To start: Good question.
I personally lost interest in Essence in the late-80’s when I read the article: “Is Kente Cloth Appropriate at Work?” For me (but not for many people) that was a serious turning point for a magazine that empowered Black women readers and inspired those same readers to aspire to something more than what the mainstream press was presenting to us.
I was one of those Essence babies whose mother read Essence Magazine. Their covers featured dark sisters with beautiful short ‘fros, caramel sisters with natural hair, and lighter sisters with blue eyes. Essence Magazine’s relevance was that it was an answer to the daily degradation Black women were being bombarded with all over the world. When the media was silent about Black women who were overwhelmingly victims of rape, abuse, and abduction, it was Essence Magazine that covered the issues. They were there to tell Black women about the growing risk of HIV contraction by Black women. They were also there to cover our sheroes and women who we would never have heard of if it were not for Essence.
Sadly, that focus has been shifted.
Bossip.com, a premiere Black gossip site that covers Black celebrities, rappers and athletes, recently posted an opinion piece that was sent to one of their editors. The piece was written by a man, namely Raynard Jackson from Washington, D.C.
His opinion piece was well articulated, timely and insightful. Though there are still many supporters of Essence who may disagree with his observations, he does bring up several points that beg for further discussion.
One observation states:
There were unique issues relevant to Black women that other publications were totally ignorant of. Black women could not wear the same makeup that white women could—there are differences in skin type. Black women have unique issues when it comes to styling their hair—there were no mainstream publications that dealt with these differences.
While he gives some background to the history of Essence Magazine, he’s also quite pointed in voicing some of his larger issues with the magazine, for example:
One of the speakers (at the Essence Music Festival) listed under “Empowerment” is “NeNe” Leakes. She is one of the main characters of the reality TV show, “The Real Housewives of Atlanta“…Leakes is a foul mouth, angry, nasty person on the show and from media accounts in real life also…What can they teach women about “empowerment?” Is this really the image of Black women Essence wants to promote?
In times past, Black women used to look forward to reading Essence Magazine for upliftment. That was then, this is now. Black women no longer have the Essence of their mother and grandmother… In Essence, there is no essence!
Whether you agree or disagree, the letter makes some valid arguments. Read the entire letter at Bossip.com