Years ago, in my childhood home, there was a framed magazine clipping that decorated one of my walls. It was of a column I’d saved from ESSENCE, written by then editor-in-chief Susan L. Taylor. I can’t quite recall the topic of that particular “In the Spirit,” but I still fondly remember the gorgeous black and white illustration at the top that stopped me dead in my tracks every time I opened the magazine. That framed message was one of the last things I saw before I turned in for the night and, in those moments, as a young Black woman trying to find my way in the world, it gave me hope that one day I’d figure it all out and be just as successful as those brilliant achievers who graced the pages of my favorite magazine.
Fast forward a few decades later, and the day has come where I have been invited to take the helm of the very same magazine that has inspired me my entire life. I am still pinching myself at the news!
I started my career at the magazine more than a decade ago, and have covered just about every area of importance to our lives, from fashion and beauty, to health and wellness, home, travel and parenting. I’ve also contributed feature articles on hot topics such as teen dating violence and childhood obesity. And I’ve had the great fortune to work with some of the most amazing editors in the magazine’s history, from Susan L. Taylor and Monique Greenwood, to Robin Stone and Tamara Jeffries, not to mention the countless writers I’ve edited, editors I’ve mentored, and incredible people I’ve met along the way. It’s been a privilege to tell our stories, and an honor to be able to take everything I’ve learned about journalism and use it to serve Black women.
So what’s next, dear family? Oh the possibilities! For the last 43 years, Essence has been that touchstone that illuminates, informs, inspires and elevates Black women. And I see no reason to stop now, especially when there is so much work to be done. While studies show that Black women are more optimistic about their lives than ever, we also largely believe the media does a poor job of reflecting our true selves. As Gandhi said, I believe “we must be the change we wish to see in the world.” The ESSENCE mission of empowerment has never been clearer–we must continue to counter the stereotypes that pigeonhole us in ways that stunt our success. We must celebrate our achievements, offer wise counsel in ways that bring meaning and peace to our lives, and provide a forum for critical conversations to take place, the kind of conversations that will help push our community forward.
It is my sincere hope that you will always see ESSENCE as a source of hope and inspiration. We will continue to build on our history of raising community awareness, and we take pride in our place as a trusted authority and source of journalistic excellence.
So as we look ahead with a new direction full of promise and joy, I make this promise to you: ESSENCE will always be the place where Black women come first. There’s nothing I’m more passionate about than bringing you the best, because you deserve nothing less. But I’ll need your help, and that’s why I’m excited to invite you to hang out with me on Google+ next Friday, August 9th at 12 noon ET, where I will be taking your questions, suggestions and advice on how ESSENCE can best serve your needs. If you can’t make it then, you can always drop me a note at Vanessa@essence.com. We care about what matters to you, and I can’t wait to hear from you.
Stay in touch,