Who: A fashion giant for three decades now, Talley is Vogue's former editor-at-large and currently a contributing editor at the magazine.
Backstory: The grandson of a sharecropper, Talley was raised in Durham, N.C. by his grandmother, a deeply religious woman who supported her family by cleaning homes and scrubbing the hallways of Duke, and whom he credits with shaping his character. André moved north to attend grad school at Brown; after earning his master's in French literature (his thesis was on Baudelaire), he settled in New York and worked briefly for Andy Warhol. When legendary Vogue editor Carrie Donovan introduced him to the equally legendary Diana Vreeland, she gave the young Southerner a job at the Costume Institute at the Met. In 1983, he joined Vogue as fashion news director, and following Anna Wintour's arrival as editor-in-chief in 1988, he was named creative director. In 1995 he went to Paris as bureau chief for W, returning to Vogue in 1998 to assume the role of editor-at-large. In early 2010, he stepped down as editor-at-large, but he continues to serve as a contributing editor to the magazine. His memoir, A.L.T., was published in 2003; the book is a tribute to the women who shaped his life, including his grandmother Bennie Francis Davis and Vreeland.
Of note: A front-row staple at fashion shows in New York, Paris, and Milan, ALT remains one of Wintour's closest confidantes and writes a regular column for the mag. He also dispenses fashion counsel to celebs like Renee Zellweger, Nicole Kidman, and Mariah Carey, although the results don't always yield rave reviews: The Oscar de la Renta gown he picked for Dreamgirls star Jennifer Hudson for the 2007 Oscars got a big thumbs down from everyone, including the actress herself. He became famous outside fashion circles in late 2009 when he took up Tyra Banks on her invitation and joined the judging panel of America's Next Top Model.
The look: Known for his attention-grabbing wardrobe of Napoleon hats and Fendi furs, Talley has always been a clotheshorse: He says he bounced checks during his younger years to keep himself in posh threads. These days, of course, he has no trouble affording his closet full of size 13 Manolo Blahniks. He's thinner than he used to be: He once tipped the scales at more than 300 pounds, which his designer friends help him conceal (Karl Lagerfeld designed a coat that "you could put a whole Lilliputian family in"), but lost a good deal of it while attending a weight loss "boot camp" at Duke. He recounted his adventures in weight loss on Oprah in 2005, although he's since gained much of it back.
On screen: Talley makes an appearance in 2008's Sex and the City (as himself, naturally), styling Carrie as she's photographed modeling wedding dresses. He was not so pleased, however, with the film adaptation of The Devil Wears Prada—not because his boss was portrayed as a bitch, mind you, but because Stanley Tucci was cast as the pseudo-Talley. Although he admitted he hadn't seen the film, he said he was offended that a "little, tiny, bald man" had been selected to portray him. These days, you can catch him spit out one-liners on America's Next Top Model.
Personal: Talley lives alone in a home in Hastings-on-Hudson, the interior of which he has never permitted anyone to see.
Full Name: André Leon Talley
Date of Birth: 10/16/1949
Place of Birth: Durham, NC
Undergrad: North Carolina Central University
Graduate: Brown University
Residence(s): Hastings-on-Hudson, NY
Filed Under: Fashion, Media
[Photos via Getty Images]