Am I my sister’s keeper?
Essence hires White fashion editor
Has the brand that prides its self on being the Black women’s girlfriend betrayed our friendship?
For nearly 40 years Essence magazine has been the Black women’s magazine. It has encouraged, assisted and educated the Black woman. It has been our friend, our mentor, our sister. It has provided articles educating us on issues that affect our health and finances, taught us how to find love and then how to keep it.
We were even privileged to be introduced to ALL of its single and most eligible bachelors.
Now, on the brink of its 40-year anniversary, Essence plans another introduction. However, this one might come as a surprise: The introduction to the newest member of the Essence family, Ellianna Placas as fashion editor.
It was a decision that blew Essence readers, fashion elites and many in the Black community away. Placas’ experience is ideal because she was the Fashion Editor at O: The Oprah Magazine for two years and also fashion and home director for Life & Style Weekly for more than three years. Not to mention she has been acting as contributing fashion editor at Essence since February. While her resume details exceptional experience and adequate education, her skin reads Caucasian. This sent the bloggers, readers and social networks blazing with comments.
Michaela Angela Davis, who is a writer, stylist and commentator for Essence magazine, released this statement on her facebook page “It’s with a heavy heart I’ve learned Essence Magazine has engaged a White Fashion Director. I love Essence and I love fashion. I hate this news and this feeling. It hurts, literally. The fashion industry’s historically been so hostile to Black people especially women. The one seat reserved for Black women, once held by Susan Taylor, Ionia Dunn-Lee, Harriett Cole (+me) is now—I can’t. It is a dark day for me.”
As a brand Essence has established itself as “The Black Women’s magazine.” Its mission states “Essence is the definitive voice of today’s dynamic African American woman. Essence speaks directly to a Black woman’s spirit, her heart, and her unique concerns.”
Many readers have argued that without a connection to our culture, how can Placas uphold this mission.
Jody Tillage states that she has been reading Essence since she was a child and has always loved is dedication to the Black woman. “It is informative and it articulates the African American culture from a women’s point of view. While I am confident that the new fashion director will be able to teach me the colors of the seasons and show me fall’s hottest boots, I am not sure she will understand what it means to be a Black woman, how to dress as a Black woman and the intricacies that it entails. Everything from here on out will be her understanding of what a Black woman wants to look like, what she wants to wear, there will be no personal connection. And that concerns me.”
With an openly unequal balance of White to Black professionals in executive positions in both the publishing industry and the fashion industry, it is scary to lose one of those positions as a Black publication to a person of non-African heritage. Especially when there are other notable Black candidates. We can only trust that Essence thoroughly reviewed all the possible candidates and found Placas the best fitting, although she lacks that one most important quality for Essence, dark skin.
While as a people we fight for equality on a daily bases, this is not a race issue but an issue of betrayal and issue of concern. While we open this seat to a woman of non-African decent, which seat will be next? Will we one day look up to see Essence a magazine for Black Women staffed by hardly any?
DISCLAIMER: The beliefs and viewpoints expressed in opinion pieces, letters to the editor, by columnists and/or contributing writers are not necessarily those of Our Weeklay.
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