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Anna Wintour admits to stoking ‘hurtful and intolerant’ culture at Vogue

In this May 6, 2019 file photo, Vogue editor Anna Wintour attends The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute benefit gala celebrating the opening of the 'Camp: Notes on Fashion' exhibition in New York.
In this May 6, 2019 file photo, Vogue editor Anna Wintour attends The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute benefit gala celebrating the opening of the 'Camp: Notes on Fashion' exhibition in New York. Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File

Amid worldwide protests against anti-Black racism, the reckoning has spilled over into corporate life, and it appears no one — even Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour — is immune.

Pioneer Black supermodel Beverly Johnson was reportedly snubbed by Wintour in 1992, according to her former publicist James Hester. Johnson was the first Black model to grace the cover of Vogue. 

Hester told Page Six Monday that he had to fight to get Johnson an invite to Vogue‘s 100th-anniversary party.

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“Beverly made history as the first African-American model to grace the cover of Vogue and they refused to invite her,” Hester said. “It was a momentous occasion and obviously a huge moment in Beverly’s life. They kept saying, ‘We’ll get back to you.'”

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Johnson was eventually invited, but when Hester tried to introduce her to Wintour at the party, Wintour allegedly walked away.

“I go up to her and tell her I organized the music. I then asked, ‘Do you know Beverly Johnson?’ (Wintour) said, ‘Yup’ and walked away,'” Hester said.

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In response to the allegations, a representative for Wintour told Page Six: “Anna has done much to champion diversity and inclusion throughout her tenure as editor-in-chief of Vogue, from putting Naomi Campbell on the cover of Anna’s first September issue in 1989 to supporting so many designers of color via the CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund.”

On Thursday, Wintour — also the artistic director of Condé Nast at large — admitted to a “hurtful and intolerant” culture at the fashion magazine in a memo to staff.

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“I want to start by acknowledging your feelings and expressing my empathy towards what so many of you are going through: sadness, hurt, and anger too,” reads the statement shared by Page Six

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“I want to say this especially to the Black members of our team — I can only imagine what these days have been like. But I also know that the hurt, and violence, and injustice we’re seeing and talking about have been around for a long time. Recognizing it and doing something about it is overdue.”

Wintour also reportedly admits to not finding enough ways to “elevate and give space” to Black editors, writers, photographers, designers and other creators.

“We have made mistakes too, publishing images or stories that have been hurtful or intolerant. I take full responsibility for those mistakes,” Wintour says in the statement.

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This isn’t the first time Wintour has been accused of mistreatment of the Black community.

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André Leon Talley, former Vogue editor-at-large and friend to Wintour, claimed in his memoir, The Chiffon Trenches, that she removed him from his role for being “too old, too overweight, too uncool.” 

After her memo was sent to staff last week, Talley spoke out on a radio show, calling Wintour a “colonial broad.”

“She’s a colonial dame, she comes from British, she’s part of an environment of colonialism,” Talley said. “She is entitled and I don’t think she will ever let anything get in the way of her white privilege.”

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Condé Nast, a mass media company headquartered in New York City, has been at the centre of controversy for weeks now.

Earlier this month, Bon Appétit editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport resigned after a 2013 Instagram post surfaced in which he appears to be wearing brownface.

Shortly after, staff members at the food magazine made allegations of bias, racial discrimination and unequal pay. Most notably, assistant food editor Sohla El-Waylly claimed only white editors were paid to appear in the brand’s popular online videos.

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Meghan.Collie@globalnews.ca