André Leon Talley's legacy should be ‘inclusive': model Beverly Johnson

Model Beverly Johnson tells ABC News’ Linsey Davis about her late friend André Leon Talley -- how their careers paved the way for a more inclusive industry and how Talley should be remembered.
6:40 | 01/20/22

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Transcript for André Leon Talley's legacy should be ‘inclusive': model Beverly Johnson
- The influential fashion journalist and the first Black man to be the creative director at Vogue has passed away. Andre Leon Talley was known as a trailblazer and a force in the fashion industry. Oprah Winfrey posting on Instagram, another legend gone, not to be duplicated. ABC's Erielle Reshef has more on the legacy he leaves behind. ERIELLE RESHEF: With his capes and kaftans, gloves and dramatic headpieces, Andre Leon Talley was larger than life. Called a creative genius, this trailblazing legend rose to prominence as creative director and editor-at-large of Vogue under Anna Wintour. A fashion force unlike any other, he broke barriers as a Black editor at the top of a predominantly white field. He helped dress Michelle Obama when she was First Lady, was an advisor to designer Oscar de La Renta, and mentor to supermodel Naomi Campbell, even a judge on America's Next Top Model. A singular voice that helped define American fashion, Andre Talley died at the age of 73. - And joining us now to discuss the impact and imprint left by Andre Leon Talley's legacy is another legend, Beverly Johnson. Beverly, thank you so much for joining us tonight. - Well, thank you so much for having me, Lindzie. - And of course, you were the first Black woman to grace the cover of Vogue Magazine. You helped pave the way for people like Andre. In your memoir, The Face That Changed it All, Andre wrote your foreword, in which he says, "Beverly has journeyed on in her life with grace, gravitas, and gold-rimmed guts." He goes on to describe you as one of the important faces to alter the image of fashion. But based on your own tributes to him, is it fair to say that that's how you would describe him? - Absolutely. Absolutely. Our careers were almost parallel in the sense that he was the first Black man to have that editor position at Vogue Magazine, and I was the first Black woman on the cover of American Vogue. LINDZIE DAVIS: And of course, you have spent much of your career in front of the lens, but how important was it to have someone like Andre behind the scenes as a creative visionary? - Oh, Andre was absolutely brilliant. I think that there is no one on the planet that knows more about fashion than Andre. He was-- he had so much compassion and passion for the art of fashion, and he knew it inside-out. And everyone wanted to be in his company, and so did I. LINDZIE DAVIS: And what was it like to be in his company? In the same room and share the same space as Andre? BEVERLY JOHNSON: (CHUCKLING) Oh, my goodness. I could walk into a room and within seconds, Andre will tell me exactly who I'm wearing. Now I'm not a really label kind of girl. He wouldn't know those labels that very few people even know of. He was an absolute genius. And funny, irreverent, and just, you know, just loved being around him. He was just so abundantly full of life in every way. LINDZIE DAVIS: Would you ever consult him for some of your fashion choices? BEVERLY JOHNSON: Oh, without a doubt. I, you know, got a really close relationship, I would say, about 15 or so years ago when both of our careers were slowing down, so to speak. And he actually introduced me to Anna Wintour. We-- I had an idea for a project, and of course, I got this wonderful photographer, and I called Andre Leon Talley. He said, I think it's brilliant, and he was the one who put me in contact with Anna Wintour. And they had a wonderful, close relationship, and I do understand why he is so loved. LINDZIE DAVIS: On Instagram, you posted your own love note to him. You say, "Majesty. A tribute to this cerebral fashion connoisseur. Another piece of good taste leaves us. Cover designed for Andre. Thank you for the beauty." How can the fashion world continue keeping Andre's fashion legacy going without him at this point? - I think that, you know, as he was one of a kind, that his space should be captured with a lot of people of color and diversity that reflects our country. And I think that he would like that very much, if his legacy continued to be inclusive of Black fashion designers, editors, models, and all of the-- particularly, the board of directors-- industries of the fashion industry. I think that he would like that a lot. I think he really wanted us to not only participate in the artistic part of fashion, but also in the economics of fashion. LINDZIE DAVIS: And for those of us who never had the opportunity to meet him, how would you describe him, knowing him personally? So many people call him a force in fashion, a larger-than-life presence. - Yes. He's actually 6 foot 6 inches, so when he comes into a room, you know he's there. He's always impeccably dressed, and he is a force to be reckoned with. He's can be loud, and-- and opinionated, and outspoken, and not afraid to really tell you how it is. You know, the one thing that gives me so much gratitude is that Andre wrote his book, his last book in 2020, and also, he did his documentary. So he had the last word about his life, and that, I think, is really going to be a big part of his legacy because he told his story the way he wanted it to be told. LINDZIE DAVIS: In so much of this interview, you've talked about him still in the present tense. And so I can tell that he will certainly live on in your heart. I can imagine he was pretty intimidating. You know, for somebody like me, I wear off-the-rack clothes, I don't think that (CHUCKLING) I would want to be in his company and hear him, like, scowl at-- or see his scowl at what might not be, like, a top label. But Beverly Johnson, we thank you so much for your time. Really appreciate it, as always. - Thank you so much.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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