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Essence Magazine’s staffers anonymously call out toxic workplace culture

"When Black media companies become unstable, it triggers the instability of the entire culture.”
Former Essence CEO Michelle Ebanks, left, Essence Ventures Founder & Chairman Richelieu Dennis, and Essence Chief Content & Creative Officer Moana Luu on February 06, 2020, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Rich Polk /Getty Images)

On Sunday, a group of anonymous staffers and former staffers of Essence magazine accused the publication and its leadership, causing internal backlash from its predominantly Black female staff.

What We Know:

  • Accusations of pay inequity, sexual harassment, corporate bullying, intimidation, colorism, and classism are a few of the things the employees are complaining about. Their hope is that advertisers will pull campaigns from the female brand until they can treat their employees better.
  • A blog published on Sunday alleged that the Black women who are employed for Essence are unhappy working under the company’s chief officers, including demanding the resignation of Essence Ventures owner and CEO Richelieu Dennis.
  • According to the anonymous group of disgruntled employees, that now goes by the name Black Female Anonymous, the company’s leadership is making the magazine the “most deceptive Black media company in America,” by exploiting movements like the #BlackGirlMagic for monetary gain.
  • The staffers also called on major brands like AT&T, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and others to withhold future sponsorships and advertising buys until Essence Ventures finds new leadership. The post has been shared on social media with some former employees confirming reports of a harmful work environment at the 50-year-old magazine.
  • Reps for Essence, which Dennis bought from Time Inc. in 2018 for an undisclosed amount, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Dennis founded the beauty-product firm Sundial Brands, which he sold to Unilever in 2017.

“When Black media companies become unstable, it triggers the instability of the entire culture,” Black Female Anonymous writes. “White women can openly take down their devil in Prada but Black women must protect her. The demand for a new America calls for the complete accountability of all Americans, even those of us in Black America and our cultural institutions.”

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Javier Garay is Media & News SVCS Intern at UnmutedCo. He is currently enrolled in the University of North Georgia seeking a bachelors degree in Film/Digital Media with a concentration in Media Studies. Javier writes for Black News Alerts (BNA) along with social media management for both BNA and BossFM, and is a part of the BNA Daily Podcast Team.

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