A#10 Giambattista Valli


Words by André Leon Talley

Cover photo of A.L.T.: A Memoir (2003) by André Leon Talley

We are honoured to share André Leon Talley’s interpretation of beauty from inside A Magazine Curated By Giambattista Valli, 2010, in memory of the fashion icon who personified extravagance whilst carving a path for many to follow.


Recently, I have experienced the idea of beauty through Janelle Monae. She is a young, gifted, black artist who has such style. When I go to hear Janelle Monae and her orchestra performing, it’s emblematic of a new generation of great beauty. Janelle and her entire orchestra wear black and white. She dresses with the same ‘dash’ on stage that Marlene Dietrich expressed, when she wore a white tie and tails or a top hat. Janelle likes to wear a silk top hat and veil with a peplumed riding jacket, jewels and cravat – all designed by Ralph Lauren.

Janelle Monae has a great hairdo – it’s a cross between a French twist and a brioche from the haute couture days of Paris in the Sixties (think Monsieur Alexandre) under her silk top hat. It crosses generations and becomes a perfect rock-a-billy pompadour, and she makes it totally modern by not taking it seriously.

At a recent concert on a Friday night, after the long Fashion Week schedule, Monae performed to a SRO crowd (Standing Room Only) at the popular Terminal 5 in midtown Manhattan. In the audience were wonderful gay couples who rocked her hairdo as homage to Monae, right down to the texture and scale of her pompadour.

It was at this concert (and in Ralph Lauren’s window on Fashion’s Night Out) that I saw the Marlene Dietrich style, a vibe of the great elegance that Dietrich made famous by wearing men’s clothes with great dash. She is a young virtuoso, a breakout artist, and has toured Europe this year.

At the same time, she has something so noble, so American, when she removes a black James Brown cape with a hood and reveals a long-sleeved Gibson Girl cotton lawn blouse tucked into black silk pants, and elegant black/white corresponding Fred Astaire dancing oxfords. She is the most wonderful anecdote to Lady Gaga’s prosciutto evening dress, cocktail hat and shoes she wore recently to the MTV Video Music Awards.

The cover of Janelle’s new album, The ArchAndroid (Wonderland Arts Society/Bad Boy) features her as an outer space glam alien. Kraftwerk redux! But she is more than that. When she sings “Smile”, her signature song from Charlie Chaplin’s 1936 masterpiece Modern Times, she makes it her own. It is not a remix of Diana Ross, or Judy Garland, or Michael Jackson.

Janelle has connected to single white males, couples, and gays – a diverse audience due to her ability to toss around her velvety voice, spin into orbit and sing at the same time. For a mosh-pit dive without parallel, you must try and see the beautiful Monae in concert. She is a true American beauty, like those rare hybrid roses named after legends. Miss Monae has made rings of light around many hearts and souls!

A Magazine Curated By Giambattista Valli (page 206).
Janelle Monae photographed by Jason Riffe.

Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.




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