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Ex-Essence Editor Clashed with Time Inc Over Portrayal of Black Women

Former Essence editor never quit, she was fired Former Essence editor-in-chief, Constance White, is finally revealing the truth about why she departed from the magazine. As it turns out, White never quit the position. Instead she was fired after fighting for a better portrayal of black women in Essence.

Earning the position as editor-in-chief of Essence is a huge deal, so you can only imagine how shocked everyone was when Constance White left the position after less than two years.

While most media outlets reported that White decided to leave the position, a recent interview with Journal-isms is unraveling a new story.

During the interview the former Essence editor admitted that she was constantly butting heads with the Time Inc. Editor-in-Chief Martha Nelson over the way African American women were portrayed in the popular publication.

If you don’t understand why that feud is so important, remember that Essence is now operating under the ownership of Time Inc.

“Essence, the nation’s leading magazine for black women, was originally black-owned but has not fared well under Time Inc. ownership, White maintained,” Journal-isms reported.

She explained through e-mail that she “was not able to make the creative hires that needed to be made” and that Nelson “vetoed such pieces as a look at African American art and culture.”

Surprisingly, it seemed as if White was the only person who felt like Essence should have African American women at its center.

“I had a certain point of view about black women being central to this magazine,” she added. “The boss didn’t agree with me and the president didn’t agree with me. It became an untenable situation.”

Essence clashes with Time over the portrayal of black women Unfortunately, this problem has been going on for quite some time and White hasn’t been the only victim.

“How is it that from 2000, when Susan [L. Taylor] left – she was pushed out – we have had about give editors, including two acting editors, yet Essence continues to decline,” she asked. “So where’s the problem? And the editors are black women. ‘They are disposable. Let’s keep changing them.’”

Despite not having her position with the magazine, she is still hoping that things will change and Essence will be able to thrive once again. According to her, however, this won’t be possible until the conflict with Time Inc. is resolved.

“The point is, it didn’t start with me,” she continued. “If I can make a difference, I’d like to. If no one speaks up, it’s possible it won’t end with me.”

Another part of the solution, in White’s opinion, may be getting rid of Nelson.

“Essence needs stability and the brand needs a leader with a vision,” the e-mail stated. “Black women are social leaders, cultural leaders, we are aspirational and spiritual. Black women deserve the best. Essence is the last place where black women should be demeaned and diminished.”

Well now that you know the source of the conflict, you’re probably still wondering how things really went down the day White “quit” her editor-in-chief position.

“The final ‘tug of war’ came in January,” she said. “My boss said, ‘you know what? It’s time to go.’ I was asked to leave my position. I asked, ‘Was it something we can discuss, or has the decision been made?’ She said, ‘The decision has been made.’”

And just like that she was relieved of her duties.

It’s unfortunate that nobody listened to her message about the magazine’s direction because many of their loyal readers agree with the former editor-in-chief.

Hopefully her voice will serve as the push that the magazine needed in order to start steering things back in the right direction.


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