On Monday, a media industry blog revealed that Essence, a lifestyle magazine geared towards black women, had hired a new fashion director named Ellianna Placas, to begin in September. But it was not the lines on her resume touting O: The Oprah Magazine and Us Weekly that attracted attention. It was the color of Placas’ skin: white.
Placas’ hiring is controversial for fans and supporters of Essence. A former fashion director for Essence, Michaela Angela Davis, tweeted: “It is with a heavy heavy heart I have learned that Essence magazine has engaged a white fashion director, this hurts, literally, spiritually.” She told Clutch, an online magazine for young Black women:
“[The disappointment] is personal and it’s also professional. If there were balance in the industry; if we didn’t have a history of being ignored and disrespected; if more mainstream fashion media included people of color before the ONE magazine dedicated to Black women ‘diversified’, it would feel different.”
Clutch itself wrote of the hiring:
“It felt like our mom walked us hand in hand to the center of the biggest shopping mall in the state, turned around, and left us. But we are no longer the little girls eyeballing the glossy giant who taught us how to love ourselves. We’ve been finding our way through the life, love and labels for quite sometime now; and the likely abandonment of the counselor who taught us everything we know is now evolving into clearer overstanding.”
Clearly, a white fashion director at a black women’s magazine is a controversial decision. Let’s take a nuanced look at it.