Melissa Harris-Perry Promises to Keep Focus on ‘Race and Gender’ in New Gig

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Melissa Perry-Harris,
Melissa Perry-Harris,

Just two months after her public split with MSNBC, Melissa Harris-Perry is joining Elle.com as the website’s new editor-at-large. Harris-Perry took to Twitter Monday evening to share the good news with fans.

She also explained her work for Elle will continue to focus on race and gender issues, generally told through the narratives of women and girls of color.

The former morning show host won’t work full-time for the website, but will write columns and appear on-camera regularly as the host of a new interview series. According to CNN’s Brian Stelter, who broke the story, the series, titled “Sole Search,” is Harris-Perry’s version of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” Instead, it’s more like “Smart People Talking While Shoe Shopping.”

“This gives me a chance to talk politics, but also culture, race, gender, and literally shoes,” she said in a telephone interview with CNN. “This is me shoe shopping with women and girls of color; sometimes for themselves, sometimes for charity, sometimes for others, sometimes with men.”

Her first piece for Elle.com was published Monday. The feature, titled “Where are the Rest of the Black Feminists in HBO’s ‘Confirmation?” takes a deeper look at feminism in the HBO film about Anita Hill and her impact on the Supreme Court nomination of Clarence Thomas. The piece also discusses how the movie “missed an opportunity” to acknowledge other influential Black feminists who affected the decision.

“In this, Confirmation commits a surprising act of silencing against individual and collective black feminists,” Harris-Perry wrote. “Confirmation forgets the contributions of Professor Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, the black feminist lawyer on Hill’s legal team, focusing instead on Professor Charles Ogletree, who arrives triumphant and courageous, declaring that despite the risk it poses to his tenure prospects at Harvard, he is committed to ensuring Hill is prepared to tackle this daunting public undertaking.”

Leah Chernikoff, Elle.com site director, expressed her excitement about Harris-Perry joining the staff and says her addition will bring an experienced voice to the website’s reporting on gender, race and other subjects.

“She will, as her work has always done, highlight the stories of women and girls — a reader might get to see an interview with a prominent female politician, a Black Lives Matter activist, or a celebrity,” Chernikoff said. “Or they might read Melissa’s writings on topics ranging from feminism, intersectionality, and motherhood, to fashion and even gardening.”

Harris-Perry, who is also a professor at Wakefield University, began hosting her own morning show at MSNBC in 2012. Over time, she developed a large and devoted fan base, which she dubbed “nerdland.” The show featured in-depth discussions on race, gender, politics, etc.

However, tensions mounted between the talk show host and the network, as the show was forced to cover the primary elections and then pre-empted for another two weeks. Harris-Perry felt her show was being taken away from her without any consideration from NBC management. The disagreement between the two was primarily over editorial control of the show. Harris-Perry ultimately walked away from her show, after which MSNBC announced its cancellation in February.

Stepping into the next phase of her career, the new editor looks forward to focusing on her work and reconnecting with her TV fans.

“Joining ELLE.com is an opportunity to combine my expertise as a scholar, my commitments as a public intellectual, and my interests as a woman,” said Harris-Perry in a statement about her new role at the website. “I am thrilled to tell my loyal television audience where they can find me and to introduce myself to brand new audiences, all while telling the stories of extraordinary women and girls.”

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