For the last four decades, André Leon Talley has sat in the front row at the world's most important fashion shows. He may seem an unlikely candidate to become a style icon and tastemaker in a world that's overwhelmingly white and cosmopolitan: Talley is a six-foot-six gay black man from the segregated American South. While no feature-length film could fully capture his big, fascinating life, The Gospel According to André gives us some good glimpses.
I'd mentally linked Talley with the excess of the 1990s supermodel scene and the cold snobbery of Vogue editor Anna Wintour. (Talley has worked at Interview magazine, Women's Wear Daily, W, the New York Times, and Vogue, and been a judge on America's Next Top Model, among other fashion endeavors.) While Talley fits in with that crowd—he calls everyone "darling"—he's also caring and generous.
This documentary is bedazzled with fashion stars who have nothing but glowing things to say about him, and also friends of Talley's from high school and college who also have glowing things to say.
It was filmed in the days leading up to, and immediately following, the 2016 presidential election. Alongside Talley, we get to relive our stunned disbelief at the result. There's one crushing scene when he talks about styling for Hillary Clinton's inauguration. Remember optimism?
It turns out in the end that this person—this hugely famous, untouchably influential, superhuman person—is open and warm, and it makes me like Anna Wintour and Mariah Carey more for the simple fact that they're his friends.
Plus there's plenty more in the film besides fashion: It's well worth checking out if you care at all about American history, art, beauty, politics, race, or sexual identity. Or caftans.