A.L.T, From A To Z
Marie Claire South Africa|October 2018

Legendary fashion editorAndrLeon Talley has had a truly unique life in the international fashion world, and has left his mark as a pioneer in fashion and its slow move towards diversity

Daniel Geldenhuys

The iconic documentary The September Issue would be a far more serious film if it weren’t for André Leon Talley. He’s the comic relief – a larger-than life character with the type of pantomime persona that thrives in the fashion world. ‘It’s a famine of beauty,’ André proclaims to a nodding Vera Wang at a disappointing New York Fashion Week. ‘My eyes are starving for beauty!’

Eight years later, André finally has his own documentary. The Gospel According to André not only tells a more rounded life story of the fabulous Vogue editor at large, but gives him the opportunity to elaborate on his personal experiences in his own voice. When André speaks, people listen. His theatrical vocals project from a colossal presence – 1.98m tall, broad-shouldered and unmistakable in his signature printed caftans.

If André’s appearance announces a promise of intrigue, it’s a promise well kept. As a black man born into segregated United States, his career trajectory is not only extraordinary – it’s truly unique. His success was never predetermined, but born of his exceptional knowledge and passion, with a good dose of charisma to back it all up.

In the early 1950s, on the first and 15th day of every month, a prepubescent ALT would cross the train tracks to the white side of town in Durham, North Carolina. He’d walk to the newsstand at Duke University, where his grandmother worked as a cleaner, to buy fashion magazines. Regardless of the fact that you could subscribe to the magazines and have them delivered to your door, André enjoyed the ritual of the commute. His trips were no walk in the park – one particular instance involved students stoning him on his way to the newsstand. In a state governed by racist minds and Jim Crow laws, no justice was served. In stark and fantastic contrast, the love André received at home was in abundance. He had lived with his grandmother, Bennie Frances Davis, since his parents’ divorce when he was just two months old. He called her Mamma.

André has said his love for fashion was ignited watching his grandmother get ready for church. The magazines he read – American and French Vogue as well as Harper’s Bazaar – introduced him to a world of luxury. Grandma Bennie allowed him to paint his bedroom walls Schiaparelli pink (though he wasn’t aware that’s what it was at the time) and cover them in the pages of the magazines he worshipped. One of André’s favourite stories to tell is of how one of his uncles asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. ‘A fashion editor,’ was the answer. His uncle didn’t understand, so André clarified: ‘Someone who reports on fashion for a magazine.’ ‘That’s not something men should be doing,’ was his uncle’s sentiment – to which Bennie shouted from the kitchen, ‘Shut up, shut up – leave him alone. He’ll do what he wants to do. He’ll do it greatly.’

A love for reading paired with natural curiosity served André well after high school. After graduating with a BA in French Literature from North Carolina Central University in 1970, he earned a scholarship to Brown for a Masters and PhD. The latter never happened. Masters in the bag, André moved to New York City and never looked back.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM MARIE CLAIRE SOUTH AFRICAView All

Bump, Tumble, Go Faster!

Mummies,CleopatrasandCaiRollers roller derby is taking off among EGYPTIAN women, who find a sense of empowerment through the rowdy contact sport

4 mins read
Marie Claire South Africa
October 2018

Plastic (Less Than) Fantastic

We all want to help save the planet, but sometimes knowing how is the hardest part. Here are your need-to-knows, plus hassle-free ways you can help to make a difference.

5 mins read
Marie Claire South Africa
October 2018

Tick-Tock

Dating Is Almost Always Daunting, But When YouRe Watching Your Biological Clock, It Gives A Whole New Meaning To The Phrase Time Is Of The Essence, Says Sarah Sahagian

3 mins read
Marie Claire South Africa
October 2018

‘No Man Owns My Music'

SoulfulhitmakerSHEKHINAHspeaks her mind on fame,the challenges faced by women in the music industry, and her debut album ROSE GOLD as a metaphor for the pursuit of perfection

6 mins read
Marie Claire South Africa
October 2018

Hacking The Code

Does your genetic code hold the key to optimal health? The new science ofepigeneticssays it does...

5 mins read
Marie Claire South Africa
October 2018

How To Quit Like A Winner

Resigning Has Become A More Common Feature Of Working Life. Heres How To Pull It Off As Successfully As Possible

3 mins read
Marie Claire South Africa
October 2018

A.L.T, From A To Z

Legendary fashion editorAndrLeon Talley has had a truly unique life in the international fashion world, and has left his mark as a pioneer in fashion and its slow move towards diversity

10 mins read
Marie Claire South Africa
October 2018

Sex, Love & Artificial Intelligence

We live in an era that has a potential digital fix for everything, including, recently, the substitution of AI robots for human romantic partners. Afika Jadezweni explores what the future of relationships looks like and if AI could transform human sexual intercourse for better or for worse...

5 mins read
Marie Claire South Africa
November 2018

Afraid – So What?

French photojournalist VRONIQUE DE VIGUERIE is not afraid of bad guys, killers or rapists. She photographed the battle of Mosul, boarded a ship full of rebels in Niger, and tracked bloodthirsty insurgents while five months pregnant. Here, she tells KATIE BREEN more about her journey behind the lens.

10+ mins read
Marie Claire South Africa
November 2018

The Women Who Sued Isis

Sold as a sex slave to brutal Is is warriors at the age of 19, Nadia Murad made a desperate escape. now, the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize laureate has joined forces with human rights lawyer Amal Clooney to bring the men responsible to justice.

7 mins read
Marie Claire South Africa
November 2018
RELATED STORIES

I take laughter for granted

MAMATA VENKAT looks back over the last year, which has been full of tragedy, and finds the moments of light and laughter that bring joy and celebration to life.

2 mins read
Heartfulness eMagazine
December 2021

Love, Non-violence, and Truth

DR. PRAKASH TYAGI is the Executive Director of Gramin Vikas Vigyan Samiti (GRAVIS), an NGO dedicated to working in impoverished rural regions of India, including the Thar Desert, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, and Bundelkhand. In part 1 of this interview with KASHISH KALWANI, he speaks about applying the Gandhian principles of love, non-violence, and truth to support communities in need.

6 mins read
Heartfulness eMagazine
December 2021

What Makes a Person Attractive?

DR ICHAK ADIZES shares his experience on what we find attractive in other people, and the importance of humor in relationships.

3 mins read
Heartfulness eMagazine
December 2021

Valve's hotly anticipated Steam Deck handheld delayed until 2022

Supply chain issues strike again

1 min read
PCWorld
December 2021

Lunch, Dinner, and a Loving Baker Dressed in White

By the end of the 1960s, Westerners were traveling to visit the spiritual teacher, Babuji, in India. Among the first were the Danes, who all fell in love with Babuji and were instrumental in bringing the spiritual practices of Heartfulness to the West. One of these pioneers was THOMAS MOGENSEN, who first visited Shahjahanpur in 1971 with his wife and some friends. They filmed their conversations with Babuji, took many photos, and Thomas later wrote two books about these precious experiences. Here is a small vignette from one of his books, written with his signature humor, joy, and tenderness.

4 mins read
Heartfulness eMagazine
December 2021

Tested: Start11 solves Windows 11's worst Start menu and taskbar sins

If you want a Windows 10–style Start menu within Windows 11, then Start11 may be for you.

3 mins read
PCWorld
December 2021

WISDOM FROM MY FATHER

The tempo 1 was ready to depart. It was a short 30-minute journey from Bhatkal to Uppunda, a sleepy village in coastal Karnataka, India. My father, sister, and I were traveling together.

4 mins read
Heartfulness eMagazine
December 2021

Windows 10's November update is a lot smaller than we're used to

With Windows 11 getting all the attention, new features are thin on the ground for Microsoft’s former flagship OS.

1 min read
PCWorld
December 2021

Intel Core i9-12900K: Intel. Is. Back..

Clash of the titans: Core i9-12900K versus Ryzen 9 5950X

10+ mins read
PCWorld
December 2021

Is Nvidia's GeForce Now cloud gaming worth it?

How it works, potential drawbacks, and price

5 mins read
PCWorld
December 2021