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Kamala Harris’ Vogue cover sparks controversy for lacking creativity, presenting her as ‘light-skinned’

By JUSTINE PUNZALAN Published Jan 11, 2021 2:22 am Updated Jan 11, 2021 6:41 am

US Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is Vogue’s cover star for February, but the famous American lifestyle magazine finds itself in hot water for “whitewashing” allegations.

On Sunday, Jan. 10, Vogue released two photos of Harris on social media. One of which showed her in a dark suit and her signature Converse sneakers in front of a backdrop in pink and green—the colors of her sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha.

The Twitterverse, however, criticized the magazine for its lack of creativity which was intensified with the photo’s washed-out effect.

“[She] is about as light-skinned as women of color come and Vogue still f*cked up her lighting. WTF is this washed-out mess of a cover?” one Twitter user commented.

Another said that it’s “the least dignified and greatest insult to a remarkable woman who shattered multiple glass ceilings and is now the most powerful woman in the U.S.”

One Twitter user pointed out how the magazine failed to present the Black and South Asian-American leader as a “striking and powerful” figure. “Bad art, bad taste,” she added.

The other photo that Vogue released that day shows Harris in a powder blue Michael Kors pantsuit. A source told CBS News that this was the only image Harris’ camp approved to use as the cover.

"Aides to Harris and Vogue had the understanding that the blue suit/gold background would be the cover photo. Without telling Harris' team, Vogue changed it to the pink/green photo which the Vice President-elect's team did not agree to," the source said.

Another insider has revealed that the image with the Converse sneakers was initially intended to be used as a smaller photo within the cover story, The Guardian reported.

However, Vogue denied all the allegations to The New York Post.

They said that it was Harris’ team who took charge of the VP-elect’s clothes, hair, and makeup for the shoot. “Both looks were selected by the VP-elect and her team,” the source said.

They added that Harris chose the pink and green backdrop because she thought it would be fun to use them.

“Our approach to working with Vice President-elect Harris and her team was to capture her as a leader and as a person, and as she was most comfortable, and so we collaborated closely on all creative decisions, including that she would dress and style herself for the shoot,” the Vogue source told The Post.

Both photos were taken by Tyler Mitchell, a 26-year-old Black photographer, who also produced the images for Vogue’s September 2018 cover featuring Beyoncé.

“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,” Vogue‘s spokesperson told CBS News. 

“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.”

Banner photos from Kamala Harris' Instagram account and Vogue's Facebook page.