Maryland Gov. Wes Moore is not shy when it comes to interviews; he’s a regular on TV and was profiled in the New Yorker and local news outlets as he marked six months in office. But of all his publicity efforts, the one that’s gotten politicos in Annapolis and elsewhere talking the most is a lengthy glowing — in a very artfully lit sense — profile in Vogue magazine that was posted online Tuesday.
Vogue is known for fashion and lifestyle news (recent online headlines include “Inside a Barbie Collector’s Real-Life Dream House” and “Blueberry Milk Nails are Summer’s Most-Wanted Manicure”), but the glossy mag occasionally delves into deeper topics — including politics.
Vice President Kamala Harris has been on the cover of Vogue, as was Hillary Clinton when she was the first lady of the United States. In 2016, Vogue endorsed Clinton’s campaign for president, the first such endorsement for the magazine. Some politicians reportedly have lobbied, or at least wished, for a chance to grace the magazine’s pages.
The prominent placement in a national magazine is likely to boost Moore’s already-rising star in the political world. Among those quoted in the article praising Moore: former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and MSNBC host Joy Reid.
It comes on the heels of Moore drawing national attention for criticizing Republican-led K-12 book and curriculum restrictions, schmoozing with industry titans at “billionaire summer camp” and spearheading fundraising for the Democratic Governors Association.
Vogue clearly devoted substantial resources to the Moore story, with Deputy Editor Taylor Antrim conducting a sit-down interview with Moore and shadowing him for a day in May. Annie Leibovitz, one of the world’s most famous photographers, was enlisted to shoot portraits of Moore and his family at the governor’s mansion.
One more sign of Moore’s clout? The profile is part of Vogue’s September issue, traditionally the magazine’s biggest, most important issue each year.
You can read the full story, which clocks in at more than 4,500 words, here.
(If you’d like a shorter story that focuses more on Moore’s actual governing in Maryland, check out The Baltimore Banner’s latest article on the governor, published the same day as Vogue’s story.)
Here’s what we noticed from the Vogue profile.
An elopement with Elvis in Las Vegas
Moore and his wife, Dawn Flythe Moore, recently celebrated their 16th wedding anniversary with steamed crabs at a local seafood joint.
When they were married in July 2007, the couple’s nuptials were written up in the New York Times, describing a ceremony in Washington, D.C. Dawn was working at the time for then-Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, while Wes was serving as a White House fellow at the U.S. Department of State.
But the two actually got married much earlier, according to the Vogue story.
They eloped in Las Vegas while Wes Moore was on leave from Afghanistan during active duty for the U.S. Army, according to the article. Moore’s overseas tour was from August 2005 to March 2006, according to the Army.
“Literally, Elvis Presley married us,” Moore told Vogue.
And speaking of military service …
Secretive plans about military duty
Moore admitted to the Vogue reporter that he wasn’t entirely honest with his future wife about that stint on active duty.
Moore had attended military boarding school and was commissioned into the U.S. Army Reserve upon graduation, when he was still 17. (A common story he tells is how his mother had to sign the paperwork.)
Moore remained in the Army Reserve through graduate school and his early career. He told Dawn he’d been called up to active duty and had no choice but to deploy to Afghanistan, the governor told the magazine.
In reality, Moore had lobbied “relentlessly” to transfer to the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, according to the magazine.
“I knew if I told her that I volunteered it would be a problem,” Moore said, according to the article.
Dawn told the writer, if she’d known the truth, “I would have done my best to talk him out of it.”
‘Littered with luck’
Many people portray the governor’s personal story as an up-from-the-bootstraps narrative.
For those unfamiliar, Moore was born to parents who were media professionals in Washington, D.C., only to see his father die from an untreated infection when he was a toddler.
Moore’s mom, Joy Thomas Moore, moved Wes and his two sisters to live with her parents in the Bronx, New York. Moore was sent to a private school, but after he got into some youthful trouble, she shipped him off to military boarding school. At first he struggled, but he eventually thrived and went on to graduate from the Johns Hopkins University and to earn a Rhodes Scholarship. He wrote a bestselling book that contrasted his life and success with a similarly named young man from Baltimore who is serving a life sentence for participating in a jewelry robbery that left an off-duty county police officer dead.
“My journey has been littered with luck,” Moore told Vogue, a quote that appears near the start of the article.
Moore said he struggles with what to make of his story, and is wary that it can be “weaponized” by others.
Vogue quotes him as saying: “People are saying things like, ‘Well he did it. And therefore everybody can.’”
Vogue turned to top photographer Annie Leibovitz to shoot portraits of Moore and his family for the article.
Leibovitz is known for her celebrity portraits, including dramatic photos of John Lennon and Yoko Ono she made just hours before Lennon was murdered in 1980.
The online version of the story includes three pictures: Moore standing in front of a Frederick Douglass portrait at the entry to the governor’s mansion, staring directly into the camera, wearing a fitted dress shirt; Dawn Moore leaning over the governor’s shoulder while he works at a desk (though it’s not the desk in his State House office); the Moores and their children, Mia and Jamie, strolling along a brick path outside the mansion.
A behind-the-scenes video posted by Vogue on Instagram shows Leibovitz working with the first family — posing the governor, laughing with the Moores and hugging the governor, who dispenses hugs often.
Clearly a lot of work went into the shoot. The Instagram video shows lighting setups and other people in the background. A “sittings editor” and hair and makeup artists are credited, and the captions note that Dawn Moore is wearing a Tory Burch dress in one photo and a Michael Kors Collection blouse in another photo. There’s no designer information for any of the clothing worn by the governor or the kids.