Former Black staffers call for Anna Wintour to surrender control of Vogue, citing the magazine’s racist work environment

  • A new investigation from the New York Times alleges that Anna Wintour, the longtime editor-in-chief of Vogue, has cultivated a racist work environment.
  • The report also suggests that she has encouraged a "thin, rich and white" standard of beauty — in the pages of the magazine and beyond.
  • Several Black journalists who have worked with Wintour told the Times she should surrender control of Vogue and give up her position of power within Condé Nast.
  • Other former employees recounted instances of Wintour brushing off cultural appropriation as not a "big deal" and using offensive language in an email.
  • "Undoubtedly, I have made mistakes along the way, and if any mistakes were made at Vogue under my watch, they are mine to own and remedy and I am committed to doing the work," Wintour told the Times in an emailed statement. 
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Several Black journalists who have worked with Anna Wintour say she has cultivated a racist culture at Vogue, brushed off cultural appropriation, and used offensive language in work emails.

A new investigation from the New York Times delves into the recent push for diversity at Vogue, and explores whether these efforts are "too late."

The Times investigation describes how Wintour, the longtime editor-in-chief of Vogue and artistic director at Condé Nast, is accused of encouraging a "thin, rich and white" standard of beauty — in the pages of the magazine and beyond, given her enormous influence in the fashion industry.

Indeed, 11 different sources — who spoke to the Times on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retribution — said Wintour should surrender control of Vogue and give up her considerable position of power within Condé Nast.

"Fashion is bitchy," one former Black staff member said. "It's hard. This is the way it's supposed to be. But at Vogue, when we'd evaluate a shoot or a look, we'd say 'That's Vogue,' or, 'That's not Vogue,' and what that really meant was 'thin, rich and white.' How do you work in that environment?"

Other former employees recounted instances of Wintour brushing off cultural appropriation and using offensive language in an email.

According to the Times, multiple staff members objected to Vogue's online coverage of Kendall Jenner wearing fake gold teeth in 2017. These staffers told Wintour that the article endorsed, or even glorified, a clear example of cultural appropriation.

After several exchanges, the Times reports, Wintour wrote: "Well I honestly don't think that's a big deal."

That same year, Wintour reportedly asked an employee via email if a certain photoshoot could be seen as racist: "Don't mean to use an inappropriate word, but pica ninny came to mind," Wintour wrote.

In a statement, Wintour apologized for using an "offensive" term.

"I was trying both to express my concern for how our readers could have interpreted a photo and raise the issue for discussion, and I used a term that was offensive," she said. "And for that, I truly apologize."

In a longer emailed statement, Wintour said she takes full responsibility for any insensitivity and offensive content during her tenure at the iconic fashion magazine.

"I strongly believe that the most important thing any of us can do in our work is to provide opportunities for those who may not have had access to them," she said.

"Undoubtedly, I have made mistakes along the way, and if any mistakes were made at Vogue under my watch, they are mine to own and remedy and I am committed to doing the work."

Read the full report from New York Times reporter Edmund Lee here.

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