Anna Wintour Explains Controversial Kamala Harris Vogue Cover

Vogue is a magazine that, for many, epitomizes high fashion. Over the years, everyone from Justin Bieber and Hailey Baldwin to George Clooney has been featured on the cover.

The New York-based publication is helmed by the fierce and fashionable Anna Wintour — who has herself become a major celebrity, a staple at fashion shows and various red carpet events. While millions of readers love Vogue, the magazine has caused some controversy, with the February 2021 issue, featuring Vice President Kamala Harris being a prime example. 

Anna Wintour during the "Anna Wintour: Comedy Icon" skit May 6, 2015
Anna Wintour | Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Kamala Harris was on the cover of the February 2021 ‘Vogue’

When the February 2021 cover of Vogue was unveiled in early January, many pop culture fans were shocked and thrilled. The magazine showed off two different covers, both featuring Harris, who was at the time preparing to be sworn in as Vice President — the first woman in history to hold the station.

In one image, Harris is seen rocking a soft blue suit, complemented by some pearls, while in the other, she is wearing a blazer and Converse sneakers.

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The issue itself featured a variety of other photographs of Harris, including pictures of the politician as a child. Harris opened up in an interview with the magazine, talking about her plans for the coming years, and the various priorities of the Biden-Harris administration.

While many fans raved on social media about how much they loved Harris on the cover of Vogue, the release of the cover also sparked some serious social media backlash. 

Why did people criticize the Kamala Harris ‘Vogue’ cover?

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The overwhelming consensus among critics of the Vogue cover is that the pictures of Harris were too informal, and didn’t give her the respect that she deserved. “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,” one critic wrote, according to a report by NBC News. “In using the more informal image for the print edition of the magazine, Vogue robbed Harris of her roses.”

Other critics complained that the photos themselves weren’t of Vogue’s usual quality, looking washed out and even unprofessional in nature. While Vogue defended the photos, and the feature story, in the days that followed the big reveal, it didn’t do much to settle the backlash. In fact, it wasn’t until Anna Wintour herself spoke out that some of the controversy was silenced. 

What did Anna Wintour say about the Kamala Harris cover?

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A few days after the Kamala Harris cover was revealed, Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of Vogue, made a rare public statement. Wintour admitted that she “heard and understood” the reaction to the photos, but that “it was absolutely not our intention to, in any way, diminish the importance of the Vice President-elect’s incredible victory.” 

Wintour went on to explain that the photos chosen for the cover were picked for a very specific reason, and that was the fact that they imparted a casual feel.

“We felt to reflect this tragic moment in global history, a much less formal picture, something that was very, very accessible and approachable and real, really reflected the hallmark of the Biden-Harris campaign and everything that they are trying to, and I’m sure will, achieve,” Wintour stated. “And to me, it’s just a very important, but positive, statement about women, and women in power.”

While the Vogue cover still has its detractors, there’s no doubt that just as many people are inspired by both the cover photo and the content inside.