Vogue magazine's February cover featuring US Vice President-elect Kamala Harris triggered "whitewashing" controversy on January 10 after tweeting the images. In the two images that were released, one was full-length with a glossy pink background and the other with gold backdrop with Harris in casual pant-suit and sneaker. However, it drew social media critics and labelled the cover as "washed out mess". A Twitter user wrote that "Kamala Harris is about as light-skinned as women of colour come" and Vogue still didn't use appropriate lighting.
New York times contributor, Wajahat Ali also weighed in on the embroiling controversy and said it is a "mess up". Ali also said that magazine’s Editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour "must not have Black friends and colleagues" before shooting soon-to-be US vice president by just using her Samsung that would "turn out better than this Vogue cover". This wave of backlash against Wintour and the Vogue magazine came after just last year she had apologised to her employees in a letter for "mistakes" in publishing photographs as well as articles that were deemed insensitive to the minorities.
Vice President-elect @KamalaHarris is our February cover star!— Vogue Magazine (@voguemagazine) January 10, 2021
Making history was the first step. Now Harris has an even more monumental task: to help heal a fractured America—and lead it out of crisis. Read the full profile: https://t.co/W5BQPTH7AU pic.twitter.com/OCFvVqTlOk
It speaks volumes when someone’s Wikipedia photo is better than the vogue cover photo. pic.twitter.com/QHnALT6Bzm— laura ☃️ (@lauratellsjokes) January 10, 2021
I don’t know what y’all were doing with the one in the left but it’s substandard and it’s suspiciously racist.— grumpy and crotchety.MA-Ed (@MelaKatie) January 10, 2021
Is it racism or simply misogyny that made you break your promise and use the worse photo of strikingly beautiful @KamalaHarris? We all see you.— Louise Mensch, M.A. (@LouiseMensch) January 10, 2021
I’ve never seen such poor lighting from Vogue. It’s flat and generic. Please choose the blue suit, so much better. She’s a beautiful woman and these photos are meh.— Sigmundine 🐝 (@Sigmundine2) January 10, 2021
Her appointment is so significant and racist Vogue can't even capture that! Then he'd to take some lessons from Teen Vogue! pic.twitter.com/OScotySv8Z— Cary Rose (@nativecary) January 10, 2021
Vogue has reportedly denied to the New York Post that is had lightened Harris’ skin after the shoot. However, the assurance did not stop the criticism against the magazine. An LGBTQ+ activist Charlotte Clymer wrote on Twitter that the February cover is “far, far below the standards of Vogue”. According to Clymer, the team behind Harris’ shoot did not put thought into it and instead did it “like homework finished the morning it’s due”.
However, Vogue has not yet confirmed which pictures of the first woman Vice President in the country will be used in February cover or if it will use both the images released on Sunday. Even Harris' team has voiced the 'problem' with the images as reportedly they weren't what both sides had agreed upon. Instead of the powder blue suit which was decided, the first African American woman elected vice president was seen in a more casual attire wearing Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers, that she sometimes wore in campaign trails. VP-elect's team was reportedly unaware about the switch.
Apart from the ‘quality’ of the shoot, Harris being on Vogue magazine cover is likely to catch the attention of outgoing President Donald Trump who had, just last month, complained about US First Lady Melania Trump not being include in a single magazine cover during the four years of Trump administration. Donald Trump accused the fashion industry of being snubbed by “elitist snobs”. The previous First Lady, Michelle Obama had featured in a range of shoots including Vogue cover in December 2016.