Delights and surprises await you in this issue of ESSENCE, starting with our cover featuring the beautiful Viola Davis. One of Hollywood’s best-kept secrets, Viola grew up in poverty in Rhode Island, went on to study at the prestigious Juilliard School, and despite Hollywood’s resistance to her dark complexion, became an acclaimed actress with a growing list of stage and film credits to her name.

Cicely Tyson inspired her, Viola told me on our cover shoot in Sag Harbor, New York. I think Viola may well be our next Cicely Tyson; she’s just that good, that smart and that real. I trust you will enjoy getting to know her and will be as moved by her words as I was. And do join in celebrating her exquisite beauty in images taken by famed fashion photographer Gilles Bensimon.

As you and I move forward together, building on ESSENCE’s extraordinary 41-year-old foundation, you’ll meet many women like Viola who, like you, are creating rich and satisfying lives despite the odds. Need a little inspiration? “The Art of Living Fearlessly” on page 124 will show you how to claim your purpose and tap into your sense of joy.

In keeping with our goal of helping you to uplift and simplify your life, you can rely on us to understand when you need a break, because don’t we all sometimes need moments of release? Turn to page 130 for our quick tips for finding calm. We’ll also tell you what’s new and where the deals are each month. This season, for instance, pretty florals are in. I recommend the flower brooches on page 36. And you can start looking out for neutrals, a big fall trend, right now. Creamy beiges and tans go with everything and look beautiful against our many shades of brown. Whether you spend a little or splurge a lot, consider them an investment you can wear for years.

Another special treat this month grew out of conversations in one of our editorial meetings. We started thinking about the many ways in which Black people have contributed to this country’s greatness. What are the iconic images of America that trace their roots to African-American culture? What aspects of American life have been significantly transformed by our participation? Our wide-ranging list included jazz, blues, rock and roll, hard work, courage, freedom marches, basketball, track and field, rap, hip-hop style, church, church hats, Afros, braids, Detroit, Atlanta, HBCUs, fried chicken, peach cobbler, Cadillacs and so much more.

Throughout this issue you’ll see stories inspired by this idea of Afro-Americana denoted by three lines in red, white and blue. I particularly love the hats on page 118, our first ladies of hip-hop on page 112, and our tips on caring for your fro, including advice from Afro-wearing musician Esperanza Spalding, on page 55. Let me know what touched you and proved useful to your life this month. Leave me a comment at Peace & love.

Constance C.R. White