Zibby Owens: André Leon Talley and I had a really good conversation. At the end, I gave him my cell phone. I was like, if you need me, just call me. Of course, he doesn’t need me. Anyway, it was emotional and really great. I really enjoyed talking to him. André Leon Talley, if you don’t know, was the indomitable creative director at Vogue during the magazine’s rising dominance as the world’s fashion bible. He’s also the author of memoir The Chiffon Trenches, which is what we are talking about in this interview. Over the five decades, he’s also appeared in Vanity Fair, Interview, and Women’s Wear Daily, and has published several illustrated works including Little Black Dress, A.L.T. 365+, and Oscar de la Renta: His Legendary World of Style. He is also the subject of the documentary The Gospel According to André. He received his MA in French studies from Brown and served on the board of trustees for the Savannah College of Art and Design for twenty years. I hope you enjoy our conversation.

Thanks so much for your time. I really enjoyed your memoir, The Chiffon Trenches. I found it super interesting and fascinating, as I’m sure everybody else did. Can you tell me what exactly inspired you to write your memoir? I know you’ve had a lifetime of experience and you had so many great stories and everything, but why go through all the heartache and the time and everything of writing a memoir? And why now?

André Leon Talley: I decided to write the book because I wanted to write an epistle of love and chronicling of my life. I’m seventy-one years old. Proud to be seventy-one. I thought that it was important for me as my story was unique. My narrative had taken a trajectory. There’s many different tributaries of uniqueness in my life that I had to write this book. I was compelled to write the book because I had this documentary called The Gospel According to André which came out in 2018. It was so warmly received by the people who saw this documentary in so many walks of life, people on the street, my colleagues. It compelled me to write the book. I didn’t have a set plan to write a certain kind of book. I just sat down and started writing once I got the book deal with Ballantine, Penguin Random House. I had no notes. I had no diaries. It all came from my head.

Zibby: Wow. When you started writing, did all of the experiences from when you were younger, some of the more painful ones, did they just start coming out? Did you have any sense that you were going to want to include them?

André: The painful experiences have been with me all my life. All of those experiences have been with me. They just came out because those things that I’ve kept bottled up in my brain, in my mind, for decades and decades — this book was, in a way, a cleansing. It was so much a cleansing. I realize now that I’ve completed the book that it was a cleansing of the spirit and the soul. I feel very proud of it. It cleansed my soul. I had never spoken of my serial sexual abuse to anyone, no one in my family, no therapist, nothing. When I was growing up in the South, African American people of just modest means did not have therapists to go to. You couldn’t go to your church because that was shaming. I just thought that I could not say that to anyone. I was the only child. I thought that whatever this was that had happened to me, if I told my grandmother, it would probably hurt her and she’d be very devastated, or I would be sent away to a reform school. I never talked about those things. As I said, I don’t write with notes. I don’t have diaries. I don’t go refer to books or things or articles. It just comes out. I write as I feel. On a given day, I get up and I write. I write what is going through my head at that time.

Zibby: You just said it was a cleansing. Did you feel like you had sort of made sense of it after writing it? When you were actually sitting there, did you write it with a computer or by hand?

André: Computer and by hand. By hand most of the days. Sometimes I’d be traveling and I would write by hand. I remember I was in a little hotel for a week in New York City in 2018 in October. I don’t travel with my computer. It’s a laptop. I was writing on the blotter on the desk. The blotter, it’s a pad. It’s got many, many pages. I would wake up in the morning and write on the blotter. I wrote one chapter by hand. Then I would scribble notes that I’ve had on little pieces of paper as I went about in a car if I had a thought or something like that. I forgot your question.

Zibby: I was starting to ask a question, but I was clarifying how you wrote. What I wanted to know is, as you were scribbling down notes or as you typing, when you were reliving some of that painful stuff — I’m sorry to jump in with all of your innermost personal trauma, but I just was blown away by the way you wrote about it and the fact that you’re coming out of it.

André: No, it came out. It just came out. It just flowed out of me. It flowed. I did write a book before that in 2003. I wrote this book, A.L.T.: A Memoir. That also happened. It just flowed. I woke up one morning. I was in my grandmother’s house in North Carolina. She had passed away in 1989. I woke up and I went downstairs. I remember it’s seven thirty in the morning. My computer was in the kitchen. I sat down on the computer at eight o’clock. By three o’clock, I had the first twenty-five pages of that book, the first book. I just started writing. I read this piece and I thought, this is something important to me and I think this is something I need to show to somebody. I took those twenty-five pages that I printed out on my computer to the late John Fairchild, my former boss who was a great man, a genius. He was very fearful, very intimidating. I wasn’t even at Women’s Wear Daily. I was out of Women’s Wear Daily for almost thirty years. I asked Mr. Fairchild, could I see him for lunch? He took me to the fanciest place in New York, Le Bernardin. I said, “Mr. Fairchild, I have something to give you. I would like for you to read this,” because I trusted him. We had that kind of respect for each other. He called me up. He read it. He said, “This is brilliant. I want to print this.” It was printed in W, the first chapter. I compared Mrs. Vreeland to my grandmother. It’s all about my grandmother and Mrs. Vreeland. That was the beginning of my first book. I just sat down one morning and started writing. I have another book. Let me just tell you, your moms who don’t have time to read books, I have a book three in me, as I read this book, as I go over this book, as people respond to it, as so many things come up that I have not put in this book that I could’ve put in a book but I did not put in the book.

Zibby: I will save more time for that third book of yours. I will carve it out now. I’ll put it in for, what, 2022 or something?

André: 2023, probably. I’ve got to get the book contract first. I know that there are so many wonderful things that have happened that are not in this book that people respond to. I didn’t leave them out on purpose, but as I was writing it, those things didn’t come to me. Now things have come to me that I forgot. I could’ve put them in there. I thought, well, this could’ve gone in the book. I left that out. Why did I do this? Why did I do that? Nevertheless, the book is there and I’m proud of it.

Zibby: What did you leave out that the comments have elicited and you have to write another book to put in?

André: Just recently, Rosemary Feitelberg at WWD has a piece out right today on Fire Island and the seventies. She called me. She interviewed me and Stephen Burrows and Bethann Hardison. Stephen Burrows was then one of the kings of Fire Island. He was one of the social lions of Fire Island. He and Calvin Klein were the fashion kings of Fire Island in the seventies. She found the photographs I had done at Fire Island. She sent them to me. She says, “Can you talk about these pictures?” I said, “Who took these pictures?” She said, “You took them.” I said, “What?” She said, “You took them. There was an article in Women’s Wear Daily.” She started quoting the article. I thought, oh, my god. Then she wrote this beautiful piece yesterday on Fire Island. I realized that could’ve been a whole chapter. It would’ve been so relevant today, life on Fire Island, the liberating Fire Island, the liberating , the motel, the Blue Whale, the blue drinks, the liberation, the naked bodies, the sex outdoors, alfresco sex, of which I was an observer. I was not a participant. I was an observer.

I went to Fire Island. Manolo Blahnik and I became very good friends at Fire Island. I could’ve written about that. So many things I could’ve written about Manolo Blahnik. There are pieces that I left out about Paloma Picasso’s wedding. I could’ve described how brilliant that was. There’s a bit of Paloma in the book. There were so many trips with Paloma to Venice when I went to Venice with her one summer, how I had clothes made to go on trips to Venice. I would have wardrobes made just to go to certain destinations. All of that’s very much a part. I love the details. I like to describe details. I don’t know where I got that training from, but I’m a man of nuance and detail. I’m very proud that people say to me, I love the way the book is written and it’s so wonderful to read. I think it’s because I read so much when I was a child. I was an only child. I had to make my own world. I was reading Vogue magazine at the age of ten. I discovered it in the public library in Durham. I was reading.

I remember I went to New York once on a bus with my grandmother. We were coming to New York to visit her sister. She had three sisters that lived in New York. That was a big luxurious trip for us to go on the bus. We were going on the train before that, but it became very fashionable to take the Trailways bus because the train was old and slow. I was sitting next to her reading Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary at the age of ten, in English of course. I did not speak French at the age of ten, no. I loved to read. I just would read. I loved to read everything. One of the great things I left out the book was how I read to Diana Vreeland. When Mrs. Vreeland went to bed and decided not to receive anyone, and this is true, she only received her grandsons: Nicholas, monk; and Alexander Vreeland; and her sons and her immediate family. I was the only person that she would see. I would go in read to her out loud. She loved my voice. I used to read entire books to her. I left that part out. That’s so beautiful.

Zibby: That is so beautiful. You obviously have a zillion stories. You could fill probably fifty books with your stories.

André: No, not fifty. I’d say three.

Zibby: Okay, fine, three. I have to say, as much as the anecdotes of who you were with are interesting because you’ve had this unique life and exposure to people, the parts that interested me the most were more about you and your interior life and your emotions, particularly as it relates, as were just discussing, the sexual abuse, but also how you used eating to deal with your emotions and how you didn’t talk about that very much either.

André: No. That could’ve been dealt with. I could’ve dealt with racism. As I see in hindsight, I could’ve dealt with racism on a more detailed plane. Binge-eating, I didn’t realize I was a binge-eater until after my grandmother died in 1989. That’s the year I started gaining weight. I started putting on weight because I was binge-eating. I could’ve talked about my trips to the Duke Diet and Fitness Center. I did not choose to do that, but I realized education about binge-eating helps you to control your weight. I was eating a sleeve of Fig Newtons almost every night at eleven thirty. When I got to Duke Diet and Fitness Center, I realized it was a thousand calories in one sleeve of Fig Newtons. I did not write that. So many things I could’ve written about. I could’ve written about my trip to Oprah Winfrey’s television show in my early years. I could’ve written about how I went to Oprah’s Legendary Ball and what a beautiful Sunday morning that was. She had an open-air spiritual church. That was so beautiful, her Legends Ball. I wish she would give another one. It was such a great, great, great moment of spirituality. She had a book beautifully printed after that and sent it to all the guests at the Legendary Ball. I went to the Legendary Ball with Mariah Carey. Mariah Carey’s left out of the book. That was a great friend at one point. I don’t see her much anymore because she’s got her two twins.

I also think that you probably responded to my early upbringing in the church, how important the church was, how important that the church impacted my appreciation of Yves Saint Laurent when I for his show which was inspired by Porgy and Bess. Porgy and Bess is this folk opera taking place in the South. Yves Saint Laurent had never been to the South. He just listened to the music. He created the most extraordinary, beautiful, elegant show in 1987. That was my first important Couture show in Paris. I wrote about it. It became the rocket that took my career to the top. There’s a snippet of that in the book. In the beginning, you see a letter from Diana Vreeland that she wrote about that, how I described the clothes. I don’t know. I have certain gifts. I would write another book. I would be happy to write another book because I write very fast. I owe a great deal to my editor, Thomas Flannery Jr., and also to my key editor at Random Penguin House, Pamela Cannon. It’s a team to print a book like this. It’s a team. It takes a village.

Zibby: I feel like I’ve done a bad job because all we’ve done is talk about what’s not in the book.

André: You’ve done a great job.

Zibby: There’s so much that actually was in the book that was so amazing. I hope people don’t think that you left everything out and this is a thinly veiled preview of what’s to come.

André: Your apartment is so neat. Look at that étage.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh, I did this yesterday. Yesterday, I cleaned out this room. I even have your book up there. I was going to try to move my —

André: — No, it’s beautiful. I see the étage is very neat, very beautiful. I’m so impressed.

Zibby: That was my work last night with my house guest and my husband. It’s not usually like this at all.

André: It looks great.

Zibby: Thank you. I appreciate it. Do you enjoy the actual writing? I know you said you’re fast and you have so many things in your head. It’s a funnel. You can barely get them out. Do you enjoy it? What does it do for you to write?

André: I’m a very lazy person. I’m essentially lazy. I could stay in bed all day and look at TCM, black and white movies, and just run downstairs and get a chicken salad sandwich or something. I have to process in my mind that I’m going to get up and work in the day. I’m going to get up and write. Then I jump up and I start writing on the computer. My computer is on a desk next to bed in my bedroom. I have one downstairs too, but I wrote this whole book in this computer up here. It’s a joy to write because I write fast and I type fast. One of the skills I have is that I was in high school and I took typing. They said, “Why do you want to take typing?” I said, “You never know. It will come in handy.” It’s like when you play the piano, you don’t know why you’re playing the piano. I type very fast. It just comes out. It flows. It just flows. I have kept so many painful memories, with some of them in the book, the ageism, the shaming.

I feel that you haven’t addressed the whole issue of Anna Wintour, but if you want to. I call it an epistle of love because in the book I express my deep hurt in her not explaining to me why suddenly I wasn’t doing the Vogue podcast and why I was not doing the red carpet interviews at the Met Ball. There was no explanation of that. That was the final straw that broke the camel’s back. Last year they had Notes on Camp. I never went to Notes on Camp. That was the year I said I’ll never go to another Met Ball again as long as I live. I was writing the book. The book helped me to come to that realization. I felt that I was owed some explanation. She could go another direction. She thought that the influence of this young African American girl of twenty-two-years of age or something with two million followers was the way to go. That’s fine, but just tell me. Tell me, “You’ve done a great job. I appreciate it. We’re moving on.” No one ever explained that to me. It’s never been explained to me.

Zibby: You wrote really openly about your hurt. To have a relationship — it’s a betrayal, in effect.

André: It’s a sense of betrayal. She’s since apologized in a public statement to all the people at Condé Nast now because she has shown intolerant behavior to people of color. There’s been her lack of diversity in the magazine over the years. I just say to her, business as usual. That was probably a statement that was coauthored by one of her editors. Business as usual. I know her very well. I see her talking about it. The person’s drafting it out. They write it. It’s approved. Then she clicks on her Manolos and goes down the carpeted hall onto the next. She is a person of great power, of great influence. She has achieved a greatness in her life. You can’t take it away from her. She will not let anything get in the way of her white privilege. That statement was a statement of survival. In this particular time when people are addressing systemic racism in the world, you see more of Dr. Cornel West on TV than you’ve ever seen before. He’s on Anderson Cooper. He’s on Joe Scarborough, MSNBC. You see more of Cornel West speaking about racism. You see Dr. Eddie Glaude Jr. at Princeton with his new book, Begin Again, about James Baldwin. This was a statement she made. Whatever happens at Condé Nast, I wish her well. She wished me well. Nothing’s going to get in the way of her white privilege, nothing.

Zibby: I think it’s the personal relationship. People can put statements and address bigger societal issues, but when someone’s hurt you, nothing’s going to make it better that’s addressed to a large group.

André: No. I think that she owes me a personal apology. A personal apology, and all would be forgiven. I’ve grown up in a Christian church and a Christian faith. We are forgiving people. You’re a Christian, you forgive. You can forgive the worst things that have been done to you. I’ve forgiven all the people that serially abused me and violated me and robbed me of the ability to be intimate because this happened to me when I was very young. It was serial. It went on for years and years. I never told anyone. I’m a survivor. I’m not a victim. I am a survivor.

Zibby: That’s amazing. It’s amazing that you were willing to come forward and talk about it because it’s so helpful to other people. One of the things I was just so struck by in your book, you’re surrounded by people. It’s like you’re in a snow globe of people constantly surrounding you. Yet there’s this feeling, almost, of loneliness, right?

André: Absolutely. Oh, you’ve hit on it. You are remarkable. That is a beautiful description. I’m a snow globe surrounded by the most glamorous, the most powerful, the most influential: Paloma Picasso, Betty Catroux, Yves Saint Laurent, Diane von Fürstenberg, Manolo Blahnik, Anna Wintour, John Galliano. I’m in a vortex of glamour. Yet there I am alone. I didn’t have the confidence to tell anyone in this snow globe what had happened to me. I had never articulated it to anyone. Some of my best friends, when they read the book, they said, “My god, I didn’t know all this stuff. I never knew of this.” They’re very surprised that they didn’t know it, but I just kept it to myself. That’s why I say the book was very cleansing. It was almost like a baptism in a way for me. I came up out of the water renewed. When you’re baptized in a missionary Baptist church, you’re dunked by the minister. You come up, you’re a new spirit. This is what this book did for me. I hope to become a better person. I think there’s still room for improvement. I’m very flawed. I’m not the easiest person to get on with in a snow globe. Don’t think that my personality wasn’t one of intimidation in a snow globe. I was a warrior dealing with other people whose egos were, oh, my goodness. Karl Lagerfeld, he was one of my closest friends. He also betrayed him. He dumped me as he had dumped so many people in his life.

Zibby: Do you feel at this stage in your life, and perhaps having written the book, that you have a few people close to you that you can really count on and trust?

André: Oh, my god, yes. Thank god. I count on my dear friend Alexis Thomas. She is a chair of trustee at my church, the Abyssinian Baptist Church. I count on her. Bethann Hardison, a lifelong friend who was in the fashion world when I came into the fashion world. She was already a top model. My friend Janice Mays I went to Brown with. My friend Sandra Bernhard calls me every day, the comedian. We speak sometimes two or three times a day. I have five great friends that I can depend on. I also feel that I could count on Diane von Fürstenberg who’s been a dear friend of mine through thick and then. She’s been there through thick and thin. She’s always a calming — I do feel that Alexis, Bethann, Sandra Bernhard, and Janice Mays, these are the top four.

Zibby: I’m glad.

André: All women, by the way. All women.

Zibby: I was getting a little bit worried about you, I have to be honest.

André: No, no, no. Alexis has been with me through thick and thin. Alexis has gone with me to the hospital and prayed with anesthesiologists before she went to work at seven in the morning. This Russian anesthesiologist, she took his hand and my hand and prayed before I went into the operating room for my lap-band surgery which did not work at New York Langone Medical Center. Alexis has been with me. We’ve traveled. We’ve had great trips. We’ve gone on road trips together, just she and I. We’ve had great fun. She’s a mother of two. She’s a wonderful woman. She’s a very smart woman. Bethann has always been there, and Janice as well.

Zibby: Good. I know I’m not a boldfaced name like all your friends and you don’t even know me.

André: I know that you’re important.

Zibby: If you ever need another sympathetic ear or you’re feeling like you’re having a terrible day, I’m always around if you want to give me a call or just chat.

André: Thank you. You’re wonderful to chat with. You’re wonderful to talk to.

Zibby: Thank you. That’s very nice of you. I know our time’s almost up even though I would love to keep talking to you. Do you have any advice to aspiring authors?

André: My advice to aspiring authors is it’s not necessary to keep a journal. Everyone says you must journal. It’s not necessary. In my case, you must depend on the ancestral recall of experience. You must treasure the experience in your mind and in your mind’s eye. You must always be able to go back in order to go forward. I got to this book because I relish and I treasure going back and going back. One of the greatest advices I could give to anyone, a writer or anybody, is just sit down and listen to the birds. Sit down on a porch. Sit down in a yard. Sit down on a park bench. Just sit there calmly and look up at the sky and the trees and listen to the sounds of nature, the chirping of the birds going through the skies. Just find some way to be calm. Cut off all the noise and the TV. Cut off all the psychedelic noises of computers and tapping into looking at your Instagram and all of that stuff. Just be calm. Find strength in nature. That’s really the greatest advice I can give. Just have ancestral recall. Ancestral recall, it could come not only from you, but reading authors, from reading James Baldwin or Virginia Woolf. I’ve been reading James Baldwin for the last two weeks. I think it’s important. I’ve been reading Virginia Woolf, Orlando, Mrs. Dalloway. Just go to the great writers, Henry James, Tennessee Williams, a great, great Southern writer. I just love Tennessee Williams. The lines in plays that he can give, it’s just extraordinary. You must be inspired by something other than yourself as well. Inspiration is a very important factor for young writers, wherever it comes from. It can be music. It can be jazz if you like jazz. It could be classical music. It could be hip hop, whatever you want it to be. Just be calm and depend on ancestral experience, ancestral recall.

Zibby: Amazing.

André: I can talk. Do you have to go?

Zibby: No, I don’t have to go. I’m happy to keep chatting. My podcast is half an hour, but we can keep chatting.

André: If you want to keep talking, ask me more questions.

Zibby: Oh, my god, you’re so sweet. One of the things that I think the book did well and I think probably participated in your cleansing is that you finally could release all these secrets. I’ve been talking to a number of authors. The number-one thing that creates problems emotionally in any way is when you hold onto a secret too tightly. It’s just the corrosive power of secrets. I feel like you finally decided you didn’t want to deal with that anymore in this book.

André: Yeah, I did that. I did. I was honest. I had bottled up so much. I had bottled up so many things. They seem small in the book, but they were very important to me. The moments when I did have some sort of intimacy with two men, one with an artist from Italy — I’d sent him the text. I’d said, “Listen, I want write this in the book. Do you think you’ll feel comfortable with this being printed in the book?” He said, “Yes, I’d be honored.” Then there was this incident with Carl Matias in the seventies in Paris. It’s amazing that writing can be cathartic. It can be cathartic. I would write it. I said to my editor one day, “Pam, do you think this is enough about this serial sexual abuse? I don’t think I’ve written enough.” She says, “No, you’ve written enough. It’s perfect. You do not want to write any more about it.” I just said, okay, fine. I didn’t want to have a dumpster of just — I didn’t want to go into the nasty, sorted, ugly, black details of the abuse. It’s enough to know that it happened. It strengthens me to have talked about that. I feel cleansed. I feel relieved. I do feel relieved.

Zibby: Even if it’s not right for the book, you can still write it. It sounds like maybe you want to write it and you don’t want to sell it. You know what I mean? All those personal details.

André: Exactly.

Zibby: Maybe you just keep it in a drawer or something.

André: I don’t know. Yes, until I die and they’ll find it.

Zibby: Well, okay, fine, you don’t have to. Since the book has come out, have any reactions disappointed you, excited you, surprised you? It’s a lot to lay on the world.

André: Since the book has come out, I’ve been very pleasantly surprised with wonderful reviews from The New York Times and The New York Times Book Review, The New York Times podcast, The Washington Post. I was only surprised by one person who interviewed me from Paris Match. He was French. I speak French. He came up here to my house. I allowed him to come up to my house, which is not possible in the pandemic. I do everything on Zoom. I had so liked Paris Match and the idea of Paris Match, so I let him in. He came with four pages of typewritten notes. I thought he was going to do a great piece, but the piece turned out to be very disappointing because he obviously had the notion of what he was going to write with those notes. You just feel like he had some agenda. He didn’t say anything that was personally wrong about the book, but it was just his narrative was not the narrative I thought that he was going to write about. He only focused on the Anna Wintour part and nothing else. He’d forgot about the other parts of the book which are very beautiful. Tom Ford says to me, he’s a dear friend, Tom Ford says, “I love the first part of your book the most because it’s about your emotions. It’s about your childhood. That’s what strikes me the most.” I remember him saying that. I think that was wonderful.

I did have a very contentious BBC HARDtalk with a BBC host. He did win. I don’t think I won because I did let him take over. He was very tough. He was very smart. He was very arrogant. I didn’t realize. I had not done my homework. Although, my publicist in England had said, “BBC HARDtalk, they ask very tough questions.” Then I got off the thing and I thought, . It was so early in the morning. I said, okay, this was interesting. This was hardball. I got through it. I got through it all. Since then, it’s been on BBC HARDtalk. People have watched it. They call up and they say, “You did an excellent job.” People say the man is awful. He always tries to bring up something. He tried to trip up Naomi Campbell. He didn’t trip me up. He would ask me questions like, “Why did you stay so long if there was no diversity at Vogue? Why would you stay there if there was such great lack of diversity?” I said, “You know why? For the good paycheck.” That shut him up. He didn’t that answer. For the good paycheck. They paid me well. He shut up. It was very good for me. A lesson was learned when talking to him.

I loved the conversation I had with Al Roker last Friday. It was aired on the 3rd Hour. People have just, they loved that. People email me and they say that was wonderful. Of course, I love talking to people about the book. It’s almost my new social life to have to do these podcasts and Zooms. It’s great. It’s just great. I’ve had no disappointment in the book except, I was on the best-seller list the first week of The New York Times, and then the second week it went down to fourteen. I don’t even look at it anymore because you can’t judge the New York Times best seller. Now this book is going to come out about the Trumps next week on Tuesday. This is going to just kick the best-seller list; John Bolton’s book. Eddie Glaude Jr.’s book on James Baldwin is going to hit the best-seller list for sure. That’s just it. I know the book is a success because people love the book. It’s the most important thing that people read the book and they say they love it.

Zibby: I agree it. It is a great book.

André: Thank you.

Zibby: Of course. Here’s my last question, though. Let’s say there’s a boy who is going through what you’re going through and feels that he can’t tell anybody. He’s living with his grandmother and he’s in the same situation. He won’t be listening to this podcast, but let’s just pretend. If you could go and talk to this child knowing as almost seventy-one, here you are having not talked about it and the way your life has progressed, although obviously you’ve achieved the heights of success and everything else professionally, what would you say? What would you say to that boy?

André: Just to be a boy living in today’s world in 2020?

Zibby: I don’t know. You could do it either way. You could go back to, what would you tell yourself looking back? Maybe we should do that. What would you tell yourself looking back if you could’ve told him any advice?

André: Knowing me and knowing how I grew up and knowing where I came from, the kind of household and the kind of culture and society, I would’ve never said it to anyone. I was too afraid. There was fear. There was just fear and loathing. I would say to a boy today who is going through that, although he’s not listening to this podcast, but that imaginary young boy, I would say, maybe if you can articulate it, just pull someone’s coattail. Just pull someone’s coattail. If you can’t find the words to — I could’ve never found the words what happened to me when I was young. Just pull and look, and your eyes — someone who loves you will know that something’s wrong. Someone will say, “What’s wrong?” You just say it. “What’s wrong?” Eventually, they will lead them down the path to find out, to discover this hurt. That’s what I would advise a young boy who would be afraid to tell anyone. When I was growing up, I couldn’t. There was no way I was going to tell my grandmother. There was no way I was going to tell an uncle. There was no way I was going to tell anyone, the churchgoers. It’s just the culture. I just could not have said it to anyone. I think it would’ve killed my grandmother. She would have had a heart attack and died if she had known this had happened under her watch. I just couldn’t. I couldn’t. I was afraid because once I realized how horrible this was, I thought, they’ll send me away to juvenile school and I’ll never be the person I want to become.

Zibby: Wow. I hope that wasn’t too deep a chat for an early morning on a Friday. I really appreciate all your time and talking about all of your experiences.

André: Thank you so much, Zibby. Thank you very much. It’s been a great joy. My greatest privilege is to talk to you on Friday morning before the Fourth of July. It’s a good start. I will contact you and chat with you.

Zibby: I would love it. I’m here.

André: All right. Thank you. Bye-bye.

Zibby: Buh-bye. Have a good day.

André: You too.