Writer, stylist, and cultural critic Michaela Angela Davis stirred up controversy when she tweeted, “It is with a heavy heavy heart I have learned that Essence magazine has engaged a white fashion director, this hurts, literally, spiritually.” Davis worked at Essence as fashion editor, was the founding fashion director of Vibe, and served as the editor-in-chief of Honey magazine. She told Clutch:
Offering her immediate reaction to the hiring, Michaela says, “I am so so hurt and confused and frankly angry by this news. I feel like a girlfriend has died.” Michaela’s tweets and Facebook comments on the hiring informed many media insiders, and former Essence staff members who had no clue… Michaela says her feelings on the news have much to do with black women’s hostile history with the fashion industry. Further explaining her concerns around the issue, Michaela wrote on Facebook: “It is personal and it’s also professional. If there were balance in the industry; if we didn’t have a history of being ignored and disrespected; if more mainstream fashion media included people of color before the ONE magazine dedicated to black women ‘diversified’, it would feel different.”
The new fashion director is Ellianna Placas, who has worked at O: The Oprah Magazine and Us Weekly. Commenters on Facebook have called Davis’s point of view “reverse racism,” but that’s not quieting a whole lot of upset people:
Joan Morgan, an award-winning journalist, author and long-time writer for Essence says she could care less how qualified the brand’s new white Fashion Director could be. “This is about the fact that the publishing industry, particularly when it comes to mainstream women’s magazines remains just about as segregated in its hiring practices as it did in 1988.” Joan referenced a 1988 Folio article about Blacks who are discouraged by the publishing industry’s “laissez-faire attitude toward recruitment.” Joan says, “When these same institutions (naming Conde Nast, Hachette and others) start to employ hiring practices that allow Black publishing professionals the same access to their publications, that’s when I can get all ‘Kumbaya’ about Essence‘s new fashion director.”
Others still are threatening to stop buying the magazine.