Essence magazine continues to suffer an identity crisis. Ever since Time Inc. purchased it, readers have accused the title of not addressing black womens’ concerns and including too many white people, in editorial sections as well as ads.
If that wasn’t enough, in April of last year, a (white) managing editor — Michael Bullerdick — had to be disciplined for posting racist images on his Facebook page. And before that, Constance C.R. White had to repeatedly defend the magazine for hiring Ellianna Placas, Essence’s first white fashion director.
The rocky road continued in February of last year, when White was fired for what she claimed was her insistence on Essence maintaining a black woman’s point of view.
“I had a certain point of view about black women being central to this magazine,” White said at the time. “The boss didn’t agree with me, and the president [Michelle Ebanks, president of Essence Communications] didn’t agree with me. It became an untenable situation.”
Now, as the New York Times points out, Essence is still without an editor, and some people do not expect anything to improve when one is named.
An associate professor of Africana studies at Cornell said Essence “Keeps doing the same thing, as opposed to innovating.” A contributor to the title wrote that there was “something wrong” with the glossy’s organization. Even Essence’s co-founder — Edward Lewis — told the Times “When our audience sees white women throughout the magazine editorially, or on the covers of Essence, then I think you need to make a decision about whether you want to support that.”
Despite her fallout with the leadership at Time Inc., White is one person who remains optimistic. “Essence has some strong talent in place, and I hope they are able to move forward with renewed vigor to once again be the bible for black women or at least the new testament,” she told the Times, via email.