André Leon Talley (ALT), former creative director and editor at large of Vogue magazine, has died at age 73 on Tuesday (Jan. 18). The news was first reported by TMZ and later confirmed to USA Today by Talley’s literary agent David Vigliano. ALT’s official Instagram account was also updated to reflect the news the fashion industry icon had passed.
“It is with great sadness we announce the passing of André Leon Talley on January 18, 2022, in New York. Mr. Talley was the larger-than-life, longtime creative director at Vogue during its rise to dominance as the world’s fashion bible,” the caption read before briefly summarizing Talley’s career achievements.
“His byline appeared in Vanity Fair, HG, Interview, Ebony and Women’s Wear Daily and he was the editor of Numero Russia. Mr. Talley wrote several books, including Valentino, A.L.T.: A Memoir, A.L.T. 365+ and Little Black Dress for Assouline, and contributed to Valentino: At the Emperor’s Table and Cartier Panthère.”
Born on Oct. 16, 1948, and raised in Durham, N.C., by his grandmother, Talley majored in French studies at HBCU, North Carolina Central University, and went on to receive a master’s from Brown University. He was able to make his way to New York City and create a notable career in fashion and media, advocating and opening doors for others along the way.
“I was considered a thing, too. I grew up in the segregated South. For so long, no one who had a position of prominence in the world of fashion magazines—in the world at large—was black, be they man or woman. But in 1988, Anna Wintour started as Vogue’s editor in chief, and when she hired me, though I thought little of it at the time, I made history, too: I became the first African American man named creative director of one of the premier fashion magazines in the world,” he wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post in 2019.
“I quietly worked to bring more of that newness into the room: fashion editorials featuring young black models Naomi Campbell and Veronica Webb; a photo feature on the flamboyant ball culture of New York’s queer people of color, members of the legendary House of LaBeija striking dance poses in broad daylight. I sounded no bullhorn over diversity but nurtured it where I could. But some areas—cover photography, for instance—were entirely in the hands of others,” recalled Talley.
In 2003, Talley was honored with the Eugenia Sheppard Award for outstanding fashion journalism from the Council of Fashion Designers of America after decades in the industry. In 2007, Talley was ranked 45th in Out magazine‘s “50 Most Powerful Gay Men and Women in America. Throughout his career, his wit and wisdom have earned him the aforementioned accolades and roles including serving on the judges’ panel of America’s Next Top Model, best-selling author, actor, and on-screen talent.
The 2017 documentary The Gospel According to André, shared an intimate look at his career, not only highlighting the history he made but also the struggles it took to achieve and maintain the level of reverence and success held by Talley.
“He was so many things he was not supposed to be,” said Whoopi Goldberg in the film according to the New York Times.
“It took a lot of courage to be him,” said fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg.
In May 2020, Talley released a memoir The Chiffon Trenches that shared the personal story of his life and career. In the book, he described how his career at Vogue and his relationship with Anna Wintour came with highs and lows.
“Yet it’s the loss of André as my colleague and friend that I think of now; it’s immeasurable. He was magnificent and erudite and wickedly funny—mercurial, too. Like many decades-long relationships, there were complicated moments, but all I want to remember today, all I care about, is the brilliant and compassionate man who was a generous and loving friend to me and to my family for many, many years, and who we will all miss so much,” wrote Wintour in the fashion publication‘s obituary.
As news of the loss spread, tributes to Talley poured in on social media remembering his flair and foresight. Edward Enninful, the current editor-in-chief of British Vogue, and the first Black editor-in-chief of the magazine thanked Talley for “paving the way.”
Runway coach and former America’s Next Top Model judge Miss J Alexander remembered Talley on Instagram sharing a photo of the two and reflecting on impactful career moments.
“Dear Andre Leon Talley, You Introduced me to the world of Haute Couture with my very first fashion show Yves Saint Laurent Paris 1986,” Alexander wrote. “You gave me and many others a Life Time of Knowledge, Friendship, Stories and will never be forgotten R.I.P. King.”
“In 2000, André Leon Talley must have just looked up my listed number and calling me out of the blue on my land line in L.A. boomed over the phone, ‘is this Rick Owens? This is André Leon Talley, i just saw your clothes in the window of Henri Bendel and you must meet Anna’. Thats how I got started,” shared fashion designer Rick Owens on Instagram in all-caps.
“You were grand and glamorous, complex and marvelous. Capes, caftans and style. A trailblazer. It was so exciting seeing you somewhere. I would run across a room to say hello. I am sad you are gone. Rest In Peace!” wrote actress Tracee Ellis Ross.
With countless more tributes from friends, fans, industry professionals, and more paying their respects, it is clear André Leon Talley will be missed by many and forever revered. View more celebrations of Talley’s life and career below as well as a preview for his 2017 documentary The Gospel According to André below.
RIP Andre Leon Talley. He was a beacon of style for so many. Just fucking terrible.
— roxane gay (@rgay) January 19, 2022
So sad to hear the news about @OfficialALT ? You brought so much vibrancy and personality to the fashion world and there will never be someone like you! You are a pioneering fashion legend forever, Rest In Peace ?❤️ pic.twitter.com/8D1SrLQund
— ParisHilton.eth (@ParisHilton) January 19, 2022
…Just in time for the front line at fashion week in Heaven, Mrs Vreeland,Coco Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld ..and now Andre Leon Talley.
Unforgettable in every way…
— Whoopi Goldberg (@WhoopiGoldberg) January 19, 2022
The passing of André Leon Talley is heavy on my heart mainly because I don’t think we celebrate our older queer icons enough. Especially considering that when they were coming up there were no GLAAD Awards, OUT 100, or any public recognition. So many have stood in their
— Kalen Allen (@TheKalenAllen) January 19, 2022