Vogue magazine, helmed by longtime editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, may have put out a landmark issue last month celebrating the theme of "hope" and promoting diversity — but as it turns out, Wintour has a lot of explaining to do for allegedly fostering an intolerant workplace over the years.
The New York Times published a long expose about the work culture at Vogue on Saturday, October 24, with startling claims of racism from 18 Black editors and journalists who have worked with Wintour, either currently or in the past — spurring Wintour to respond, admit to and apologize for her behavior.
"I strongly believe that the most important thing any of us can do in our work is to provide opportunities for those who may not have had access to them," she told the Times in a statement. "Undoubtedly, I have made mistakes along the way, and if any mistakes were made at Vogue under my watch, they are mine to own and remedy and I am committed to doing the work."
The staffers of color noted to the Times that Vogue has historically favored employees who are thin, white, from wealthy families and educated at elite institutions.
"At Vogue, when we’d evaluate a shoot or a look, we’d say ‘That’s Vogue,’ or, ‘That’s not Vogue,’ and what that really meant was ‘thin, rich and white,'" explained one.
There have also been a slew of incidents in which Wintour allegedly directly made insensitive statements. In one, responding to staff criticism accusing Kendall Jenner culturally appropriating gold teeth for an event — and Vogue's sunny write-up of her look — Wintour responded, "Well I honestly don't think that's a big deal," adding, "If Kendall wants to do something stupid fine but our writers (especially white ones) don’t need to weigh in and glorify it or ascribe reasons to it that read culturally insensitive.”
Another incident reported that Wintour critiqued a photo shoot involving Black models in head scarves, allegedly stating, "Don’t mean to use an inappropriate word, but pickaninny came to mind.”
Additionally, a 2017 issue featured white model Karlie Kloss dressed in geisha attire with pale makeup and hair dyed black. Responding to a subsequent outcry against Asian cultural appropriation, Kloss apologized on social media, spurring Wintour to snap at her, "Thanks Karlie another time please give us a heads up if you are writing about a Vogue issue."
Back in May, her former right-hand man, André Leon Talley, who is Black, did not hold back in his memoir, The Chiffon Trenches. He stated, “I have huge emotional and psychological scars from my relationship with this towering and influential woman.”
Out the 18 staffers consulted, 11 said they thought Wintour should no longer be in charge of Vogue and should give up her post as parent company Condé Nast’s editorial leader.
This comes on the heels of earlier racially related turmoil at Condé Nast, with staffers at food magazine Bon Appetit quitting in response to wage inequality as well as reports of their editor-in-chief appearing in brownface.