Former Vogue editor André Leon Talley has spoken out to defend his tell-all memoir after it was revealed that it contains several scathing attacks on his former friend and mentor Anna Wintour – with the 70-year-old insisting that the book is actually a ‘love letter’ to her.
In a new interview with People, Talley opened up about the initial reaction to his book, The Chiffon Trenches, after DailyMail.com exclusively revealed that he describes Wintour as being ‘incapable of human kindness’ in its pages.
But now, Talley has claimed that he actually still ‘loves’ Wintour, despite their brutal rift – and claims that his memoir is not intended to be a ‘vengeful, b****y tell-all’ a many have perceived it to be.
Speaking out: Former Vogue editor André Leon Talley has defended his memoir, insisting it is ‘really a love letter’ to his former boss and mentor Anna Wintour (pictured together in 2020)
End of an era: In his book, The Chiffon Trenches, Talley, 70, writes scathingly the 70-year-old Vogue editor-in-chief (seen together in 1999), saying she is ‘not capable of human kindness’
‘My book is in many ways a love letter to Anna Wintour,’ he added.
However, Talley is unrelenting in his blunt criticism of Wintour, doubling down on a claim he makes in the book that she dropped him as a friend and as an editor for Vogue because he ‘suddenly became too old, overweight, and uncool’ for her.
The fashion favorite also admits that he still carries a great deal of hurt over his fallout with Wintour, whom he first started working with in 1983, when he first landed a job at Vogue.
Behind the scenes: Talley says that the memoir is not supposed to be a ‘vengeful, b****y tell-all’, despite his harsh words about WIntour and their sudden fallout
In his book, Talley wrote that he ‘has huge emotional and psychological scars from my relationship with this towering and influential woman’, and he noted in his interview with People that he ‘doesn’t think she understands what she does to people’.
Speaking about the end of their professional and personal relationship in 2018 – a break that he describes as being very sudden – Talley explained to the publication that ‘there was a divide and then an earthquake’, while revealing that Wintour simply stopped speaking to him, a move that very much signaled the end of a decades-long friendship.
But while Talley insists that he still ‘loves’ Wintour, even after all they have been through together, he remains very honest about what he describes as the more ‘merciless’ aspects of her demeanor.
When asked about his thoughts on the movie The Devil Wears Prada, which has long been believed to be based on Wintour’s reign at Vogue, he praised Meryl Streep’s icy portrayal of his former boss, saying that she ‘did a great job’ – although he concedes that her character is more a mix of Wintour and the late Harper’s Bazaar editor Liz Tilberis.
As far as his own character in the movie – which was played by actor Stanley Tucci – Talley is far less complimentary, telling People: ‘But the man who played me? No! It did not reflect the real world of Vogue.’
The former editor-at-large’s latest interview comes just a few weeks after DailyMail.com exclusively published excerpts from his upcoming memoir, which is due to be published on May 19.
Accurate: In a new interview with People, Talley spoke about The Devil Wears Prada, which was inspired by Wintour’s reign at Vogue, praising Meryl Streep’s icy portrayal of the editrix
Not a fan: Talley was less complimentary about Stanley Tucci’s character (left), which was inspired by Talley himself, saying that the role ‘did not reflect the real world of Vogue’
In it, Talley paints a scathing portrait of his once close friend and boss Wintour, saying she is ‘not capable of human kindness’.
Talley says he has ‘huge emotional and psychological scars’ from his decades long friendship with the magazine’s notoriously icy editor.
He describes being frozen out by Wintour last year because he was ‘too old, too overweight, too uncool’ for her, he writes in his new memoir The Chiffon Trenches: A Memoir, which is out in September.
Talley claims there is an ‘endless’ list of writers, stylists and models who she has cast onto a ‘frayed and tattered heap during her powerful rule’.
In a scorching passage Talley, 70, writes: ‘She is immune to anyone other than the powerful and famous people who populate the pages of Vogue.
‘She has mercilessly made her best friends people who are the highest in their chosen fields. Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Mr. and Mrs. George Clooney are, to her, friends. I am no longer of value to her’.
Talley’s dismissal from the court of the woman known as ‘Nuclear Wintour’ is all the more bitter because they were so close – and she made his career.
When they were at their closest he was one of the few dozen people invited to her wedding and she staged an intervention because his weight got out of control.
Talley writes that when he started out in fashion journalism and Wintour was creative director at Vogue she became a ‘powerful ally’ of his.
That was in 1983 when Talley got to work at the magazine at his second attempt after Grace Mirabella, the editor-in-chief at the time, made him fashion news editor.
Harsh words: DailyMail.com published exclusive excerpts from Talley’s memoir, in which he wrote of the ‘huge emotional and psychological scars’ his relationship with Wintour caused
Talley writes that on the way out he ran into Wintour and she smiled at him.
By the time he got home she had sent a note to his apartment saying: ‘Welcome to Vogue. I look forward to working with you’.
Talley admits to being ‘terribly terrified’ of Wintour, not least because he ran into her at the same parties all the time.
Andy Warhol, a friend of Talley’s from his days at Interview magazine, knew he was intimidated by her and he would poke him in the ribs and say: ‘Oh Andre, go and say hello to Anna Wintour!’
When Wintour left the U.S to become editor of British Vogue, Talley became style editor of Vanity Fair under Tina Brown.
Wintour hired him back when she returned to America as editor of Home & Garden magazine and brought him with her to Vogue when she became its editor in 1988.
She gave Talley her old job of creative director which made him the highest ranking black man in the history of fashion journalism and the most important male fashion writer.
By that point he was already fast friends with designers like Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld, who would become a close friend until they fell out as well. But his new job gave him an unprecedented level of prestige and respect at a time when Vogue was even more powerful than it is today.
He met royalty, did photo shoots in the homes of the rich and famous and counted Lee Radizwill, the sister of Jackie Kennedy, among his new acquaintances.
Talley writes that there was no transition period when Wintour took over, just ‘bullet speed and lightning bolts ahead’.
Andy Warhol, a friend of Talley’s from his days at Interview magazine, knew he was intimidated by her and he would poke him in the ribs and say: ‘Oh Andre, go and say hello to Anna Wintour!’ Pictured: Talley with Warhol in 1981
Wintour gave Talley her old job of creative director which made him the highest ranking black man in the history of fashion journalism and the most important male fashion writer. By that point he was already fast friends with designers like Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld, who would become a lifelong friend until they fell out as well. Pictured: Talley with Lagerfeld and Tommy Hilfiger
Meetings were over in eight minutes and if they went on longer than 15 minutes something had gone ‘seriously wrong’.
The first time he tried to have lunch with Wintour she announced ‘let’s go back to the office’ before the first course had arrived.
Talley speculates that the chefs probably didn’t even bother to put the food on when she arrived because they were so used to this.
Talley disputes some of the things that featured in The Devil Wears Prada, the 2006 film ostensibly about Wintour that starred Meryl Streep.
He says that in reality nobody threw their coats around and there was ‘no vulgar language’ – and you certainly didn’t walk around drunk.
But there were expense accounts for everything and every single thing Wintour wore was sent to the dry cleaners, apart from her underwear.
Her kitchen was spotless – because she never cooked.
One of her two assistants did have to go to her home every morning with a copy of the big book, a mockup of the current issue of Vogue, with flowers, gifts and all her clean clothes.
Under Wintour’s patronage Talley got big assignments like Madonna’s first Vogue cover, shot in 1989 at her home in Los Angeles.
Talley claims that Madonna introduced herself by saying: ‘Hi, I’m Madonna, you want a blow job?’ Talley declined and said he was ‘flattered’.
When Wintour left the US to become editor of British Vogue, Talley became style editor of Vanity Fair under Tina Brown. Wintour hired him back when she returned to America as editor of Home & Garden magazine and brought him with her to Vogue when she became its editor in 1988. Pictured: Talley and Wintour in 1996
Under Wintour’s patronage Talley got big assignments like Madonna’s first Vogue cover, shot in 1989 at her home in Los Angeles (pictured)
But at some point things changed and Wintour stopped sending him the best assignments. Talley began to feel he ‘wasn’t being treated properly’ so he stormed into Wintour’s office and quit, slamming the door on the way out.
He moved back home to North Carolina into the house he’d bought for his grandmother and finally grieved her death five years after the event by binge eating barbecue.
Talley made up with Wintour when her own mother died and he flew to the UK to be at the funeral where she broke down in tears during the eulogy. He got up and ‘cradled her in my arms’ as they walked out – it was the only time he physically held her.
Talley spoke with Graydon Carter (pictured), former editor of Vanity Fair, who supposedly said of Wintour: ‘One day she treats me like a good friend and a colleague, and the next day, she treats me as if she had just handed over her keys to an unknown parking valet’
Talley returned to Vogue as editor-at-large where his weight carried on ballooning and one day Wintour called him and said: ‘You’ve got to go to the gym’.
He got a personal trainer and tried the cabbage diet – where you just eat cooked cabbage – but it didn’t work.
So Wintour staged an intervention with Talley’s pastor and designer Oscar de la Renta and his wife, who were two of Talley’s closest friends.
Wintour explained that Talley’s weight was ‘out of control’ and he was sent for rehab at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center in his hometown of Durham, North Carolina.
Talley lost 55lbs but he put it back on and he returned to the center three times for a ‘yo-yo battle I long ago realized I will never win’.
In 2016 Vogue started a podcast and Wintour announced that Talley was the host. It began as a huge success with guests like Tom Ford, Kim Kardashian, Marc Jacobs and Alexander Wang.
But it was around this time things began to go sour for Talley’s friendship with Wintour.
He gripes about being paid just $500 for each episode of the podcast, a sum which he calls ‘peanuts’.
‘My car service bills cost that much and more for a round-trip from White Plains to One World Trade Center’, where the Vogue office is based,’ he writes.
Rift: Talley says that he became ‘too old, too overweight, and too uncool’ for Wintour, who is pictured with in 2014
Suddenly the podcast ceased to exist and there was no explanation from Wintour who adopted a ‘sphinx-like silence’.
Talley writes that she had ‘decimated me with this silent treatment so many times’ and ‘this is just the way she resolves any issue’.
He spoke with Graydon Carter, the former editor of Vanity Fair, and discovered he wasn’t alone. Carter supposedly said of Wintour: ‘One day she treats me like a good friend and a colleague, and the next day, she treats me as if she had just handed over her keys to an unknown parking valet.’
In an extended rant, Talley writes: ‘Today, I would love for her to say something human and sincere to me. I have huge emotional and psychological scars from my relationship with this towering and influential woman…
‘…she loves her two children and I am sure she will be the best grandmother…but there are so many people who have worked for her and have suffered huge emotional scarring….the list is endless. She has dashed so many on a frayed and tattered heap during her powerful rule’.
In the Spring of 2018 Talley was expecting to prepare for his red carpet interviews for the Met Gala but nobody from Vogue had contacted him. When Talley called he was told such things were ‘beneath’ him but he saw it for what it was – a not so subtle signal to leave.
He writes: ‘This was clearly a stone-cold business decision. I had suddenly become too old, too overweight, too uncool, I imagined, for Anna Wintour.
‘After decades of loyalty and friendships…Anna should have had the decency and kindness to call me or send me an email saying: ‘Andre, I think we have had a wonderful run with your interviews but we are going to try something new’.
‘I would have accepted that…I understand; nothing lasts forever. Simple human kindness. No, she is not capable’.
Talley, who is clearly still wounded, writes that ‘for years Anna was the most important woman in my universe’ but now she had let him be ‘thrown to the curb’.
That October, Wintour did not wish Talley a happy birthday as she normally did and he considered their friendship ‘officially over’.
The next month he sent her a birthday email – she did not respond.
Talley writes: ‘I wonder, when she goes home alone at night, is she miserable? Does she feel alone?
‘Anna is so powerful and busy; she simply put me out of her existence. Now she treats me as a former employee, brief greetings, never anything more than perfunctory salutations’.
Talley called Wintour ‘ruthless’ and writes that ‘the Empress Wintour has disappointed me in her humanity’.
I wonder, when she goes home alone at night, is she miserable? Does she feel alone? My hope is that she will find a way to apologize before I die.
With a dramatic flair, he writes: ‘My hope is that she will find a way to apologize before I die, or if I linger on incapacitated before I pass, she will show up at my bedside, with an extended hand clasped into mine and say: “I love you. You have no idea how much you have meant to me.”
‘Not a day goes by when I do not think of Anna Wintour’.
Talley has nothing but scorn for his replacement as the Vogue red carpet interviewer at the Met Gala last year, which appears to refer to YouTube star Liza Koshy, 24.
With bitterness he writes: ‘What could this talented YouTuber offer?
‘Surely she didn’t know what a martingale back is to a Balenciagia one-seamed coat? Or did she know that Katie Holmes’ Zac Posen dress, worn with great elegance, constructed with great technique, was a homage to the master architect Charles James?
‘Like an extinct dodo bird. my brain, rich and replete with knowledge, has been relegated to the history books’.