Feminist blogs have expressed disappointment with Essence Magazine for controversial issues over the last few years. But last week, the blogosphere was fired up when it learned that Essence had hired a White fashion director, Elliana Placas. This revelation was brought to us via Facebook, became viral on Twitter, and crossed over to mainstream media when the former fashion director, Michaela Angela Davis, shared with her Facebook friends this message:
“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 has historically been so hostile to black people—especially women. The 1 seat reserved for black women once held by Susan Taylor, Ionia Dunn-Lee, Harriette Cole (+ me) is now—I can’t. It’s a dark day for me. How do you feel?”
Michaela Angela Davis was the Essence fashion director with the crazed hair, who dressed as if she had no fashion sense. Her messiness on Facebook got her booked on morning news, afternoon talk shows and radio programs across the country claiming that Essence, a magazine for Black women, should not have hired a White woman to work for them. Not only is Ms. Davis messy but she is delusional. She is on national television telling Black people to practice racism when we are at a moment in our country where race-baiting has become nightly theater. What nonsense!
Before I go any further, let me disclose my relationship with Essence Magazine. I have been featured in Essence. I have also been a conference speaker at Essence’s Women Who Are Shaping the World Leadership Summit. When I was chosen to be featured in the magazine, I was asked to come to New York for the photo shoot. I decided to use a Nashville photographer and makeup artists instead. The photographer was a close friend, Blair Morgan, and Nora, the makeup artist, had worked with Blair for many years. Curse me, both are White. In 2006, Angela Burt-Murray, the editor-in-chief of Essence, and I, along with 38 others, were chosen as the country’s most influential African-Americans under 40 by Network Business Journal Magazine. I spent two days in New York and conversed with Angela several times. She was energetic, full of bright ideas for the magazine, and filled with joy about her role as the new editor. Since that time, our paths have crossed at annual Essence events and at New York fundraisers.
The outrage that has been fanned by the former fashion director is not worth the login time to respond to her on her Facebook page but I will anyway. She has led many astray with her backwards thinking. Black Enterprise, Ebony, and many other national and regional ethnic publications have all hired White folks to work for them. The target markets for those publications maybe race-specific but the writers, the graphic designers, the sales team, the distributors, and many others are not limited to one color. Black publications, especially, should not practice what is done at so many non-color publications around the country: avoid inclusion.