Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris will cover Vogue magazine’s February issue, but an anonymous source from her team says that the final cover image isn’t what both sides agreed on.
The cover photo, shot by Black photographer Tyler Mitchell, shows Harris in a casual look: black pants, blazer, and the Converse Chuck Taylors she’s known for wearing on the campaign trail. The backdrop is of satin pink and green curtains, in a nod to Harris’ Howard university sorority, which Vogue tagged in an Instagrammed version of the shot.
An anonymous person involved in cover negotiations who spoke to the Associated Press says that the cover photo was switched without their knowledge, and Harris’s team was unaware until images leaked on Saturday. Journalist Yashar Ali, citing “a source familiar with the publication plans,” alleged that Harris’s team had “expected” and “agreed to” a different cover image: A photo of Harris in a powder blue Michael Kors Collection suit against a gold backdrop was what both sides had “mutually agreed upon” for a cover, while the pink-and-green backdrop was supposed to run inside of the magazine.
But it remains unclear whether both teams had actually agreed on a cover. Multiple sources at Vogue told the Cut that high-profile subjects are sometimes shown cover options, but final selection and approval tends to remain with the magazine, and it did in this case.
Whatever Vogue’s explanation is, the leaked images of the cover drew controversy online. Some argued that the pink-and-green photo was “disrespectful,” noting that Harris’s pose, styling, and the backdrop are too casual for a woman assuming the second-highest office in the country. “The cover did not give Kamala D. Harris due respect. It was overly familiar. It was a cover image that, in effect, called Harris by her first name without invitation,” writes critic Robin Givhan in the Washington Post.
Mitchell — who became the first Black photographer to have shot a Vogue cover with his 2018 portrait of Beyoncé — has shared only the images of Harris in the blue suit on Twitter. He has not commented otherwise, nor has Harris, who also hasn’t shared the cover or accompanying profile on social media.
In an email statement a Vogue spokesperson told the Cut: “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. 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.”
Additional reporting by Matthew Schneier.