Do Black Women Know Black Beauty?

Everywhere you turn – it’s in magazines or online – there’s an article on how to go natural…how to maintain a weave…how to take care of our skin…how to find the perfect jeans. So with that being said do Black women know Black beauty?

Essence magazine has always been the vessel of fashion and beauty to women of color for the last 40 years in this country. With other magazines claiming to be niche and yet not biased, that certainly isn’t the case. Most fashion magazines are very “mainstream” — if you know what I mean — because at the end of the day, fashion is a very elitist industry. However, Essence has always been clearly for the Black woman, unapologetically. So when news of their new fashion director being white hit surface, well it’s easy to see why there was much uproar.

Look, no matter how post-racial you want to believe America is now that President Obama is in office, let’s be clear: it’s all still very black and white. How in the world is this white woman going to display fashion and beauty for the Black woman? No, she’s not beneath us or anything of the sort but she certainly cannot fully grasp the concept of our skin, bodies and style. In fact, she never will. So, there’s a huge conflict of interest with her “directing our fashion.”

If anything, as the fashion director, other people will be doing most of the work. But in her job description, she is to also serve as the media ambassador and represent the magazine on TV and other media appearances. Is this some sort of sick joke? The woman – who is NOT black – is supposed to be the front face of the longest running Black women’s magazine? I mean naturally if you’re a Black women’s magazine and the representative of the publication is not a Black woman, it would be hard to be taken seriously. So after 40 years of working hard to give the Black woman a quality, exclusive resource, the end result is embarrassment and mockery? Because this new hire is nothing short of that.

Now, the research hasn’t been done, but it more than likely could be done to show that there are more than enough qualified Black women writers, editors and/or fashion experts that could and should have gotten this job. Was June Ambrose not available? And honestly, maybe a guest celebrity editor should have served each month until the right person was chosen. Loyal Essence readers would have appreciated that more, than this gag of positioning.

So maybe we don’t know all the answers. And even if we think we do, we’re going to read the article that tells us the secret to “perfect skin” or maintain our hair. Not because we always need it, but because it’s available to us.

In hindsight though, maybe this wasn’t an Essence decision. Most of us loyal Essence readers would like to believe so. Instead, this easily could have been a Time Warner choice. (Time Warner acquired 49% of the brand in 2000.) Regardless, this is still a devastating matter for the magazine and its readers. If the direction of Essence is no longer in the hands of who it represents and who it was created for, then how much longer does it stand a chance? Could this be the end of the Essence magazine?

Hopefully not, but creatively the magazine has certainly lost its essence.
—— By: Mattie James


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