The brilliant bell hooks (the late author/academic/feminist activist) said, "No Black woman writer in this culture can write 'too much. Indeed, no woman writer can write 'too much'...No woman has ever written enough."
Even with more than two decades of experience leading both print and digital media brands, an NAACP-Image-Award-nominated advice book, and multiple published short stories, I can attest to the accuracy of bell hooks' statement. I have not yet and may never be able to write enough to tell my entire story.
I got my first job as an editor in chief (of groundbreaking Honey magazine) at 30 years old. I later moved on to being editor-in-chief of Ebony magazine; I executed a top-to-bottom redesign that changed the narrative of the 70-year-old publication.
In my current role, I help create content consumed by over 65 million people annually across a significant digital and social ecosystem. But nothing in my career has matched the challenge and responsibility of becoming the first Black woman to lead a major mainstream consumer magazine in this country as editor in chief of Teen People (the teen version of the venerable People brand).
I can unequivocally say that there aren't enough words in the English language to describe the complexity of breaking down barriers and representing an entire race while still excelling at your actual job.
That's one of the reasons why I wrote my book about empowerment and why I always make the extra effort to reach out to my Black women peers and those coming up behind me. I cherish this sisterhood of women that have devoted their careers to the art and business of telling meaningful stories. They're fabulous, limitless, and they understand the hard work that goes into making it look effortless.
I want to personally celebrate all the incredible Black women media bosses who recently got the top job at various mainstream media brands.
Having kicked down this particular door, I am personally aware of how hard it is to be the first of anything and to specifically take on the challenge of running mainstream media brands that may not have historically prioritized our perspective.
I'm immensely proud of every one of the rock stars on this list, and I am honored to give you your flowers. Shine on in limitless abundance, queens!
Simone Oliver, Global EIC Refinery 29
Howard graduate and Refinery29's global editor-in-chief Simone Oliver (@simonesoliver) started her career at the New York Times. After 13 years, she left to become the digital director at Allure shortly after she made a significant move to the tech world, Global Media Partnerships team at Facebook. She then pivoted back to media in Sept. 2020 and landed at Refinery29.
Kenya Hunt, EIC, Elle UK as of Mar. 7, 2022
American-born Kenya Hunt (@kenyahunt) is currently hard at work as the deputy editor of Grazia UK, but starting March 7, 2022, she will sit at the helm of Elle UK as its editor-in-chief. The author of Girl: On Black Womanhood and Belonging and founder of R.O.O.M. Mentoring earned the prestigious Global Leader of Change Award at the 2021 British Fashion Awards.
Lindsay Peoples Wagner, EIC, The Cut
Jessica Cruel, EIC, Allure
Jessica Cruel (@jcruel) quickly climbed up the ladder at Allure and was named EIC in 2021. This Georgia peach has more than a decade of editing experience under her belt at publications like PopSugar, SELF, and Refinery29. More than just a wordsmith, Cruel also has a passion for real estate and personal finance.
Samira Nasr, EIC, Harper’s Bazaar
In 2020, Samira Nasr (@SamiraNasr) made history when she was tapped as the first Black EIC of Harper’s Bazaar. On her watch, Harper’s Bazaar has welcomed a bevy of Black beauties onto its covers, including Beyoncé, Tracee Ellis Ross, and the cast of Pose. Montreal-born Nasr previously held positions at Elle, InStyle, and Vanity Fair.
Nikki Ogunnaike, Digital Director, Harper’s Bazaar
When Samir Nasr joined Harper’s Bazaar, she did what any visionary boss does–she started building her team, and Nikki Ogunnaike (@nikkiogun) was one of her first significant hires. Ogunnaike joined as the magazine’s digital director. The Nigerian-American previously cut her teeth at Glamour and Elle magazines and co-hosted a podcast called Well Suited with her sister, journalist Lola Ogunnaike (@lolaogunnaike).
Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, Global Fashion Editor-At-Large, Vogue
Gabriella Karefa-Johnson (@gabriella_J) is the fashion director at Garage, a cutting-edge Vice publication, yet still somehow finds the time to make history at Vogue. In 2021, Karefa-Johnson became the first Black woman to style a Vogue cover. Her work tends to go viral, such as the May 2021 Vogue cover featuring poet Amanda Gorman.
Dawn Davis, EIC, Bon Appétit
Before Dawn Davis (@bonappetitdawn) took the helm at Bon Appétit, she was already a big name in the book publishing world. As one of the few Black faces in the upper echelons of book publishing, she blazed trails at Random House, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster. She brings that same tenacity and creativity to Condé Nast.
Arianna Davis, Editorial Director, The Today Show
Arianna Davis (@ariannagdavis) is the brains behind the news, trending, and lifestyle content across The Today Show’s digital platforms. The Penn State alum previously worked at O Magazine, US Weekly, and Refinery 29. This busy creative is also an adjunct professor at NYU and the author of What Would Frida Do?: A Guide to Living Boldly.
Melissa Harris-Perry, Host and Managing Editor of The Takeaway
Melissa Harris-Perry (@mharrisperry) may be new as the host and managing editor of The Takeaway. Still, the citizens of #NerdLand have been fans since the Wake Forest University professor had her eponymous show on MSNBC. Her ability to distill dry data into engaging, entertaining content makes her the people’s champ.
Nekesa Mumbi Moody, Editorial Director, The Hollywood Reporter
Before taking over at The Hollywood Reporter in 2020, Nekesa Mumbi Moody (@nekesamumbi) had an illustrious career at the Associated Press that spanned two decades. Her impressive tenure included managing dozens of reporters and interviewing some of the world’s biggest stars, such as Prince and Beyoncé.
Reported by: Demetria Wambia
(Photo credits: Melissa Harris-Perry (Photo by Teresa Kroeger/Getty Images for The Young Turks); Lindsay Peoples Wagner (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Teen Vogue); Nekesa Mumbi Moody (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images); Dawn Davis (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Glamour); Nikki Ogunnaike (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for 2019 TriBeCa Film Festival); Jessica Cruel (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Glamour); Arianna Davis (Photo by Mike Pont/Getty Images)