ESSENCE Wins A 2022 National Magazine Award for Photography
Cori Murray, deputy editor, accepting the 2022 National Magazine Award for photography | Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for American Society of Magazine Editors

The American Society of Magazine Editors presented their 2022 ASME Awards last night and ESSENCE walked away a winner in the photography category for the images, “Of Earth & Sky,” by Lorna Simpson from the January/February 2021 issue.

Deputy Editor Cori Murray, alongside creative director Nia Lawrence, accepted the award. In Murray’s acceptance speech, she said of ESSENCE being recognized the prestigious Ellie trophy. “Lorna Simpson was quoted in the New York Times saying that, when she was directing Rihanna, she told her to think of herself as a giant. Well, I feel like a giant tonight. Thank you.”

The fellow nominees in the photography category were National Geographic, Poetry, Stranger’s Guide and Time.

Cori Murray, deputy editor, and Nia Lawrence, creative director, holding the ASME trophy at the National Magazine Awards on April 5, 2002. | Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for American Society of Magazine Editors

The 57th annual National Magazine Awards are sponsored by ASME and the Columbia Journalism School; they were held at Brooklyn Steel in Williamsburg, New York. A few other notable wins from the 2022 ASME Awards, included:

Video: The New Yorker (David Remnick, editor) for “A Reporter’s Video from Inside the Capitol Siege” by Luke Mogelson, January 17

Podcasting: Pineapple Street Studios for two episodes of “The 11th,” hosted by Hanif Abdurraqib.  

General Excellence, Service and Lifestyle Category: ELLE (editor-in-chief Samira Nasar) for March, May and November

Photography by Lorna Simpson

This was ESSENCE’s first nomination for photography. The magazine has been nominated in other categories, including General Excellence in 2011 and 2014, according to Nina Fortuna, ASME’s director of operations. ESSENCE won the National Magazine Award for Fiction in 1976.

Renowned fine artist Lorna Simpson photographed global star Rihanna for ESSENCE’s January/February 2021 issue.

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The larger-than-life photos, a continuation of the artist’s collage series “Of Earth & Sky,” reimagines the narrative of how Black women, their bodies and beauty, are portrayed in media. In two of the 11 images, Rihanna is juxtaposed against an indigo night sky, appearing as a literal star, in another she’s parading across a city bridge balancing a massive Maximilian Davis feathered headpiece. The collaboration was called “mesmerizing” “ravishing” and that Simpson’s work “awed readers.”

The day after the release of the Rihanna/Simpson cover and accompanying photos, the launch received over 4.8 billion media impressions and it was covered by Vulture, Artnet News, Phaidon, ABC News,, The Daily, Billboard, Page Six, US Weekly, ET Canada and more. Even NBA great LeBron James Tweeted “Art is Beauty and Black Art is even more BEAUTIFUL.” We couldn’t agree more.

For a complete list of the 2022 finalists and winners, visit