André Leon Talley’s modest beginnings and rise to become a fashion icon and former Vogue magazine editor-at-large is chronicled in a documentary The Gospel According To André. Directed by filmmaker Kate NovackIt, the film probes Talley’s life through interviews with Talley himself and a laundry list of fashion industry’s most authoritative voices like Anna Wintour, Tom Ford and Valentino Garavani.
Talley grew up in Durham, N.C. with his grandmother during the Jim Crow era after his parents divorced. He told The Guardian it was her “unconditional love” that encouraged him to be himself and to go after his self-fulfilling dreams of becoming a fashion editor.
“One of my uncles came one Sunday after church and said, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up, André?’ And I said a fashion editor,” he told The Guardian. “And he said, ‘what is that?’ And I said, ‘all I know is that it’s a person who works in fashion on a magazine.’ And he said, ‘I’ve never heard about boys doing stuff like that,’ and my grandmother said, ‘leave him alone, let him do whatever he wants, and he will do it well.’ She wasn’t cultivated, she didn’t read Vogue; she was just doing things by instinct. She loved me unconditionally, and nurtured me, and that gave me the confidence to pursue it.”
Fascinated by France’s fashion as a teenager, Talley learned the romance language well enough to earn him a scholarship to read French literature at Brown University. He moved to New York shortly after and interned at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where one of his idols, former Vogue editor-in-chief and the MET’s then-director Diana Vreeland, “discovered he had an unusual talent for making abstract fashion ideas concrete.”
His climb up the fashion ranks began. He’s worked for Andy Warhol at Interview Magazine, became the Paris editor for Women’s Wear Daily and on to Vogue in 1983. Since his entry into the fashion world, Talley redefined black masculinity, pushed publications to included African-American models and designers.
The Gospel According To André premieres May 25. Check out the trailer below.