“The Chiffon Trenches” chronicles his rags to riches tale from Durham, North Carolina to becoming one of the most respected fashionistas in the game.
“I was the only child in the house,” Talley says of life in Durham, per PEOPLE. And he was very much aware that he was not like the other boys in the neighborhood. “I had a ritual. I would walk across the railroad tracks to the campus of Duke. I would buy Vogue. I took them home and would devour them. I hung the pages on the wall—Naomi Sims, Pat Cleveland, the great African American models. I made my own world.”
Talley’s fantastical world was part of his survival mode, as the sexual abuse began at age 9.
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— Andre Leon Talley (@OfficialALT) May 5, 2020
“It was not one man, it was many, young adults, teenagers, or men throughout the neighborhood. It was painful. It was serial. And it took place in shame. In shaming places, in dark places—like the woodshed of my house, where they kept the wood and coal,” he says.
“I was afraid to tell anyone. I was afraid they would send me away. I didn’t know at that time, that you could go to doctors. We didn’t have hotlines for sexual abuse or suicide. I did not know how to articulate this. It has lived with me until I wrote this book.”
Talley says he “found a way to alleviate the pain, through” fashion.
“The escapism of fashion and the world of style and, eventually, the pages of Vogue,” he adds.
These days, Talley finds peace (especially amid COVID-19) through the church.
“All my friends are church people,” he says.
“I am grateful for my life, but I am not happy with who I am,” Talley says. “I want to continue to try and be kind and not cruel. But I have had a difficult life.” He says he had the opportunity years ago to go to therapy for his sexual abuse and wishes he would have. “I have not been able to have any intimacy that is successful. I don’t have intimacy with men or women. I am afraid to be touched.” He pauses. “I still don’t know who to trust.”