The latest cover of Vogue magazine, which features Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, is drawing backlash from critics who noted the seemingly "washed out" photo of her. Harris, who posed for the photo in a black jacket and Converse sneakers, was not expecting the magazine to publish the controversial cover for its print edition, CNN reported.
Although the photo was supposed to be an ode to Harris' sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, the soon-to-be vice president was expecting to see another one of her photos for the cover, which featured a blue suit and gold background.
"Aides to Harris and Vogue had the understanding that the blue suit/gold background would be the cover photo. Without telling Harris' team, Vogue changed it to the pink/green photo which the vice president-elect's team did not agree to," a source said, according to CBS News.
But a copy of the February issue leaked on Sunday, stirring controversy as social media users pointed to the poor lighting and described the image as disrespectful.
Vice President-elect @KamalaHarris is our February cover star!
Making history was the first step. Now Harris has an even more monumental task: to help heal a fractured America—and lead it out of crisis. Read the full profile: https://t.co/W5BQPTH7AU
— Vogue Magazine (@voguemagazine) January 10, 2021
After the image leaked online, the magazine released the portrait of Harris wearing a powder blue suit.
"The team at Vogue loved the images Tyler Mitchell shot and felt the more informal image captured Vice President-elect Harris's authentic, approachable nature — which we feel is one of the hallmarks of the Biden-Harris administration," a spokesperson for Vogue told CBS News. "To respond to the seriousness of this moment in history, and the role she has to play leading our country forward, we're celebrating both images of her as covers digitally."
Mitchell is the 26-year-old who made history in 2018 when he captured images of Beyoncé, making him the first Black photographer to shoot a Vogue cover in the magazine's 125-year history, as Blavity previously reported. With the magazine's latest cover, which was supposed to celebrate another historic moment in Black history, Harris' team said they feel "blindsided."
The casual image of the trailblazer was supposed to be used as a smaller photo inside the actual Vogue story, according to the source who spoke to CBS News. As for the cover, Harris' team had hoped that it would inspire young people of color.
"There are not many Black women, let alone Black and South Asian women, that grace the covers of these high-end magazines," a source familiar told CBS News. "[For Harris], it was important for young men and women, people of color, to see that this is possible."
Some simply saw the cover as confusing.
Vogue knows Kamala Harris loves her sorority, suits, comfortable pants and chuck taylors. So they just jumbled it all together for the cover. Except they couldn't decide whether she is going to a luxe French salon, the Senate floor, or taking a jog. pic.twitter.com/FDNBbcw8tR
— E. Vaughan (@HypeVaughan) January 10, 2021
There were also some who didn't see anything wrong with the casual image.
She looks Wonderful and gorgeous in her comfort zone. Stop hatin’…..
— OJ Sampson (@CheeseWiz999) January 11, 2021
Vogue has faced backlash in the past for insensitive images and lack of diversity on its staff. Wintour admitted the company's flaws last summer amid the George Floyd protests, according to The Guardian.
“I want to say plainly that I know Vogue has not found enough ways to elevate and give space to black editors, writers, photographers, designers, and other creators," Wintour wrote in a company-wide internal memo. "We have made mistakes too, publishing images or stories that have been hurtful or intolerant. I take full responsibility for those mistakes.”
Harris made history when she won the 2020 election with President-elect Joe Biden in November, becoming the first Black American, Asian American and woman to become vice-president, as Blavity previously reported.