines and the drawings. I had a very strict upbringing, almost puritanical. I lived there all the way through college. I was in my grandmother’s house, and I respected that!”

ALT goes on to say that he rejects the “label” and that, while he has “had very gay experiences, yes, I swear on my grandmother’s grave that I never slept with a single designer in my life. Never, ever desired, never was asked, never was approached, never, ever bought, in my entire career. Never. Not one. Skinny or fat. Never.”

Not gay, but gay experienced.

And, sadly, I think, ALT says he never been in love with a man—only two women: one a fellow student in Providence, the other a society woman with whom he fell in love after a night of dancing in Manhattan and whose name he declines to share because she later married and had children.

He says, of being single, “I just said to a friend, ‘I can create this magic, so why don’t I have a lover?’ [But] if I was a couple, I wouldn’t like to stay in the same bedroom. It is very un-chic in Europe to sleep in the same bedroom.”

On the subject of Anna Wintour, his former boss at Vogue, ALT says, “I wouldn’t have stayed at Vogue as long as I did without Anna being there. She was my biggest ally. There could not have been another way. … Ms. Wintour has had her bob since she was in her 20s. I have never seen her hair pulled back. Never. Not even at tennis.”

When the subject of his weight arises, ALT admits to a lifelong struggle, but says, “I do not weigh myself. I do not want to get on that scale. I only know what I weigh from the way my clothes fit. The people who are really close to me and know me have stopped bringing my weight up. They probably discuss it behind my back, some of them, in the fashion world.”
But, he says his weight has never affected his self-esteem: “I have never felt less of a person because of my dramatic weight gain. Up or down, my confidence and sense of self never wavered.”

ALT does wonder why he’s never been the editor of a major magazine, and believes race may play a factor: “People stereotype you. What person of color do you know who’s in a position like that, be it a man or a woman, unless it’s Essence magazine?”

His life is pretty simple, even given the way he lives and works; he lives in White Plains, New York and spends his evenings watching a lot of MSNBC: “Five o’clock is Chris Matthews; six o’clock is Reverend Al Sharpton. Then I wait for Rachel and Lawrence. And I’ll probably look at Judge Judy. I wish she were my friend.”

Wow. I kinda admire him for his sense of self, and then feel sorry for him that he doesn’t accept the gay label. There’s nothing wrong with that label, and when you have people like ALT who are so blatantly gay and refuse to admit it or address it, it says to other young black, gay, fashion-obsessed boys that maybe they should hide themselves, too. I kinda wish he’d have Judge Judy as a friend because she’d set him straight, so to speak, about coming out.


the dogs' mother said...

Interesting fellow.

Anonymous said...

I still laugh hysterically when I think about Tim Gunn's story about ALT getting fed grapes like a little bird.