Credit…Lelanie Foster for The New York Times
When Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, the fashion editor-personality who became famous as the first Black woman to style a Vogue cover (in 2021) and even more famous after she got into a social media brouhaha with Kanye West, was interviewing for her first big fashion job at Vogue, she ended up, not surprisingly, in front of Anna Wintour.
Ms. Wintour asked Ms. Karefa-Johnson where she wanted to be in 10 years. Ms. Karefa-Johnson answered — as Ms. Wintour once had, when asked a similar question — editor in chief of Vogue.
Almost exactly a decade later, Ms. Karefa-Johnson doesn’t necessarily want that any more.
Last October, after three years as global contributing editor at large, years in which she styled covers that featured Vice President Kamala Harris, the poet Amanda Gorman and Margot Robbie (as “Barbie”), among others, she decided to leave what had once been her dream job. The Israel-Hamas war had begun, and she had become a vocal presence on Instagram protesting what she referred to as the “genocide” in Gaza, despite the aversion of Condé Nast, Vogue’s parent company, (and, indeed, that of most of the fashion establishment) to any public pronouncements on the conflict.
“I resigned as kind of a material action of solidarity and because it was just time for me to move on,” Ms. Karefa-Johnson, 32, said recently. “Everything I said was attached to the institutions I worked for. Not only was that not fair, it was also distracting.”
She had also realized, she said, that she didn’t want to be encumbered by the expectations of perhaps the ultimate establishment publication.
“There’s so many things that these institutions represent that I’m not,” she said. “It works both ways.”
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