Going for It: Rapid Reinvention

Essence change stirs controversy

The Internet is abuzz with stories about the dust up over the decision by Essence magazine powers to hire a white woman, Ellianna Placas, formerly of O: The Oprah Magazine, as its new fashion director. Web sites from the Huffington Post to livejournal.com have featured stories, several of which linked to a piece that ran on clutchmagonline.com that discussed why Essence readers are questioning the decision. The story was broken writer Michaela angela Davis, who previously held the fashion director job at Essence, last week when she tweeted about the hire, according to clutchmagonline.com:

"It is with a heavy heavy heart I have learned that Essence magazine has engaged a white fashion director, this hurts, literally, spiritually," Davis tweeted, touching off a storm of "reactions, re-tweets, and scores of Facebook comments. Responses ranged from shock, disappointment to utter confusion," the site said.

Davis and CNN commentator Roland Martin, both of whom are black, discussed the controversy with Anderson Cooper. Davis said she opposes the hire because Essence markets itself to be the magazine for black women. "When you say you are the one magazine that is there to reflect and celebrate the African American woman...you put race in your brand. It's not inherent" as it is with publications that are focused on white women, Davis said. Such a magazine should not have such a pivotal role played by a nonblack. Martin said "a massive lack of opportunity" in the magazine industry has led to the frustration. He said magazines need to take steps to be more diverse in their staffing, but that as a supporter of diversity, he did not oppose the hire.

Change is tough and race is even tougher. 


Avis Thomas-Lester

 |  July 29, 2010; 10:33 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Essence sounds like it is blatantly racist.

Not that I care but just so they know they are not getting away with anything.

Hypocrisy at its finest.

Posted by: mlemac | August 2, 2010 7:44 PM
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It's funny how the crowd who shouts loudest about "racism" is in fact the most racist of the lot.

So true. Wake Up White People!

Posted by: DCFanatic | August 2, 2010 5:40 PM
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Diversity should be enforced except when...

Posted by: spamsux1 | August 2, 2010 12:51 PM
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should have been ..."cogent"

Posted by: jade_7243 | August 2, 2010 10:22 AM
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I don't know why you even bothered to post this item, especially if you don't have anything vogent to say.

Well before Essence made its debut, black women desiring high fashion turned to Ebony magazine -- the Life and Look for black families. Each month at the rear of the magazine, after the pages of advertising for the mundane like Crest toothpaste, or the aspirational like Cadillac or the high life, like Johnny Walker or (Miller's) High Life, or the cigarettes, or cereal, after pages not so cerebral, there at the back was Ebony Fashion Fair.

Pages and pages of a traveling fashion fantasy featuring beautiful black women, society women, fashion models, black Junior Leaguers and Links and Eastern Stars, dripping in diamondds and furs and the latest creations from Dior, Chanel, Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent, Bill Blass, Emanual Ungaro, Halston, from Paris and Milan and a few subway stops south in the Garment District.

These same designers who'd never let a black woman sashy down a runway on 6th Ave, had no problems seeing their creations come to life on the runways and at the galas sponsored by Ebony.

When Revlon and CoverGirl didn't make a shade darker than "blushing peach", there was Max Factor, Florrie Roberts and Fashion Fair cosmetics.

The point is, when there was no Essence magazine, there was still black style and fashion. If Essence cannot deliver on its mission with the BEST fashion editors -- regardless of race -- then there is something wrong with its mission statement.

This isn't about "change" or "race" or toughness. It's about a magazine maybe realizing there is something more than niche publishing.

It sounds to like sour grapes from a former editor who wasn't making the cut. "Sometimes you're in and sometimes you're out. Auf wiedersehen, Michaela Angela Davis. You're out."

Posted by: jade_7243 | August 2, 2010 10:15 AM
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It's funny how the crowd who shouts loudest about "racism" is in fact the most racist of the lot.

Posted by: JamesMeager1 | August 2, 2010 9:48 AM
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