Edward Enninful: ‘In African families, you can be one of three things: a doctor, a lawyer or a failure’ | Edward Enninful
Born in Ghana, Enninful, 50, came to the UK as a refugee. After a stint as a model, he became fashion director of i-D at just 18, and went on to work for W magazine and US Vogue. In 2016, he was awarded an OBE for services to diversity in the fashion industry, and the following year he became editor-in-chief of British Vogue. In 2020, he was also made European editorial director of Vogue. This year, he published the memoir, A Visible Man. He lives in London with his husband.
What is your greatest fear?
When I get to the restaurant and don’t see any hot sauce on the table.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Impatience. Though sometimes it helps!
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
What was your most embarrassing moment?
When my trousers nearly fell down at Buckingham Palace. I was there to collect my OBE, and the suspenders for the beautiful Alexander McQueen suit I’d had made for the occasion went missing. Naomi Campbell was with me and we had a good laugh about it.
What is your most treasured possession?
Despite what people might imagine, I’m not that big on possessions. My London home is very minimalist.
Describe yourself in three words.
Well, the rest of the world likes to describe me as “black” and “gay”, and not always positively. But I embrace those words. Let’s add “fun” too.
What makes you unhappy?
I’m a positive person, but I get twitchy when the clothes aren’t perfect in a shot.
What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Reality TV. J’adore! Love Island, Real Housewives, Drag Race …
Who is your celebrity crush?
Obviously I don’t have one. Do you want to get me in trouble at home!
Which book are you ashamed not to have read?
War and Peace. It’s slipped through the cracks so far.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
In African families, you can be one of three things: a doctor, a lawyer or a failure. I wanted to be an Egyptologist, but things worked out in the end.
What scares you about getting older?
That I might lose my eyesight.
What is the worst thing anyone’s said to you?
Any time I’ve been racially profiled. The words might be different, but the feeling is the same.
Would you choose fame or anonymity?
It’s possible to find happiness somewhere in the middle.
Have you ever said “I love you” without meaning it?
Of course. I work in fashion!
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“Incredible”, “amazing” and ending sentences with “you know?”.
What is the worst job you’ve done?
A shoot with a showbusiness icon who I’d loved all my life and shall remain nameless. She walked into the room and immediately said she hated everything. Things went downhill from there. Rough day.
If not yourself, who would you most like to be?
Ru, my Boston terrier. He leads a truly charmed life.
When’s the last time you changed your mind about something significant?
I change my mind all the time. I believe in it. We should all get better at changing our minds.
What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
The ability to teleport. I’d be unstoppable.
Would you rather have more sex, money or fame?
More than those, I’d like more time.
What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
That there is no ideal life. Disappointments sit around every corner, so enjoy the here and now.
Tell us a secret.
Not everyone in fashion is a monster.