Essence Editor-In-Chief Angela Burt-Murray addresses the criticism of the publication’s new White fashion director.

Burt-Murray tells Black Voices in a written statement that she personally hired Ellianna Placas because she respects the brand’s audience.

“I understand that this issue has struck an emotional chord with our audience,” says Burt-Murray. “However, I selected Ellianna, who has been contributing to the magazine on a freelance basis for the last six months, because of her creativity, vision, the positive reader response to her work and her enthusiasm and respect for the audience and our brand. We remain committed to celebrating the unique beauty and style of African-American women in Essence magazine and online at Essence.com.”

On Friday evening, Michaela angela Davis’ tweet broke the news to several Essence readers and fashion insiders. CLUTCH’s exclusive coverage of Davis’ thoughts on the issue, in addition to other media professionals can be read here.

Burt-Murray is obviously impressed with Placas work. But can Placas’ “creativity and vision” communicate Black women’s style? Sound off!

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  • Layla

    WHOA NELLY. I personally don’t find anything offensive about Essence hiring a white fashion director. What I do offensive is that some (like the commenter above) use skin color or being “mixed” as a means of attacking a person for a decision they don’t agree with. Must we really stoop so low?? Then by that token, I’m sure there are/were plenty of people who thought Michaela Angela Davis is too lite brite to be considered a “real black woman” to represent the masses of black women. It’s ironic that she be the one to plunge this issue to the forefront.

    What if the audience for a mainstream magazine reacted with such outrage and doubt of them hiring a black fashion director? I doubt any of us would sit back and take kindly to them questioning if this black director could do her/his job. Paint it any color you want, but it’s still racism. Instead of hanging this women out to dry based on her skin color alone before even seeing what she’s about, I choose to give her a chance. She might actually step up to the plate and showcase more aspiring black designers, something past directors have sorely missed out on. Where was the outcry then??

    I agree with Ari 100% and I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. We may be black women but that doesn’t mean we’re going to automatically vibe with one another, understand each other, have the same opinions, viewpoints or even style. There is no such thing as “black style” in my opinion. That’s limiting the scope of who we are and putting us into one box, very much the same way so many who cry out against white repression.

    Frankly I’m tired of Michaela Angela Davis setting off black/white controversy when I personally don’t think there is one. In the past month alone, her racism towards white people has been jarring. Her article in Essence about her daughter pledging a white sorority and now this. Remember folks, “content of character” not color of skin. We have to be about it before we can expect others to follow suit.

    • Akai*

      Layla wrote: “I’m tired of Michaela Angela Davis setting off black/white controversy when I personally don’t think there is one. In the past month alone, her racism towards white people has been jarring. Her article in Essence about her daughter pledging a white sorority and now this. …We have to be about it before we can expect others to follow suit.”

      I don’t know if Michaela is employed right now but, if she’s not, it’d only be natural to wonder if she wanted the fashion director position at Essence as I sensed underlying ‘stuff’ in the volleys she and Burt-Murray lobbed. Although I find her dead wrong and being dramatic and racist regarding this issue, from what I’ve seen Michaela’s a sensitive, kind and thoughtful individual and I don’t think she’s a racist or her intent to stir up black/white controversy.

      There’ve been times when I’ve respected, or at least understood, Michaela’s (political) POV – though she can be way too apologist regarding rap/hip hop for my tastes – but I also read that editorial about the sorority and was like “Seriously!?” I got the vibe her daughter’s choices may be/have been a direct reaction to – and rejection of – racial bitterness and anger she’s witnessed.

      Michaela only sees BW as her sisters (her words) so it was a bit confusing to witness how that ‘sisterhood’ didn’t forbid a public tossing of Burt-Murray under the bus. She’s talked about black women sort of ostracizing her and judging her as ‘not really black’ so, as I previously mentioned, sometimes she reminds me of others I know who try extremely hard to compensate for their features by kissing @ss, being self-effacing, uber-‘down’/’conscious’ and often ‘loudly’ anti-white to get others to ‘love’ and accept them — which I find pathetic, desperate, useless and a complete waste of time.

      I’m thinking she may have once worked for Vanity Fair, but Michaela’s career appears to have primarily been limited to outlets like Essence, Vibe and Honey, and this could very well have been of her own choosing, but that also makes me think and wonder.

    • Layla

      Akai: Speak on it sister! I couldn’t agree with you more. I don’t think Michaela is steadily employed right now so it did cross my mind that her reaction to this decision was driven by her hurt feelings that she wasn’t chosen for the position. I also found it contradictory and disturbing that while she holds the stance of black women supporting one another, she chose to very publicly rail and condemn Angela for her decision to hire Placcas.

      Exactly my reaction too! It seemed to me that her daughter wanted to come up from underneath her mama’s constant anti-white rants and prejudices and made her own decision. Good for her!

      I too find the loud and proud, almost militant zulu sentiments of Michaela to be disingenuous, insecure and desperate, as a means of overcompensating for her light complexion. It’s just so extra! I also think it’s the driving force behind her creating these unnecessary black/white controversaries. Girl please. What angers me is that because she’s so loud about it, the masses will mistakenly take her to be the representation of black woman on this topic when she certainly doesn’t represent my opinion on it.

    • LisaT

      Keep your head up Angela! Michaela is messy and has no fashion or common sense.

  • Akai*

    Jealousy and hate against light and/or mixed chicks?
    “Leave it to Angela Burt Murray’s mixed self…”

    Hate for whites?
    “…all you crusaders for the white man… …the proverbial “enemy’ come and infiltrate our businesses. It’s bad enough white own the magazine…” and “…house negro’s [sic] feel the need to incorporate white’s [sic] into our culture.”
    Check! Check!

    “…control dyke Michelle.”
    Check! Check! Check!

  • Personally, I don’t really care about all this simply because I don’t intend to buy the magazine anyway. I stopped buying it because I found it too boring, that’s just me. I have a few old souvenir copies lying around somewhere. Last time I bought Essence was in 2004 or something like that.

    Besides, in terms of fashion, I don’t let a magazine dictate to me what I am going to wear, I wear whatever I like to wear depending on how I feel, so far as I feel comfortable in it.

    Besides, there are just so many more important things happening right now than this magazine, seriously.

    Good luck to Essence magazine.

  • The Burt chick just presented a good argument as to why she could be replaced by a white woman. She’s not the sharpest tool in the box.

  • Guerdley

    Yeah, I kind of thought the uproar was a little wacko. Do ppl even realize how many white people are penning the editorial we read in black/urban magazines? A lot. A whole damn lot- and it really doesn’t matter as long as we and our glorious culture remain the topic of conversation. I mean really, I can’t name every member of the Wutang Clan, but if some writer at Vibe can, along with a bunch of other fun facts about the iconic group- whose more qualified to submit a feature for a story on the topic? Him or me?

    Now if this chick, this new white girl, flipped the script and started pedaling features that catered to white consumers– 10 Top Ways How to get those beautiful blues eyes brighter! Or some sacrilegious shit like that- we have a problem and need to break out the pitch forks, but a job is a job. If chick is qualified for it, let her shine and let her live.

    (But she better do a damn good job!! Cuz we’re gunna be watching her like they watch Obama… Ya diiiiiiiiiiiiig ;)