So That’s How It Went Down? Former EIC of Essence Constance White Says She Was Fired

March 9, 2013  |  

Adriana M. Barraza/

There are always three sides to a story: his, hers and the truth. Former Essence editor-in-chief Constance White has decided to put her truth out first.

In a recent phone conversation with Journal-isms, White says she was fired from her position as EIC and that the job was never what she expected when she was hired in 2011.

“I went in there with passion and excitement and high expectations.  It wasn’t what I expected at all. What needs to happen is the reader is getting lost and the reader has to be at the center. To make their world smaller is unacceptable.”

White added that readers have sensed what’s been going on behind the scenes for quite some time.

She also said that a lot of her issues came from her disagreements with Time, Inc editor-in-chief Martha Nelson. White said Nelson actively worked to limit the voice of black women:

“When was the last time you saw Essence in the community advocating for or talking with Black women?”

Welp. If you listen to the conversations of black women about Essence, there is almost always a discussion about the portrayal in the magazine and how “desperate” they make women seem.

White also says she was never able to make the creative hires she desired to better the publication. In January, White says she and Nelson had a “straw that broke the camel’s back” moment and she was told to leave her position. When she asked if this was something they could discuss, White says Nelson told her the final decision had already been made.

Michelle Ebanks, president of Essence Communications Inc., released the following statement on Friday:

“We truly wish Constance well. Essence exists to affirm and inspire Black women. We always have and we always will.”

Finally, White says although she is concerned with how Essence will continue to maintain its position in the publication world, she wishes it all the best.

Wow. What do you think about all this? Have you noticed changes in Essence over the last few years? Have they been positive or negative?

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  • It was interesting to see Essence finally get some NEW celebrities for their cover after Madame Noire wrote that one article. But even with the new celebrity faces, I’ve fallen out of love with Essence. I do agree that the magazine wreaks of desperation sometimes.

    With articles like “Black Men, Do You Still Love Us” and “Why Black Men Cheat”, or constantly asking Robin Thicke about Paula Patton and his love for Black women, it got old. Real fast.

    I think Uptown Magazine is great. Arise, which is an African centered fashion magazine, and others should receive more light. We don’t have to depend solely on Jet, Ebony, and Essence. There’s something for everyone out there in the publication world.

  • Black people need to start owning our own businesses, companies, corporations and industries. I do not understand why we still are not focused on building up our economy. Constance did an amazing job a Essence and this should not have happening. You can tell Essence has no interest in Black women now, go to the website and the front page has Taye Diggs and Nene Leakes-just no. Time for a boycott.

  • Guest360

    I fully believe every word she says based on the fact that I stopped reading essence years ago for exactly this reason. The second they started celebrating the debauchery that was/is reality television, pimping black men who weren’t married or held a high disregard for black women, and my fave, started to perpetuate this notion that black women are lonely, desperate, and need to change everything about themselves to find a man. Ceased my subscription since then and never looked back.

    • texastea

      Such a shame. And all of our young black college educated people still needing jobs. Why don’t they give some of them jobs trying to retool this magazine instead of letting the whyte man run it.

    • Oh. And the ratchet relationship advice. I still don’t know why I should be taking relationship advice from Finesse Mitchell… who is a comedian!

  • FromUR2UB

    I pick it up while I’m getting my hair done. But, I think it was at its best when Susan L. Taylor was at the helm. This is going to tick off a few people, but I can’t recall any instance where non-blacks were put in charge of something that caters to black interests, that has gone well for us. It ceases to represent the best of who we are, and somehow, becomes about serving a different agenda. It’s not entirely their fault, though. We always seem to hand over things of value and ultimately lose control of them. Shame on us.

    • JoAnn

      We need blacks that know about black women issues. I stopped subscribing to Essence several years back. I got tired of the same people being on the cover

      • texastea

        So did I. There were times that I thought the magazine should have been become more black news and current events focused as opposed to only being focused on lipstick and fashion.

    • Love this response. Very well articulated. The issue with the publication is that non-black operated media outlets believe it is better to TELL US who we are than to REFLECT who are. The latter gives US too much power. Constance understand the need to get back to reflecing the true life of black women and providing an encouraging community to voice the issues, joys, and concerns we experience instead of telling us what celebrities we need to covet and keep up with.

    • IAJS

      You said it perfectly

  • Lola

    I stopped reading Essence many moons ago. Its a waste of paper and ink.

  • Dichu eba realy lub mehSteebie

    I wouldn’t know since I haven’t read it in years. Oh….welp, I guess there goes my answer then.

  • Fair and Balanced

    Both essence and ebony have long ceased to be a part of my reading journey. Over the past few years there seems to be a concentrated effort on destroying and degrading the black woman. Unfortunately for those who work to destroy or degrade us should understand it only makes us stronger. Yes we have many issues just as our counterparts but we have overcome things they will never face and things they would fall prey to easily. We are not perfect but we are here thank God!

    • texastea

      But as of late, Ebony is doing a better job at covering black news and stories of interest. They also have been having some different black faces and personalities in their magazine as opposed to Essence.

  • kandikane

    I’ve noticed a LOT of changes in Essence and Ebony magazines. It used to be a time when both magazines not only uplifted black women but the black community by addressing issues in the black community or showcasing talent in the black community such as Venus and Serena when they first started playing tennis, or even just the every day brother that grinds every day to support his family and still romances his wife and adores his children despite having a rough day. Instead, both magazines have taken to doing cover stories about ‘alleged’ homewreckers who grace the cover every couple of months like there are no POSITIVE black stories worthy of making the cover. The only time I spend my money on either publications is when there is an uplifting person or story that is being featured, and we all know that that is not often. I’m very surprised that these publications are still in business.

    • texastea

      The same with BET. A showcase for black buffoonery and c o o n e r y. Boyz in the Hood and Set it Off on very other weekend. No black news or talk shows. They just got the one with TJ Holmes, but they cut that off to one night a week.