Distinguished alumnus Andre' Leon Talley, '70, had a profound impact and expansive influence on the fashion and journalism industries.
Raised from an early age by his grandmother, Bennie Frances Davis, a domestic worker in Durham, Talley sought out fashion literature such as Vogue magazine and couture memoirs to quench his fashion appetite. He would often walk through Duke University’s campus to a newsstand where he could pick up the latest edition of Vogue and escape into the fashion world.
At Hillside High School, Talley took French classes and developed a fondness for the language – and for Paris. He also discovered an interest in performing arts. Talley would later study French at North Carolina Central University, and with thoughts of a career as a scholar of French literature, Talley left Durham after earning his degree in 1970 to begin graduate studies at Brown University. From there, he transitioned to nearby New York City, where he began building a foundation for a career in the fashion industry.
Senior fashion design student, Sydni Mottley accredited Talley as her inspiration for attending NCCU.
“I decided to attend NCCU because of Mr. Talley, one of my goals was to meet and hopefully work with him,” she said.
Talley wrote for Warhol’s Interview magazine, Women’s Dailey and The New York Times before going to work at Vogue in 1983 as fashion news director and becoming the magazine’s first African-American creative director in 1988. He was later named the premier fashion magazine’s editor at large in 1995.
After leaving Vogue in 2013, he hosted a satellite radio show and joined the Board of Trustees at Savannah College of Art and Design. He also had a brief stint as editor-at-large with Numéro Russia before leaving in 2014 after learning about Russia’s numerous anti-LGBT laws.
In 2018, he released “The Gospel According to Andre’,” a documentary film based on his life story.
He also co-authored Megastar with Richard Bernstein before publishing three books including, A.L.T.: A Memoir, A.L.T. 365+ and New York Times Best Seller, The Chiffon Trenches: A Memoir.
Adding to his many accolades, the French Republic awarded him the Chevalier de l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres honor for arts and letters in 2020. The following year, he received the North Carolina Governor’s award for his role in literature.