The start of each month offers a fresh perspective, new possibilities. For this, the ninth month of 2019, we’re focusing on freedom of self, rebirth of spirit and, of course, a love of style. Our September issue, which I like to think of as a fashion bible, reflects those feelings and is the perfect edition to unveil our redesign. As you can imagine, creating these pages has been both a thrill and a labor of love for our talented team.

At first glance, you’ll see that we’ve spruced up our look. We’ve also upgraded the ESSENCE experience by way of our digital platforms—from behind-the-scenes videos of our photo shoots and international travels to our roster of podcasts, which now feature interview clips from our cover stories and exclusive talks with visionaries from the realms of entertainment and beauty, business and politics—and so much more. What hasn’t changed is our commitment to showcasing Black women in all of our splendor, with an energy, grace and power that’s unique to us. That commitment makes Serena Williams our perfect cover subject, and when she allowed Brooklyn-based, Nigerian-bred -artist Láolú NYC to use her face as a canvas, it was a beautiful bonus.

For more than two decades, we’ve cheered for Serena from the sidelines. Most recently, we’ve watched her life expand as a family woman and entrepreneur. As she shared with Entertainment Director Cori Murray, the tennis ace has always loved fashion, so much so that when she launched her independently owned, self-titled clothing line, she made it her mission to create styles that flatter women of all shapes and sizes and promote body positivity. It’s a bold and necessary move, one that speaks to Serena’s role as a leader, on and off the tennis court. And yes, we cosign her hashtag, #BeSeenBeHeard.

Though it’s been nearly two months since our 25th Essence Festival, in many ways, we’re still in celebration mode. After previewing our inaugural Fashion House in New Orleans over the July Fourth weekend, we can’t wait to bring that three-day experience to life once again, this time during New York Fashion Week. We’ll be stepping into the luxury world as we gather fashion leaders from around the globe to host fashion shows, panel discussions and pop-up shops.

It goes without saying that fashion is a feeling, as well as a way of life. Beauty is too. As Black women, we are a presence. Our style and our culture are not trends. Our influence defies -geography and imprints the larger culture. This we know, and we’re proud to illustrate it throughout this issue with models, designers and photographers from the U.S., South America, the Caribbean, Europe and Africa, the latter where we turned our lens to showcase why Nairobi’s Kibera slums are among the most vibrant epicenters of fashion.

Credit: Brian Otieno

Along with featuring the informative “Cool Girl’s Guide to Paris,” we shine the spotlight on model Kadija Diawara, who is of Egyptian–Malian descent and a vision in her hijab, and model and actress Leyna Bloom, the first transgender woman of color to star in a film premiering at the Cannes Film Festival. When I saw Leyna on-screen in Port Authority, I just knew she’d be perfect for this issue too.

Essence is not only a global brand but a powerful movement. We’re as proud to -continue making waves as we are to be making strides throughout the world. It is our honor to be taking this journey with you.

In love, always…

MoAna Luu

Chief Content and Creative Officer 
Twitter: @MoanaLuu
Instagram: @MoanaLuu
E-mail: [email protected]

What I’m Loving Right Now:

Zelima Set: The vibrant pairing is from the new celebratory Pink Label by Anifa Mvuemba, the D.C.-based creator of Hanifa.

“Queen Fiyah” 2018: Parisian visual artist Alexis Peskine hammered gold nails onto wood planks for this provocative portrait. (@alexispeskine)

Mami Watta Jewel Set: A headpiece from La Falaise Dion of Cote d’Ivoire, the self-proclaimed “Queen of Cowries,” pays homage to the queen in you.

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