'I was always aware of racism' - Fashion legend Andre Leon Talley on racism and his concerns for Kanye West

Fashion legend Andre Leon Talley has spoken about his brushes with racism and his concerns for friends Kanye West and Kim Kardashian during an interview on Good Morning Britain.

Speaking about the fashion industry to Ben Shephard and Kate Garraway from New York, he explained: "It’s gruesome, it’s cruel, it can be rewarding if you are in that wonderful world of fashion, glamour and dazzle but behind the scenes, it’s as cut-throat as any other industry. There is also a lot of ageism, racism and sexism, which I discuss in my book."

He spoke about his former boss Anna Wintour, calling her "a wonderful boss, who is a great lady, has achieved a lot in her life." But he added she had had to put out a statement this summer following the Black Lives Matters protests as the world had changed."

Andre went on to say: "I didn’t intend to dissect the world of Vogue because my book was finished long before the Covid came and long before the summer, which has been an amazing, remarkable summer for Black Lives Matters and the focus on systemic racism in every walk of life in America. There have been demonstrations in London and all over the world. I think Vogue is an extraordinary place, Anna Wintour is an extraordinary woman and I had an extraordinary career.” 

However, he said that racism had always been an issue throughout his life. He added: "I’ve always been aware of the injustice against men of colour, women of colour… I grew up in a segregated Jim Crow south, the prejudice of the society, things were done to black people, they did not have equal pay, voting rights… so I was well aware of racism. It didn't happen to me until I got to Paris. I was received beautifully by the giants of fashion, Yves St Laurent, Hubert Givenchy and Karl Lagerfeld."

But he said a boss had then accused him of sleeping with designers, male and female, in the Paris fashion world. He added: "I found that a very racist statement. I was there because I was smart, I had degrees, I have my credentials in order. I was always aware of racism, I was aware of racism in high school… I went through the world quietly bottling up this racism until it suddenly came out." 

On losing his job, Andre continued: “I think she [Anna Wintour] could have had the decency to call me up and say, ‘Andre we are moving on. We are going with a young black girl as opposed to a 71-year-old man. She’s got 2 million users on YouTube, and this, we’ve got to go this way. You’ve been great and we’ll find something else for you to do or goodbye’. A goodbye would have been fine. I regret none of my decisions. I do understand her business decision. That was a business decision she made on youth. Youth brings money…I do not have 2 million followers."

Speaking about Kim and Kanye West and their latest troubles, he said: "I pray for Kanye. I know Kanye and Kim very well. I am very concerned for Kayne, he is a brilliant artist and a brilliant creative genius and I’m very concerned for Kim and her four children. It’s very disturbing, it’s a very upsetting moment. I just pray for Kanye as a man of colour who has risen to such high levels of success. He’s on the Forbes magazine cover and everything… I hope he will keep his family together."

On whether it was a ploy to drop an album, he added: "I have a sense this is real. I know them well enough to know. I know Kris very well and Kim… they have a solid family. Kim and Kanye have four children together. There is a family unit there and there is concern. I don’t think it’s calculated because of an album drop."