Anger as black fashion title takes on white director

Fashion editors normally make the headlines for their sharp tongues, whittled waists and dictatorial deskside habits, but the latest recruit at an American women's magazine has found herself in the spotlight because of the colour of her skin.

Ellianna Placas, who has been appointed fashion director at Essence, America's largest magazine for African-American women, is white. The row has turned attention once more to the lack of racial variation within the fashion industry.

"I am so, so hurt and confused and frankly angry by this news," said writer, stylist and former Essence fashion editor, Michaela Angela Davis, on Twitter earlier this week. "I feel like a girlfriend has died."

Davis's comments have in turn prompted outcry and accusations of "reverse racism", but many other readers and media figures have threatened to stop buying the magazine in the wake of Ms Placas's appointment.

"I trusted Essence to represent me as a black woman," one reader wrote on the magazine's Facebook page yesterday. "Now, with talk of a white fashion director, I may need to cancel my subscription because Essence no longer understands what I need in a magazine. There must be qualified black women to work at a black magazine. Vogue and friends never cared about me."

Essence has yet to announce their latest signing officially, but the move was revealed on publishing website mediabistro.com this week, which stated that, as well as shooting fashion stories, Ms Placas's role would be to: "Communicate the Essence style mission on sales calls and represent the brand on television."

Ms Placas has previously worked for Time & Life, Us Weekly and O, The Oprah magazine – all popular magazines that are widely read in the mainstream American market – and is set to make her masthead debut in Essence's 40th anniversary September issue.

Black women's lifestyle website Clutch – often referred to as Essence's "little sister" – posted an article in response to the news on Monday: "It felt like our Mom walked us hand in hand to the centre of the biggest shopping mall in the state, turned around and left us."

Those working for the magazine were also displeased. "This is about the fact that the publishing industry remains just as segregated in its hiring practices as it was in 1988," says Joan Morgan, a long-time Essence writer, referencing the lack of ethnic diversity at some leading publishing houses. "When these institutions start to employ hiring practices that allow black professionals the same access to their publications, that's when I get all 'Kumbaya' about Essence's new fashion director."

It isn't the first time the fashion industry has faced accusations that it doesn't adequately reflect diversity in in the job market.

"The best person for the job should always apply," says fashion commentator, Caryn Franklin, whose "All Walks beyond the Catwalk" campaign works toward greater diversity in the industry, "and where there are few representations in a dominant culture, be it gender, race, age or otherwise, there has to be a purposeful promotion to even up the lack of balance".

The industry has attempted to react to the imbalance, with varying degrees of success. In April 2008, American Vogue featured LeBron James, the basketball star, on its cover with his arms around Gisele Bundchen, the supermodel, and came under fire for portraying the sportsman as a "wild, savage, white-woman-obsessed beast".

Last July, Italian Vogue released a "black issue" which featured 100 pages devoted to models such as Naomi Campbell, Iman and Jourdan Dunn.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Advisor - Opportunities Available Nationwide

    £15000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to ...

    Recruitment Genius: Experienced Special Needs Support Worker

    £12 - £14 per hour: Recruitment Genius: We are looking for someone to join a s...

    Recruitment Genius: Content Assistant / Copywriter

    £15310 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

    Recruitment Genius: Sewing Technician

    £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This market leader in Medical Devices is...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence