André Leon Talley, both towering in stature at 6 foot, 6 inches and a giant in the fashion world, died Tuesday at a hospital in White Plains, N.Y. He was 73. The former Vogue creative director and editor-at-large succumbed to complications related to COVID, according to a report in the Houston Chronicle.
Talley was raised in Durham, N.C. As a young man he would go to Duke University, where his grandmother worked as a janitor, and visit the library to read Vogue magazine. He worked various jobs and attended Brown University before moving to New York City.
There, he worked for Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine and, later, Women’s Wear Daily (WWD). While writing for WWD, Talley lived in Paris, where he befriended fashion legends like Karl Lagerfeld, John Galliano and Yves Saint Laurent. In 1983, Talley was hired by Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. During his many years with the magazine, Talley would work his way up to creative director and editor-at-large.
Talley released his first autobiography, “A.L.T.: A Memoir,” in 2003. In it, he credited his grandmother, Bennie Frances Davis and the late fashion designer Diana Vreeland as the two most important women in his life.
“Bennie Frances Davis may have looked like a typical, African American domestic worker to many of the people who saw her on an ordinary day, but I, who could see her soul, could also see her secret: that even while she wore a hairnet and work clothes to scrub toilets and floors, she wore an invisible diadem,” he wrote in the book.
In his second memoir, 2020’s “The Chiffon Trenches,” Talley shared personal stories of his experiences with other iconic fashion figures. Talley also appeared on television as a judge on “America’s Top Model” and on shows such as “Sex and the City” and “Empire.”
“He was such a force, believed in the magic of Fashion & its illusions with all his being,” Bette Midler Tweeted in tribute. “His life was a saga of great highs, great lows, the dramatic, the ridiculous, and the endless pursuit of beauty.”
I’m sorry to say the extraordinary #AndreLeonTalley has died. He was such a force, & believed in the magic of Fashion & its illusions with all his being. His life was a saga of great highs, great lows, the dramatic, the ridiculous, and the endless pursuit of beauty. Love & RIP.— bettemidler (@BetteMidler) January 19, 2022
Fashion designer Christian Siriano called Talley a legend in an Instagram post.
“André a forever icon who changed the game for so many,” he said. “Thank you for all the support.”
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Other LGBTQ+ celebs, including singer Rahsaan Patterson, “Noah’s Arc” creator Patrik-Ian Polk and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” stars Shangela and Mayhem, acknowledged his influence and his passing on the notice of Talley’s death posted on his Instagram page.
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