We Love You Essence, But We’re Going To Need You To Get Some New Cover Subjects

October 2, 2012  |  

I truly believe in my heart of hearts that in the world according to Essence, there are only 12 black celebrities: Beyonce, Jill Scott, Jada Pinkett, Queen Latifah, Taraji P. Henson, Kerry Washington, Nia Long, Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige, Michelle Obama, Gabrielle Union, and their November cover subject, Tyler Perry. We love these ladies, especially Mrs. O, and they are all amazing in their own right but damn it they are NOT the only black folks doing things in the entertainment industry and Essence of all people should know this.

Last month, I suggested we start a bet in the office on who would have next on the magazine’s cover because after I saw Jill Scott grace the October issue, I knew guessing the probability of the magazine using one of its tried and true go-tos was about as high as a professional basketball player cheating on his wife with a video chick. And sure enough, there was Tyler Perry in all his golden purple joy plastered on the glossy for the fourth time since 2007—nearly once every year.

I know the good folks over at Essence are smart, so it’s not as though they don’t know that they’ve recycled the same people over, and over, and over again. I think they fail to realize that we peeped game too – or they just assume we love these people so much we don’t care. That’s the only logical conclusion I can draw, based solely on the annual cover repeats, and the fact that when Mary J. Blige was the guest editor for the June issue, they boasted that this was her twelfth time on the cover – as if that was a good thing. I’m sure Mary doesn’t mind, but the readers that are still hanging on? Trust me, they care.

The problem is simple, Essence is the only magazine specifically for black women. If anyone should be constantly reinventing themselves – and their covers –it should be them. Why is a magazine for black women acting as though there are only a handful of us to choose from? Yes, I’m sure they’ve done all sorts of studies on who sells magazine covers, which is probably why they keep serving up the same best sellers, but would it kill them to take a risk – that wouldn’t really be a risk at all?

Let’s think about this year’s Summer Olympics, black women were the London Games. Did Serena have a cover, what about the US track team – hello Sanya Richards-Ross, heck even Lolo Jones, and regardless of her being 16 years old, there isn’t one person on this earth who would say they’ve had enough of Gabby Douglas. Essence had a huge opportunity with those ladies, but who did we get this summer instead? Mary, Obama, Nia, and Jada. Anyone else hear the Four Tops singing “it’s the Same Old Song” in their head?

At the height of Gabourey Sidibe’s “Precious” hype, it’s amazing that Elle put the actress on the cover, rather than Essence. I’m curious if the magazine got the memo that Janelle Monae is the hotness right now, not to mention a Cover Girl. The Braxtons? Solange? Ri-freaking-Hanna? These are women who are high in demand right now. Yes, Rih Rih is a bit of a wild child but if Oprah can have a sit down with her, I’m sure Essence could tailor their talk to something their readers would care about. The question is do they care about what their readers care about?

We know why everyone went bananas over Viola Davis’ November 2011 cover, she was the first new face in a hot, long minute. And when they followed that up with Tasha Smith in December I just knew someone over there had had their Eureka moment. For a brief second I thought, yes, they finally get it! They found out that more than 12-15 black people are doing big things. And then January 2012 issue came out. And I saw Queen Latifah in a red onesie. And the cycle continued.

In Essence’s defense, they’re probably a little nervous to think too far outside the box anymore, considering the two times they tried people had a full-blown fit. Remember the Diddy-Kim Porter catastrophe? Reggie Bush backlash anybody? Granted these weren’t the best choices, but that did mark the beginning and the end of Essence’s let’s be creative era.

Many have come to the conclusion that the magazine wants to play it safe and cater to a demographic that clearly is much older than the 18-34-year-old crowd. And that’s all good and well, except if that’s true, then why post pictures and videos of women like Evelyn Lozada on the website? The disconnect is alarming. I’d love to go back to being a faithful Essence reader but looking at the covers, I can only assume the content inside is just as predictable as the faces on the outside. At this point all I can suggest is Time Warner steal Desiree Rogers and let her bring the magazine (and its website) back to life just like she did Ebony.

What’s your take on Essence? Who do you think they’re sleeping on for cover choices?

Brande Victorian is the news and operations editor for madamenoire.com. Follow her on twitter @Be_Vic.

More on Madame Noire!

Trending on MadameNoire

View Comments
Comment Disclaimer: Comments that contain profane or derogatory language, video links or exceed 200 words will require approval by a moderator before appearing in the comment section. XOXO-MN
  • joan smalls

  • keke palmer, solange, zendaya coleman, amber riley, the couple that does the show meet the browns (the husband/wife that play daughter/father)

  • vonmiwi culvero

    Amen! I’ve been saying this for years after Susan Taylor left and that was the year that “Essence’s let’s be creative era” disappeared. I’ve been a subscriber for 33 years and I remember when they had a variety of covers and any black model who made an Essence cover made history. I wish they had never sold the magazine to Time Warner.

    Now when the magazine arrives I don’t even take the time to read it, especially if it’s one of those repeat covers. I get tired of the celebrity covers and I’d love to see a mixture of models grace the cover’s once again. Essence is having a serious identity crisis, both the magazine and the website because they’re trying their best to keep up with the blogs, gossip blogs and other fashion blogs without creating their own original and unique content.

    At one time Essence was the go-to magazine for who or what was new and next and now they’re late with every thing because we’ve already read or heard about the latest way before they do. I’ve learned about more up and coming black actresses and music on mainstream websites/magazines than I have with Essence and other so called major black websites/magazines who seem to be stuck on this popularity B.S. and only begin to promote these people when the mainstream press does after failing to realize that it’s their responsibility to be the front-runner in these type of situations. They are no longer setting trends in anything, they’re only showing me that they’re merely followers now.

  • Madame

    Hypocritical. If Essence put Amber Riley on the cover you wouldn’t buy it. Please stop it. It’s a business model and they’re working based on . Let’s stop complaining about the ONE major black women’s magazines and start our own. We don’t even buy print magazines anymore, why are we beating a dead horse? There is Madame Noire, there Clutch for the digital black woman. this conversation is tired.

  • I cancelled my subscription to Essence this year, same ole same.

  • lateshia

    I love this site more and more. I want to shake the person hand that come up with these topics and these seem like something I would discuss. I honestly think we have the same mind sometimes….lol. Anyways, I have to agree completely I love Essence and I don’t mind reading the magazine but I mostly look for the cover as well and I been noticed that the same people are always on the cover. I don’t like Rihanna not a fan of hers at all, but that would be different if they put her on the cover, but I think Essence is mostly for the grown women from 25 on up. I think Essence could do a cover on R&B Diva ladies (Faith Evans, Monifah, Syleena Johnson, Keke Wyatt, and Nicci Gilbert), then there is Mary Mary, Kelly Price, Raven Symone, or Solange Knowles would be perfect for the cover.

  • I’m loving R & B Divas, and Girlfriend Confidential, its so many reality tv stars that could be on the cover. Even Diddy’s dance choreographer. I still read Essence, but definitely pick it up a little bit.

  • OhYouNanciHuh

    PREACH THIS WORD! I think they should do an article on the older generation of divas. Diahann Carroll, Ruby Dee, Phylicia Rashad, and Miss Jane Pittman. (aka Cicely Tyson but you can’t say she ain’t play that ROLE!)

  • K. Lee

    I am soooo happy you all finally shined a light on this topic. I am so sick of it

  • Adrina

    And this is the reason I didn’t renew my subscription. I mean how much can the same people say over and over. Essence is falling off.

  • Issa Dogone Rae could be a cover for Essence, lawd Johnson Company, hear our cries. I wouldn’t even mind a few more males on the cover. When they had new material or new new, these dudes could have been featured: Raheem Devaughn, Maxwell should have had a cover, Anthony Hamilton, D’Angelo….the list goes on…

  • OMG I was talking to my boyfriend about this a few days ago. I couple of years ago, I kept up with every new issue, especially if Jill Scott was on the cover. I didn’t even bother buying this months issues. Because not only do they recycle subjects, they put these people on the cover even when they don’t have any new projects! I understand Scott is in the new Steel Magnolias, but so is Phylicia Rashad, her daughter, AND the lead actress of Pariah, she would have been a PHENOMENAL and refreshing selection for this month’s cover. Essence has all the opportunities in the world to go deep with black culture. But they only scratch the surface. I must blog about this now, lol…

  • Jane

    I agree with his article 100%, that was the reason I didn’t renew my subscription about 5 years ago the same people every month. What about Thandie Newton, Naomi Harris, Jurnee Smollette, Janelle Monae and a bunch more I could name.These are truly talented ladies who need and deserve some cove time and exposure.

  • Amen

    YES! I, too, thought I was the only one that noticed that! They can switch up the articles too while they are at it. There is more that concerns black women than: dropping a dress size, De-stressing, and making more money.

  • Ann

    I thought I was the only one that saw that. That is reason why I stopped subscribing to Essence several years back. I got tired of them putting the same people on the cover. I even wrote the editor and complained. Hopefully more people will write Essence or stop their subscription until they finally come to a awakening that they need to change.

    • ashley79

      Just wait, we’re going to see Kim and Kayne, talking about their relationship and Evelyn talking about life after Chad. -_-

  • ashley79

    I would of love to seen Michael Clarke Duncan and Omarosa Manigault on the cover. Finding love in Hollywood or even about how heart attacks or CPR.
    I think Tamera did an episode of her going to Essence magazine when she was trying to get back into acting full time and they just told her basically thanks come back when you up your image a bit more.

  • Flo

    I believe most of those stars in Essence cover rotation are paying the magazine to be on the cover in order to stay relevant.

  • diva 1954

    I totally agree with this writer…..I love Essence…..but rarely will I even read the celebrity stories.

  • Maura

    OMG!! You hit the nail on the head for me!!! How many times are we going to hear the same damn story!!! Beyonce could have a new sneeze and she would make the cover to tell how empowering it is. I would love to see Eddie George & Taj on the cover talking about their relationship. I would like to see Tia & Tamera, It would be cool if they did an old school new school cover with male & female R&B artist & groups!! They could start an annual fashion edition where their spotlighting different minority designers. They could have Holly Robinson Peete, Tisha Campbell, & Toni Braxton on the cover talking about Autism. When there are black shows, I always wondered why they don’t have the cast on the cover, i.e. Lincoln Heights, Soul Food, The Game (pre-BET), the minorities from Grey Anatomy, or all the minority actors, Shonda Rimes has on her shows.There’s so much they could do!! I NEVER and I mean NEVER purchase an Essence magazine for that exact reason.

    • chanela

      LOL @ empowering sneeze!! AHAHA

    • Dead at the empowering sneeze. That’s another thing, they have the same rhetoric. Every thing is all strong and empowering and ish. They need new buzz words.

    • vonmiwi culvero

      At one time they were the ones who introduced us to new black designers, now you don’t see hardly any editorials featuring a black designer.

  • MsMotherSister

    LMBO @ Queen Latifah in a red onesie!!!!! Essence fell off a long time ago.

  • Candacey Doris

    Thank you for this article! While i love the ladies on the covers, I’m really eager to see someone new. I don’t even buy them anymore because i don’t need another magazine with Mary J Blige on the cover. Use google if you have to Essence, just give us a new face!

  • Ms_Sunshine9898

    I thought I was the only one who noticed that. . .

  • IllyPhilly

    The whole magazine industry just seems to stale. It’s all redundant. I feel like it’s all overflowing with makeup/weight loss/shoe ads instead of quality news and touching article

  • Numero Uno

    Great article because I have been wondering this for the longest! Every time I look up, it’s the same dang people on the cover. It’s like a safe rotation.

  • fitnessforlife

    Perhaps, there’s nepotism involved in this ‘usual rotation’…

    • me


  • me


    whoever wrote this article. may you be blessed!!!!!!this was long-coming.
    i mean, essence have the same women on the cover, mary j blige, jill scott, beyonce and jada pinkett smith. i mean where are all the other black stars? this is crazy!!

    • fitnessforlife

      yes, and the black stars with real talent (not knocking the talent of their usual rotation, through)

    • the entire attendee list of Black Girls Rock 2012 could provide Essence with covers from now until 2022, individually. I dnt understand why all these (forgive me) older women grace the covers, what about Keke? Solange? has Raven ever had a cover? Its not rocket science, you wanna up your sales in a younger demographic? put younger people on the cover………and can we have some color? i think Tylers purple may be the first time Essence have ever used colors outside the “Brown and Golden” side of the color wheel

  • Valencia

    Omgooodness! Thank you so much for writing this article. I was an Essence reader and subscriber for 10 years but I just got tired of seeing the same women on the cover over and over. Heck, I remember that Monique was on the cover twice in a 6 month period. What about Ledisi or Tia and Tamera? I mean, the list goes on. I truly hope an Essence staff member reads this and more people comment on this article.

  • misswildfire

    Essence totally bombed for 2012. Their cover picks were embarrassingly predictable and redundant. I bet their going to put Kerry Washington on the December issue. It’s like time stands still with this magazine. I am looking at a newer magazine, Today’s Black Woman, instead now, they are willing to take “risks.”

    • me

      oh my God!!thank you for introducing me to “today’s black woman” i didnt even know they existed ans guess what? they feature everybody!!!!!!big and small, old and new. i gotta love them

    • Candacey Doris

      Never heard of them, but obviously i need to check them out. Thanks for the rec.

    • NaturalJem

      “googling” the magazine now…thanks

  • Annette

    I get where you’re from with some of the more overexposed black celebrities. But Kerry Washington just started getting her due and you’re already complaining about her getting too many covers. I’m glad we have black magazines to give pros to people like her and Jill Scott who would never get it from white media.


    Essence has been using the same folks on their cover for years and thats why I didnt renew my subscription 2 yrs ago! You guys left off one of Essence cover favorites Steve Harvey off your list!! I understand they need a famous/well known face on the cover to sell magazines buy why the same folks everytime?!!?
    I would love to see Amber Riley, Angie Stone, Anita Baker, Chrisette Michelle, Tamara Hall, Fantasia, Debbie Morgan, Toni Braxton etc, etc…But the most important thing to being on the cover of any magazine is you have to have something to promote or talk about…a new album. movie or TV show or then the magazine dont want to be bothered with you…

    • me

      but then, what was jada promoting? brandy and monica, elle varner, etc have albums out this year. where are they?

      • Numero Uno


      • NONEYA

        I didnt read Jades intervierw you will need to ask Essence why the folks you mentioned were not on the cover! But, I can tell you Elle Varner isnt big of a star and one single doesn’t equate cover….if thats the case why wasnt no talent NIcki Minjai hasnt been on the cover??!
        Typically folks are interviewed and put on the cover when they need talk/promote a project!

        • NaturalJem

          lol, please don’t advocate for Nicki….ijs

    • I would love for Anita Baker to be on the cover….

    • NaturalJem

      Yes, Chrisette Michele!!

    • Amber Riley!!!!! yes i live for her

    • lateshia

      Good point but those ladies you mentioned do have something going on. Toni Braxton has a the reality show with her sisters, Anita Baker has a new album coming out and I know there is a lot to talk about with Anita Baker.