Essence magazine has taken a few blows over the past year. In March, Mikki Taylor the beauty and cover director, retired after a 30-year stint; the beauty editor left for People magazine; and the magazine had substantial layoffs last November.
Just when it seemed they’d patched things up, a new controversy burst forth last week. Media industry job site Mediabistro.com printed that Essence had chosen Ellianna Placas, a white woman, to be the new fashion director.
Essence had advertised their search for the position in March, but had yet to make an official announcement of the hiring of Placas.
Still, the blogosphere went wild over the news that Essence, the black woman’s lifestyle “bible” had hired a white woman…all hell-in-heels broke loose.
Michaela Angela Davis, former fashion editor of Essence and former editor-in-chief of Honey magazine, revealed on her Facebook Wall, “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 one 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?”
When a black publication hires a white person, is it automatically a slap in the face to the black community?
Who is to say that Placas won’t do a great job and breathe some much-needed freshness to Essence? Placas worked for O: The Oprah Magazine for godsakes–and US Weekly. Reports confirm that Placas will make her official debut with Essence in their 40th anniversary commemorative issue in September.