THIS YEAR promises a bumper crop of film documentaries. Already released are films on Grace Jones, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Fred Rogers, and Pope Francis, to name a few. That motley list is made all the more unusual by the addition of The Gospel According to André, which narrates the life and career of socialite and fashion journalist André Leon Talley. Talley was introduced to the national stage in another fashion documentary over twenty years ago, Unzipped (1995), which profiled the designer Isaac Mizrahi. Talley is virtually the only black man in that film. He also appeared in The September Issue (2009), which used the occasion of Vogue magazine’s annual supersized issue to probe the life of its austere editor, Anna Wintour. There too, Talley is a large and garrulous presence in a picture full of unsmiling white people. In the quarter century covered by these three films, very little seems to have changed in terms of industry diversity. Of a queer black man who stands 6’6” and wears ornate caftans to accommodate his massive figure, it seems odd to say that he has flown under the radar. But in life and in pictures, he has known only the supporting role until now.
J. Ken Stuckey is a senior lecturer in English and media studies at Bentley University.