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Women Protest At NYFW Over Essence' New Fashion Director

Filed under: Nina GarciaSpread 'EmFashion Week


Back in July we told you about the controversy that erupted over Essence magazine hiring a new fashion director Ellianna Placas, who is white.

The magazine's editor-in-chief Angela Burt-Murray quickly responded to the public outcry with a statement defending her new hire and since then it's been relatively quiet — that is until last week.

On the opening day of New York Fashion week a group of black women staged a protest over Essence's hiring of a white fashion director and the lack of black fashion directors at any mainstream fashion publications.

Dressed in all black, the women carried signs that read the names of Essence' fashion directors from the past 40 years. They didn't speak one word as they made their way from Essence' Manhattan headquarters to Lincoln Center.

The event producer, Quan Lateef explains: "We chose to make this a silent demonstration because we were not angry or bitter. We didn’t need to shout or holler. We’re just over it! Whether the powers that be heard it or not, our silence spoke volumes."

Protester Bayyina Black says the problem isn't just with Essence, it's the industry as a whole, adding "On a larger scale, in the year 2010 there is only one woman of color, Nina Garcia, who is a fashion director in the entire fashion industry."

She makes a good point.


[Image courtesy of Clutch Magazine.]

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Essence' Editor-In-Chief Responds To New Fashion Director Controversy

Filed under: Fashion SmashionSpread 'Em


Editor-in-chief of Essence magazine, Angela Burt-Murray has come forward to defend her choice of hiring Ellianna Placas as the mag's new fashion director.

Angela explains:

"I understand that this issue has struck an emotional chord with our audience, however I selected Ellianna, who has been contributing to the magazine on a freelance basis for the last six months, because of her creativity, vision, the positive reader response to her work and her enthusiasm and respect for the audience and our brand. We remain committed to celebrating the unique beauty and style of African-American women in Essence magazine and online at Essence.com."

In addition to the above statement, Burt-Murray also wrote an opinion piece of The Grio, where she further defended her new hire:

As Editor-in-Chief of Essence magazine I sometimes find myself in the unenviable position of ticking people off when it comes to matters of race…most recently my hiring of Ellianna Placas, who happens to be a white woman, to head our fashion department has stirred the passions of a small but vocal group in the blogosphere ("I feel like a girlfriend has died," stated one devastated African-American writer who not long ago wrote about coming to terms with her daughter pledging a white sorority for the magazine). Really?

I first got to know and came to respect Ellianna when she came to work with us nearly six months ago. We were conducting a search for a new director when she was hired to run the department on a freelance basis. I got to see firsthand her creativity, her vision, the positive reader response to her work, and her enthusiasm and respect for the audience and our brand. As such, I thought she'd make an excellent addition to our team. And I still do. This decision in no way diminishes my commitment to black women, our issues, our fights. I am listening and I do take the concerns to heart.

But interestingly enough, the things I think should most upset people and inspire boycotts and Facebook protests, often seem to go relatively unnoticed…When we run story after story on how HIV is the leading cause of death for black women age 18-34? Zilch. The things that really are the end of our world apparently aren't.

While the response to these important stories may not always be as strong as we would like or lead to immediate change, Essence remains committed to telling these stories. Forty years ago Essence was founded to empower, celebrate, and inspire black women to climb higher, go further and break down barriers. Our commitment to black women remains unchanged as we continue to stay laser-focused on those principles–no matter who works with us.

And there you have it.


[Image via Getty Images.]

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Essence Magazine's New Fashion Director Sparks Controversy


Starting this September, Ellianna Placas will be the new fashion director of Essence magazine.

Unfortunately for her, many readers and supporters of the publication are upset because she's white.

Writer Michaela Angela Davis tweeted her disappoint with mag's new hire

It is with a heavy heavy heart I have learned that Essence magazine has engaged a white fashion director, this hurts, literally, spiritually.

Davis later wrote on her Facebook page:

"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."

Fashion personality Najwa Moses echoed Michaela's disappointment, telling Clutch magazine:

"How could such a prestigious title who is deeply rooted in its target audience let someone who is not even apart of the African Diaspora detonate our image? How can a White woman dictate and decide what style and beauty is for the Black woman?"

While everyone is entitled to their opinion, why should Ellianna's race matter if she's qualified?

The new fashion director has a lengthy fashion history and impressive resume that includes working for O: The Oprah Magazine, US Weekly and contributing/styling for many television shows.


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