White says magazine owner Time Inc. sees Black women editors as "disposable."
Essence magazine's former editor in chief Constance C.R. White says the reason behind her abrupt departure from the publication last month was because she was fired.
"I had a certain point of view about Black women being central to this magazine. The boss didn't agree with me, and the president didn't agree with me," she said in an interview with Journal-isms, a news blog run by Richard Prince, referring to Michelle Ebanks, president of Essence Communications. "It became an untenable situation."
At the time of her hiring in March 2011, White said Essence had “been a guide for me throughout my life. ... It's been a magazine that I've turned to again and again, and I'm excited to be able to serve the readers as the editor-in-chief."
Two years later, her attitude about the publication is markedly different.
In her interview with Journal-isms, White said:
"I went in there with passion and excitement and high expectations," White told Journal-isms, referring to her 2011 hiring. "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 said by telephone. "A lot of the readers have sensed" what is happening, she said.
Essence, the nation's leading magazine for Black women, was originally Black-owned but has not fared well under Time Inc. ownership, White maintained. [Martha Nelson, the editor-in-chief of Time Inc.] vetoed such pieces as a look at African-American art and culture, and "I was not able to make the creative hires that needed to be made," White said.
She elaborated by email, "When was the last time you saw Essence in the community advocating for or talking with Black women?
Essence needs stability and the brand needs a leader with a vision. Black women are social leaders, cultural leaders, we are aspirational and spiritual. Black women deserve the best. Essence is the last place where black women should be demeaned and diminished.
White said that the magazine's problems didn't start with her. In her interview she told Prince that since Time Inc. bought a 49 percent share in 2000 in Essence Communications, the publication has had troubles. She claims that Susan L. Taylor was pushed out at that time and that the magazine has had a series of Black women editors that Time sees as "disposal."
White took the helm of Essence in 2011. Prior to that she served as the founding fashion editor of Talk magazine, style director for online auction site eBay and executive fashion editor for Elle and style reporter for the New York Times. She began her career at Ms. magazine, as assistant to co-founder Gloria Steinem. White is also the author of Stylenoir, a book on Black style, and has written extensively on culture, style, lifestyle and contemporary issues.
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