André Leon Talley on Dancing With the Stars, Airport Attire, and More

Since the show ended, Vogue editor André Leon Talley hasn’t spoken to the winner of the last season of America’s Next Top Model, to which he lent his extraordinary commentary each week on the judging panel. “I’m sure we’ll see her soon,” Talley said at the ‘21’ Club, where he gave a lecture framed around Paris fashion at 8 a.m. Talley usually gets up at 6 and had already had his morning smoothie, so this wasn’t too early for him. On ANTM he worked mostly in the afternoon, since “it’s very rare that Tyra has a 9:30 wake-up call.”

He said people have expressed interest in putting on the one-man show he’s been working on in his downtime. “I don’t have the like, long-range agenda,” he added. “I don’t know what I’m doing in 2011 or 2012.” He hadn’t even planned what he’d say to his audience this morning. “I’m choosing to speak about many things, I don’t know what I’m talking about,” he said. “I don’t even know if I have a moderator. I’m not going to just talk about Paris, I’ll talk about whatever comes to mind.” The nearly hour-long freestyle talk consisted of ALT’s tips for making it in fashion, and thus, life. Highlights:

He suggests learning French.
I went to Brown to be a French professor, and I didn’t know what I was doing except that I loved French. When I got to Paris and I could speak French, I know how much it helped me to establish relationships with Karl Lagerfeld, with the late Yves St. Laurent. French, it just helps you if you’re in fashion. The French people started style. Marie Antoinette was a fashion victim, and look what happened to her, but she had the first great couturier. When I got to Paris I had something to talk about when I went to lunch and dinner, and people knew. And I think people respected me because I wasn’t just a tall person in fashion, I was a tall person in fashion with something to say and a bit of knowledge.

Good etiquette is essential.
[ANTM winner, Krista] had a sense of etiquette — she wasn’t a potty mouth. There were some girls that were just, I don’t know where they grew up! Someone should tell them how to talk, or how to respond to other people in a stressful environment. She just expressed to me the kind of tools you need to be a successful model: punctuality, grace, manners, speaking properly to people, looking well-groomed, focused.

Don’t humiliate yourself on reality TV.
Reality TV, although I’m a part of it, I think reality TV is a terrible thing. I am a victim of having watched Dancing With the Stars this season. I was watching and I realized, you know, I would never put myself in the position that these people do, of humiliation, to be rejected. When I’m on ANTM, I try to be very honest, but very supportive. The only time I use the word “drecktitude” is when I think they have hideously put themselves together to come in front of us … And the crying — I feel bad when people are on America’s Next Top Model and they’re crying and say “I don’t want to go home” and you’re like, “Okay, well maybe you won’t got home this week, but you’re going home! For your potty mouth!”

Overdress when you visit Karl Lagerfeld.
I personally go to the airport looking like a homeless person, because I think people will leave me alone. But I dress myself with my luggage — all my luggage matches. But it’s so humiliating to be searched and strip-searched, and they take away your lotions — you just bought a $15 bottle of Kiehl’s, and it’s too big; you just never know what you’re going to get. So it’s better to just go as an anonymous person from Dallas … Now if I were going on a plane with Karl Lagerfeld, I would be dressed to the nines. There are people who have such high standards you don’t put yourself in front of them dressed how you’d dress to go down the road to get yourself a smoothie.

When I have interns, I always say handwritten thank-you notes can make a difference. People remember that — not an e-mail, a handwritten note in an envelope. When we have interns, I always say, don’t be afraid to make a Starbucks run. People have started their careers picking up pens on the floor for great designers, interning for designers, and having menial tasks. When I worked at Interview magazine for 50 dollars a week for Andy Warhol, I went to work at twelve o’clock in the daytime. My job was to be the receptionist — take messages, answer the phone, get the staff machine reprocessed, go pick up Andy Warhol’s lunch, and then at night I’d go out and meet the most glamorous people, because with Andy you went out every night; he took you to every party. And that’s how my life began.

André Leon Talley on Dancing With the Stars, Airport Attire, and More