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Essence's White Fashion Director Ellianna Placas Causes Controversy

First Posted: 07/27/2010 4:26 pm Updated: 05/25/2011 5:10 pm

Update 7/29: Essence Editor-in-Chief Angela Burt Murray responded to Claire of The Fashion Bomb about the controversy, saying:

"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."

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Essence Magazine has been called out by some of its readership and supporters for reportedly hiring a white Fashion Director, according to CLUTCH Magazine. Ellianna Placas, formerly of O: The Oprah Magazine and US Weekly is said to be starting at the magazine in September, although Essence hasn't made an official announcement. But just the speculation prompted writer Michaela angela Davis to tweet: "It is with a heavy heavy heart I have learned that Essence magazine has engaged a white fashion director, this hurts, literally, spiritually." On Facebook, Davis wrote, "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 media personality Najwa Moses told CLUTCH, "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?" She added, "How can a White woman dictate and decide what style and beauty is for the Black woman?"

CLUTCH also weighed in on the decision:

As the publication unofficially deemed "Essence's little sister"--a growing young urban women's online brand for news, critical commentary, lifestyle, fashion and beauty--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.

However, Charing Ball of The Atlanta Post doesn't think Essence even needs a black perspective anymore:

From the few issues that I had skimmed through during my monthly visits to the hair salon, I can tell you that I don't think I am missing much. Unlike its history of uplifting and honoring the holistic experiences of the black woman, I began to find much of the magazine trite and full of regressive articles much inline with the Cosmo woman of the 18th Century (think Celia advising Harpo on how to handle his Sophia problem). And with the exception of a few featured articles, great covers editorials, and the recipes in the back, I find Essence to hold little relevance to this 21st Century woman of color.
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Filed by Hilary Moss  |