There’s a little tingle I get when I head to my mailbox at the beginning of every month, and open it to find thick polished pages rolled up inside. I love fashion magazines. Oh the sweet joy of that delicious moment when I nestle into my couch, glass of Pinot in hand, to get the scoop on the latest style obsessions.

Well, these were the moments I relished, until recently when something in me snapped and I began firing off frustrated letters to the editors of the very magazines I had come to love.

image

As a black woman, I’ve had no choice but to become accustomed to the absence of black and brown faces in “mainstream” publications. Out of the hundreds of magazines that are published each year, black women can count just two (hair magazines don’t count) that are dedicated to showcasing their beauty, style, and opinions. The sporadic cover girl of color is hardly an ode to diversity.

But what’s become increasingly troubling to me is that still today, when our style icon is an African-American First Lady, who is arguably the most fashionable since Jackie O, the images in popular magazines and the fashion industry overall continue to be white-washed.

When will the fashion industry start to accurately reflect the rich mixture of ethnicity and culture in our country?

I was so overwhelmed by the diversity of the tens of thousands of people gathered in Chicago on election night 2008. The faces of the young and old, black and brown, American flags mixed with rainbow flags — this blend of people created the most beautiful and authentic representation of America I’d ever seen.

As news cameras panned out to the exuberant crowd, we weren’t just being introduced to the nation’s first African American First Family; we were being introduced to the New American Majority. This mass gathering of individuals were emblematic of the racially, economically and culturally diverse America that will make up the majority of our population over the next few decades.

With that said, how is it possible that a magazine can still be considered mainstream when not one person of color, not even in an advertisement, appears within 200 plus pages?

It’s this kind of nuanced racism; yes racism, which began to grade on my nerves. Especially when I realized that I was being complicit in the problem. I support the blatant neglect of women of color every time I opened my mailbox and greeted these glossies with glee. I condone the magazine industry’s disrespect of the New American Majority with every subscription and purchase.

But getting mad and just canceling my subscriptions wasn’t the answer. My one monthly payment would hardly matter to those huge publishing companies. So instead, I wrote to them.

First, I began writing letters airing my grievances at the lack of women of color in their magazines and explaining that by striving to reflect the true image of America, they would actually sell more copies. One of my favorite glossies had Beyonce on the cover last winter, the next month there wasn’t one image of a woman of color throughout the entire magazine, it was as if they met their quote. Instead of throwing my copy away, I started typing. And when a publication actually did showcase diversity, I thanked them.

After a few of my letters were met with silence, I assumed that the likelihood anyone had actually read them was pretty slim. Then something brilliant happened, one of my letters was actually published!

While flipping through an issue of InStyle magazine I discovered not one but two pages profiling a party hosted by BET (the Black Entertainment Network). There were tons of fabulous photos featuring the who’s who of black Hollywood’s celebrities. My jaw hit the floor. Before I could even finish reading the article I’d already reached for my iPad to write the editor. In the letter I thanked her for their coverage of the BET event and expressed how much it meant to me that InStyle recognized the importance of diversity and urged them to keep up the good work.

Image my surprise when just two months later InStyle published a portion of my note. When I saw it inside the magazine I was shocked and then instantly elated that someone on staff understood the importance of my message — that inclusion matters and when you embrace diversity, people will take notice. And it was in that moment that I realized that my monthly ritual of couch, wine and periodicals turned from pure entertainment into conscious activism.

As I savored my small victory, I recognized that anger without action is pretty meaningless. If I had just cancelled my subscriptions and sworn off non-inclusive magazines forever the industry would remain unchallenged. This is not to say that my letters are having a lasting impact, but it does make me value my voice and opinion more, because when I stay silent on issues I serve no one.

I still receive immense joy from flipping through glossy, stylized page, after meticulously curated page. I’m still enjoying my magazine and wine time, just with a keener eye and an iPad at the ready.

 

XOJane

This post originally appeared on XOJane. Republished with permission. Click here for more
Danielle Moodie-Mills on XOJane!

  • http://www.lillian-mae.com Lillian Mae

    Eh…I’m not a print magazine kinda girl…I prefer online print…This way, I control what I want to see.

    But good for you!

  • rhea

    We are so excellent at airing righteous indignation that we forget that something comes after that. Plus, seeing your name in print is pretty awesome. I’m so glad that you spoke up!

  • Southpaw

    That’s why theirs Clutch, so stop complaining. Unless you feel Clutch is not mainstream so it doesn’t count.

  • BeanBean

    I’m not a fan of magazines to begin with, they’re just too bulky. But I’m really happy that she worked towards change and had her letter printed. Complaining without taking action is just whining, and nobody likes a whiner.All major social change has happened because someone decided to DO something about it, instead of complaining and then doing nothing. Kudos to her!!!

  • youandme

    This Again (Jet,Ebony,Essence,Upscale,Uptown,Heart and Soul,Hype Hair, Black Enterprise,Jones,Sister2Sister,Sophisticate’s Black Hair) LOVE THESE MAGAZINES

  • youandme

    I see Upscale Magazine in the background WHY NOT read that? Upscale Magazine is a black magazine

  • Fresh Finesse

    There are some fashion magazines that cater Black women such as Today’s Black Woman, Essence, Ebony, Jones Magazine and Juicy to name a few. If you’re not happy with what’s in the magazine market, you could always start one up.

  • youandme

    2 more magazines ( Today’s Black Woman Style Report,Juicy)

  • http://gravatar.com/yesimthatleah Yes, I’m That Leah

    She needs to get a life! Take her business elsewhere! SMH.

  • Apple Pie

    Exactly!!! I don’t know why many Blacks feel as though our stuff isn’t good enough or just as good.

  • Apple Pie

    When will Black People stop this mess!! Can we please stop begging and pleading with white people to include us? They don’t have too!! This should be a driving force for us to come up with our own things! Are we not as innovative? Can we not think for ourselves? Why must we rely on whites to showcase our beauty, especially over their own women? We have TONS of successful black owned magazines. But I guess if it’s not Vogue or Cosmopolitan, it’s not as good. Stop acting like a bunch of butt-hurt whiners. This reminds me of the lady who wrote to L’oreal complaining because they didn’t have enough darker shades in their lines. What about Iman, Black Opal, Mac, The Queen Collection and all others that actually cater to us? Just because its not Maybelline or L’oreal doesn’t mean that it’s not reputable. Man, we really need to start having confidence in ourselves, especially black women. Stop feeling like you must be included in ALL that they do. Let’s try to make things happen on our own.

  • http://elegantblackwoman.blogspot.com Elegance

    Just don’t read magazines. The industry is dying and you can find whatever you want online. They are just full of ads trying to sell you stuff and make you feel that your are not good enough unless you buy their stuff. Stop funding them and begging them to like you. Your money is rewarding them for excluding you! I haven’t purchased a magazine in years, have only flipped through them rarely in waiting rooms, and I’m perfectly fine without them! Read a book or something instead or talk to someone.

    I think black folks would be less materialistic, better informed, and richer if they stopped paying attention to magazines and materialistic media.

    P.S. It’s weird that you totally exclude Black hair magazines too. Growing up I bought hair magazines and that’s where I got so much of my beauty and style ideas.

    P.P.S. They published your letter to make it seem like they cared but they aren’t going to change. They just used you.

  • http://elegantblackwoman.blogspot.com Elegance

    Exactly! She’s not giving any of those Black magazines money and is instead begging the White magazines to include her. I bet some of those Black mags had that BET party and many others covered, but did they get any congratulatory letters? She’s making herself miserable by putting her attention in the wrong place. In this day of the Internet I will never understand people still complaining about not getting the content they want, I read and see black women all day long in the online stuff I read and I can get diversity if I want too without buying anything, killing trees, or cluttering my living room. .

  • http://myguiltylilpleasures.blogspot.fr/ aybony

    Thank you for trying to stop this nasty ostracism Xojane!
    I mean, I also understand some of the comments here: I as well prefer online publications since I know that I can find information that cater to my needs and aspirations…However I have to admit that this is mainly the result of the lack of diversity in the mainstream publications, and the fact that I got tired (just like the author) of the lack of diversity in these magazines. Plus I am a French black girl, so we have even less options here… Of course I love reading Essence magazine and all the specific magazines (whenever I can find one in France)…but are we really suppose to stay in a brown bubble?

  • Lola

    Fashion magazines and women’s magazines are full of s**t. Full of adverts, biaised reviews, scrawny models and actresses photoshopped to look even skinnier than they are, miracles diets … To each their own but that industry hasn’t gotten one $ from me in more than a decade. I personally think that the days of paper magazines are numbered as internet fashion blogs, pinterest, youtube offer a better, more relatable and interactive, more diverse, objective and free alternative.

  • Nova

    I totally agree with your statement Elegance. These white magazines know exactly what they are doing. Its time for black ppl to stop trying to accepted where you are not wanted. Those magazines know who they want. And people of color are not who they want. There is too much information and out their for blackk women to stop complaining about why white magazines don’t have enough of black folks. Plain and simple, they don’t want to.

  • Nova

    I can’t believe she was excited about this magazine mentioning BET. Who is owned by white. Please stop letting white people validate you.

  • Pseudonym

    I think there’s a difference b/w “begging and pleading” and requesting and demanding. I think suggestions from the articles and all comments should be used in combination: she should definitely support the magazines and brands out there who already support black women and- at the same time- should complain to those who don’t. I think in about 10-20 years, the editors at those publications will be from a different generation and letters such as those from the author will not simply be taken to fill a quota, but actually be used to incite a real change.

    There are still a number of white-centered people in their 20s and 30s, but I think among the real movers and shakers, they’re in the minority- simply b/c just about every industry is moving into globalization which requires that no one have their head stuck inside the great white arse (or else be doomed to failure; check out the minivan diversity trial*). I am hopeful for the future and moves such as this one.

    (*mini van diversity trial: team of all white men designed a minivan and it was the worst selling and worst rated, the company got a diverse team with members of different genders and racial backgrounds- not sure about economic- and they designed the highest rated and best selling minivan in history)

  • Pseudonym

    I loooooooved those magazines in the 90s, but feel like a lot of them remained trapped in the 90s (b/c the people in charge had their heyday during the 90s), which is why I don’t really read them anymore. Ebony’s trying for a makeover b/c they realized the same thing, so we’ll see. Essence lost a lot of readers when they wrote an article about how it’s hard for black women to find romantic partners and suggested men in jail as one of the options to not overlook.

    Anywhoo, their problem is the same as the non-black fashion magazines: it’s time to do away with the old and bring in some fresh faces and ideas! I would LOVE to read and support a black fashion magazine (was so sad when Arise never seemed to get their paper subscriptions off the ground; I tried signing up multiple times.).

  • MsSmeeg

    I absolutely agree with you. Whites are not going to uplift our beauty and style in a positive way so, we have to keep doing it ourselves. Sure, White fashion editors may want to add some spice by bringing in a Black face every now and again, for “exotic” reasons to to make an advert look cool and urban.
    I personally have never been bothered by the lack of diversity in the fashion industry because I realise that the designers are White and they are not going to uplift other races as having an equal or greater beauty than that of the Europeans, that has been the case for centuries, and especially heightened during the Transatlantic Slavery and Colonialism. Furthermore, White fashion editors have to be careful, they can’t diversify a lot because White audiences would then stop showing interest in the magazines, then obviously resulting in companies losing money.

    There are numerous blogs and tumblrs online (by Blacks) that showcase the beauty, style, elegance of Black women in all our glory, one of which I love is afrodisiacworldwide. Whenever I need a bit of cheering up or just to relax I go on these tumblrs. It is great for a Black girl’s/ woman’s self-esteem.

  • Deal-n-Truth

    I’ve been tired for years and the best thing for women, especially black women to do is to support the magazines that support and feature our image. If you want to read VOGUE and other fashion magazines, read them in the book stores or at the library, but never give them your money. When we financially support these magazines who render us invisible, we’re only financing our own exclusion and that’s basically how racism is maintained in this country.

  • Deal-n-Truth

    What about Fashizblack,Miss Ebène Magazine or Ghubar Magazine, they’re French magazines dedicated to the woman of African descent living in France? How about New African Woman magazine?

    The best place to find magazines that cater to the woman of African descent who loves fashion is in the digital format. Don’t support brands that don’t consider you and exclude you.

    I feel even worse for the British woman of African descent, because one would think that there are no black people living there just by the content and media that comes out of that country alone.

  • Deal-n-Truth

    The world may be moving into globalization, but as a whole, the black image is still rendered invisible.

  • Deal-n-Truth

    Tumblr is where it’s at. I love that we highlight the diversity of our beauty that is hardly seen in any magazines, too include those directed at us.

  • Deal-n-Truth

    It’s called conditioning, because many of our people believe that what we produce is inferior to what white people produce.

  • Belle_Bijou

    Thanks for the blog name! HeyFranHey is also a good one :)

    Belle

  • Deal-n-Truth

    I loved an supported Arise and Munaluchi Bridal magazines also, but what killed them was their price point for a lot of people. I know it costs to produce a magazine, but they overpriced themselves out of the market and their content was excellent. I believed in Fashizblack magazine and that’s why I supported them through their Kickstarter campaign and now subscribe to them.

  • Deal-n-Truth

    Exactly! With the digital format you can control what you want to read and there are so many black magazines available.

  • apple

    are those french magazines in english?

  • apple

    i usually end up reading lesser known art/fashion magazines, some that are global or have like 4/5 issues a year.. the lab magazine (fashion/art/culture), frank 151 (art and indie hip hop , documentary), brooklyn magazine, purple fashion magazine, cmyk,art forum,hi frutcose.. lesser known magazines are usually high on content, really care about their craft and not a book filled with ads

    i wish there was some real black fashion magazines… anyone that i ever liked end up folding because of no support.. one i will never forget and keep bringing up after 10 years is SUEDE that was by ESSENCE, this magazine was colorful it talked about fashion, art, hair, sex, and had beautiful art work, they even had barack obama interview in there when he wasn’t even thinking of running for president… it was so amazing i kept all 4-5 issues, hoping that they would come back but i don’t think they will.. another one was POP AFRICANA, it was colorful and straight up FASHION, that first cover was OH GOD YES! but couldn’t survive…

  • http://nerdstradamas.wordpress.com nerdstradamas

    I know…this is a bit annoying…

    There’s Uptown Magazine, Arise, Monarch, Jones, Heart and Soul, New African Woman, DivaStyle, Black Beauty (UK)…

    All you need to do is check out the more quarky bookstores (i.e. Books-a-million) or purchase digital subscriptions for a lot of these magazines. There are a quite a few phenomenal and beautifully done black publications. They may not be as accessible as your nearest Walgreens or CVS, but they are there.

    I don’t understand the intent of this article. As another commenter mentioned, why are we so focused on begging for crumbs from mainstream media when we are more that capable of creating and building our own? We have built our own! These inclusive magazine are out there. Search for them an support them…and hopefully there will be more!

    I take this approach with all my entertainment needs. Hollywood isn’t giving me what I want, fine there’s an independent filmmaker that can.

    Big chain bookstores only want to sell ghetto-lit? Fine. I will go online or patronize an independent bookstore.

    Radio sucks and continuously plays the same music? Fine, I will load my iPod with Jesse Boykins, Musiq Soulchild, and Jose James.

    Options are out there. Just find them and support them. There’s really no excuse when you are from a major city AND you have access to the web. Shape your own entertainment world…It can be done.

  • lisa

    If you like Fashion and art Arise mag is quite good.

  • http://gravatar.com/designdiva40 paintgurl40

    @Lola:
    yes! i noticed that my self esteem improved when i stopped reading mainstream glossies…and stopped caring about white beauty standards.

  • Shenika

    So true! Tell it!

  • http://pinkpantiesandleopardlipstick.wordpress.com Myisha Marsh

    This was awesome!

  • http://myguiltylilpleasures.blogspot.fr/ aybony

    I didn’t say that we don’t have any afro magazines in France, but that we have less options. I was more interested by the content of some of the US black magazines when I was living there for instance.

    However the key point of my comment was the danger of living though divided platforms, I just don’t believe that this is a smart move for mutual understanding in general.

  • vintage3000

    First World Black Folk’s Problems.

    And with all the typos in this article, this young lady would benefit from keeping a dictionary next to her stack of fashion magazines.

  • trini34

    You know there is a saying in the army, “If you want to complain, you better have a solution.” So instead of wasting time “demanding” that mainstream magazines include more black women in their publications, how about starting your own magazine or read magazines such as Essence, Ebony or Arise magazines. Or even check online, especially Tumblr where black women are shown in a positive light. There are many publications that target black women, I really don’t understand why she is fighting to be recognized in mainstream magazines. From fashion shows to mainstream magazines, we have to realize that we are not wanted in their world, plain and simple. Stop fighting to be included because they really don’t have to include us so take your dollars elsewhere and create your own or support those who celebrate us for who we are.

  • http://twitter.com/TalkingWithTami TalkingWithTami (@TalkingWithTami)

    Good for you! I covered New York Fashion Week for my fashion blog a few weeks back and it was bothering me to see show after show with all white models. I was sitting there thinking why do they do that? On a recap show on E! news some designers were interviewed saying “well sometimes its just not in our vision” that was a whack response but so many designers think that way instead of just using models of color.I thought it was about the clothes? I guess thats how they get away with it though, sigh!

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