The fashion world is not too different from a theatrical play. There are lights, costumes, makeup, and roles for almost everything you can think of, but mainly, fashion boasts a colorful and eccentric cast of characters.
There is Anna Wintour, the primadonna/high priestess editrix of American Vogue, whose signature bob hairstyle and oversized Chanel sunglasses are instantly recognizable and simultaneously feared. Then there is Grace Coddington, whose fiery red hair and silk pajama sets have become a symbol of who she is marking a separation between the simplicity of her self-presentation against the extravagant and fantastic editorials she produces — the list goes on and on.
But among this cast of fashion people, there is one in particular whose looks and personality have both made him an undeniable force in both the industry and beyond: André Leon Talley.
No one has made quite the impact on the world the way he has. His fashion commentary is both entertaining and educational. His irresistible gusto for life and beauty are always front-and-center. As a gay black man, he has caused us to rethink and rebuke stringent cultural norms that have for so long been considered normal. And now, he is the subject of a new documentary—The Gospel According to André—that explores the many intricacies that make up the man.
"My producer Andrew Rossi directed a film called First Monday in May, about the Costume Institute at the Met," director Kate Novack tells me. "André was in that film and he participated in some Q&As in theaters when it opened in New York. At one of them, a young, African American man in the audience stood up and said, 'I moved to New York to study fashion. My parents don't think what I do is real but I know it is because I saw you do it.'"
She continues: "I think for many people André represents the possibility of becoming who we want to be, of not hiding from the world, but of embracing it."
It is because of this, and many more reasons, that made Leon Talley the perfect candidate for a documentary. In it, Novack brilliantly tells his life story, peppering in current events of the traumatic kind (like the 2016 election) and creating a conversation about larger societal and cultural issues.
Below, L’Officiel USA speaks with Kate Novack about the documentary and what it was like to document the life of one of fashion greatest and most eccentric figures.