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
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Guru Careers: Financial Director / FD / Senior Finance Manager

    Up to 70k DOE: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Financial Director ...

    Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Luton - £24,000

    £20000 - £24000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst vacancy with a we...

    Recruitment Genius: Instructional Training Designer

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic and interes...

    Recruitment Genius: Warehouse & Stores Supervisor

    £16224 - £20280 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Warehouse & Stores Supervisor...

    Day In a Page

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen