The Pitiful State of Today’s Women’s Magazines

As far back as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with women’s magazines. In my memory, they’re forever intertwined with trips to the hairdresser, where I’d inevitably wind up parked under a dryer. Needless to say, I started reading Cosmopolitan, Vogue, and Elle at a pretty young age. Before age ten I wanted to be a “Cosmo Girl,” the kind of fun, fearless, and flirty gal that Helen Gurley Brown encouraged us all to be.

But by my teenage years, I wasn’t feeling Cosmo’s endless exhortations on how to please a man (there are just so many numbered lists and Bedside Astrology guides one can take!). My godmother read Essence, but it seemed boring to me then, with too many articles about finances and not enough fashion spreads and celebrity interviews for my then-immature taste. My sister was a regular reader of both Glamour and Mademoiselle, so I absorbed those. But my school friend Aisha’s cousin lived “in foreign” and she would send her the coolest mixtapes and magazines. It was through this cousin-of-a-school-friend that I discovered Bjork (that first mixtape had Human Behavior and Venus as a Boy on it — oh, and a little song called Creep by a then-unknown British band). This cousin also sent down used copies of Sassy, the magazine that revolutionized my goals in life. And oh. My. God, I loved Sassy.

That magazine opened up a whole new world to this island girl, it made me dream of starting a zine, moving to New York City, piercing my nose, and streaking my hair blue (I actually did those last two things, both of which turned out to be bad ideas for me). That magazine made me realize that I wasn’t as alone as I felt, there really were lots of girls who didn’t want to dress or think or behave like the Cosmo Girls did. For once there was a magazine that gave me mental stimulation, wrote informative articles on a variety of topics, and didn’t make me feel sad that I couldn’t buy all of the expensive things they were lovingly showcasing. It was a fun, engaging read and I looked forward to every tattered copy that came from abroad.

But Sassy wasn’t meant for me, really. It spoke to the young and hip, but the magazine was always targeted primarily at — as like, 97% of magazines are — at a white audience. This is never overtly stated. It’s simply understood, by the lack of ethnic women on the covers, in the ads, and in the fashion spreads. I always hungered for a magazine for my demographic — a black Sassy, if you will.

By the time I heard of Suede, it was “on hiatus.” I also missed the boat on Honey Magazine — and I’ve heard so many amazing things about that publication (I’d love to get my hands on some vintage copies, if anyone knows where I can get ‘em). Brown Sista remembers it fondly, but blames the demise of the publication on “multiculturalism.” In her opinion, that’s been a common theme in the demise of the three biggest magazines targeted at women of color. In her recent blog post, What Black Women Want, she explains her opinion further. “Multiculturalism does not work in magazines. You have to pick a target audience and then give that audience images and articles they can relate to and that validate them. This is what made Honey the phenomenon it was in the beginning. The articles were all targeted to young working class and urban Black women and featured fashions and models that we could identify with. It was a joy to go to the stand and pick up a magazine that one month would have Lisa Lopes on the cover and maybe India Arie or Jill Scott on the next. That however was all ruined when someone decided to take a magazine that was once aimed at Black women and make it multicultural. When I saw Jennifer Lopez and Pink on the cover, I knew what I once loved about that magazine was gone forever.”

Those thoughts crossed my mind when I picked up the last copy of Vibe Vixen, the one with Mya on the cover. From the minute I read the Mediaweek announcement about the mag’s imminent demise, I sought it out. I live in Miami, where it seems like bookstore owners don’t see black women’s magazines as a top priority. I worked at one of the coolest bookstores in the city, and was astounded when I couldn’t even find a copy of Essence on their shelves. Nor at the Barnes & Noble nearest my house. The only place I’ve been able to find Vibe Vixen near me, is randomly at a neighborhood Publix up the street. Compare that to a city like Atlanta — the last time I went through the Atlanta airport, Vibe Vixen was displayed proudly and just as prominently as Cosmo or Glamour or In Style. As it SHOULD be.

I always sought out and bought Vibe Vixen. I decided not to subscribe — I loved Vixen from the holiday issue with Kelis on the cover — but the magazine seemed too hit or miss for me to actually lay down the credit card and subscribe. It never was quite the black Sassy that I dreamed of — there was not enough irreverence or serious reading material — but no matter. It was fun and flirty. I loved what I saw – that Kelis issue had a good weight to it, there was lots to read (although that Brooke Crittendon interview REALLY didn’t need to be a two page feature), fabulous beauty tips that worked for me, and fashion spreads of women who looked like me. Hooray! Even better, Danyel Smith was EIC, and I’ve been mildly obsessed with her for years now. (Danyel Smith, Angela Nissel, Tia Williams, Shonda Rhimes – I am always fascinated by black women who are writing and creating and operating at the upper levels of the media ladder).

But like I was saying, Vibe Vixen was hit-or-miss from issue to issue. Check out this loving homage on The Fashion Bomb for some of Vixen’s covers and best beauty photos. But that Mya issue felt like the end. The volume felt slimmer, the content felt less weighty, the ad pages were sparse and that’s a bad sign… I wasn’t that surprised when it folded. But I did wonder what went wrong, and why specifically black women’s magazines didn’t seem to have staying power. I decided to e mail Suzanne Burge, one of the owners of Honey Magazine and ask her thoughts about the demise of black women’s magazines. Her response led me to believe that a big part of the issue is advertising dollars, or the lack thereof.

I think there’s a certain misunderstanding about our capabilities as Black Women. One on the Editorial side and one a misconception or disconnect from Advertisers because there really is no road map. No one to say how great we are, how are money is important and we are making the biggest decisions of our lives. I really believe that people like yourself are filling the void for a pop culture (urban) voice. Shows we have to depend on ourselves. I say ‘we’ because Honey is Independently owned. Seems that the Indie voices are strongest in the community and Thank God for (you all) and digital or there would be even a further disconnect…. There has been a big mismanagement in funds or content that has left us to feel that Black Female Magazines can’t do it. Yes! We can, but just needs to be done by the right group,” she said.

This advertising problem isn’t exclusively affecting black women’s magazines. It’s affecting the entire print publication industry. From dailies to weeklies to glossy magazines — all across the board, publications are feeling the pinch. Look — Jane magazine also closed, as did Elle Girl. Add the lack of incoming revenue to the advent and rise of the bloggers, and magazines have it even rougher. Suzanne continued to discuss that angle: “I want Honey to have a long life. We had to improve our technology, it’s just a start.. but at least there is a place to connect before we come back out. Without community it’s corporate speaking to readers.. one sided.. 6 weeks after the fact. The Web is the new form of photojournalism for the demo [demographic]. There is a place for both mag and web… but both should include community, resources and benefits. We have it better now than any other generation. ”

I see what she means. The web is revolutionizing the industry. You don’t have to wait six weeks to read the hottest summer hair tips, you can Google that, or visit your favorite beauty blog, and find something immediately. And Honey’s doing it smart, by offering a platform to some of the hottest black bloggers in the game.

Now those black women’s print magazines that closed — Vibe Vixen, Honey — have online versions. But Jane, daughter of Sassy — is totally no more. Visit Jane online and you get a sweet letter from Glamour –”With regret, Jane and janemag.com is no longer being published. In its place, we invite you to explore Glamour magazine and Glamour.com. We think you’ll love Glamour.com. Like Jane, it’s packed with everything smart, sexy women want to know — about your body, your beauty, your relationships … and more!” Damn. And thanks to that recent “black hair is a corporate don’t” scandal, Glamour just proved to me that they don’t get me.

They don’t understand that for black women, natural doesn’t necessarily equal political. By expressing that belief that every other race can wear their hair as it naturally grows, but black women shouldn’t because it’s “a fashion no-no”, they’ve distanced me as a reader and as an aspiring freelancer (there goes that article on the natural hair movement I was planning to pitch).

I can’t tell you how mad the quote Jezebel featured made me: “The style maven said it was ‘shocking’ that some people still think it ‘appropriate’ to wear those hairstyles at the office. ‘No offense,’ she sniffed, but those ‘political’ hairstyles really have to go.” And Glamour hasn’t yet responded to reveal the identity of the editor or to discredit the story by – gasp – actually featuring natural-haired black women in their magazine. I have one thing to say to that, and since I’ve taken a vow not to cuss on this site, this guy’s eyebrows say it best. More on workplace hair later.

Whatever – I don’t need Glamour to tell me whether I’m a do or don’t. Despite the pitiful state of women’s magazines, Suzanne Burge is right. We have it better now than we did before, thanks to the plethora of blogs and websites out there right now. We’ve got Clutch — I love Clutch! We’ve got Trace. And Lavish Magazine. And Blk Grl. And YMIB. Every week I get a new e mail from another new blogger, or another online magazine that’s just started and is offering fresh content to satisfy the disenfranchised print magazine readers.

The voices of black women of all varieties — thick, thin, relaxed, natural, all shades of beautiful — are out here, ready to be heard. Currently, I only read a few women’s print magazines — I subscribe to Bust, and I buy O, the Oprah magazine regularly. I also am loving Essence (that Jill Scott cover was fire!) and I’m feeling Ebony’s new direction. The latest issue is just incredible. And when I need a satisfying read from a perspective that isn’t in print — a perspective I’m looking for and identify with — there’s more and more brilliant black beauty and fashion sites popping up every day.

Do you have an online magazine or blog, or a favorite daily online read? Hit me up in the comments and tell me all about it! There’s room out here for all of us, and I’m constantly seeking fresh inspiration and more reading material.

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Comments

  1. Great post Bella! This post truly hits home for me, as Editor-in-Chief and owner of ymib.com, I know that it can be a rough road. I do think that like you said, print publications are just secondary now in comparison to the most fabulous bloggers, online mags, and interest targeted community sites. I subscribe to a handful of decor and creative living magazines,as design & creative living is my addiction. Nevertheless ymib.com is getting a little make-over due out sometime next month and I am sure you & the rest of our Circle of Sisters will be more than pleased with the new layout, features & content that will be offered…It’s going to be great! Nevertheless, I think that there is a huge movement in Nubian Women connecting creatively and inspirationaly on the web..and thats an incredibly needed & beautiful thing!

    I do think one magazine reached multicultural girls rather well, and that is Margarita Barry of Tint magazine(tintmag.com, unfortunately, the site is temporarily down)

    PS: check out http://lavishmagonline.com(coming soon)…I like their vibe thus far! & Mimi (mimimagazine.com)They have great articles!

  2. Chrissentially says:

    I totally agree with this post. I’m finding that rather than subscribing to a magazine i can either get only fashion tips, hair tips, great political perspectives, or good LIVING advice, I get online to look for what i want- it surely is cheaper! Also, you should include your blog in the “all-purpose, black women, must have” section. I’d totally buy a mag from you. You definitely have a devoted reader here.

  3. I still miss my Suede!!! It was the only fashion magazine for black women. It really spoke to me – a young black woman obsessed with fashion, beauty products, style and glamour. It’s so sad that it didn’t survive past four issues.

    That Glamour thing pissed me off ROYALLY! I sent a strongly worded letter to their editor and got back this as a response –

    Thank you very much for your letter about a Glamour editor’s reported comments
    on hairstyles for work. We want to take this opportunity to assure you: Her
    remark—that Afros are not office-appropriate—does not represent Glamour’s view.

    The junior staffer in question was speaking without her superior’s knowledge
    or approval. We at the magazine strongly disagree with her comments; they go against the spirit of inclusion Glamour stands for. We are proud of our diverse readership, and strive to ensure that all women can find themselves represented in the magazine. Obviously, this is a grave matter, and this staffer has been seriously censured; in addition, Glamour has extended a full apology to the law firm she addressed.

    We value your opinion, and hope you continue to read Glamour—a magazine that celebrates the beauty of all women.

    Sincerely,
    Cindi Leive
    Editor-In-Chief, Glamour

    I won’t be convinced unless I see a printed apology in the next issue.

  4. Ack, I don’t read any magazines with regularity because unless I’m stuck somewhere without internet access I have no need. Alas, I’ve contributed to the downfall of the publishing industry. I suppose that the smart magazines have failed because the readers of “smart” can more easily get smart from the internet or a newspaper than a magazine. Unfortunately, the only magazines that seem to be available have monthly new ways to keep your man entertained in bed (next up, juggling?) or are celeb-obsessed. Neither are for me.

    And for women wearing their hair naturally in law, what a bunch of B.S. A friend of mine wears it as naturally as it grows or in twists and she starts this September working for the Appellate Division of New Jersey. She’s fantastic and smart and a hard worker and it shows no matter her choice in hair style.

  5. Honey was the isht back in the day. I kept all my copies and bound them. I flip through them periodically. I’m excited that they have an online publication now. My best friend just got asked to be a Honey Bee repping Austin! That’s when I found out Honey was still hanging in there.

  6. Another magazine Heart & Soul left and then came back. I buy it when I see it on the shelves even if I’m not loving that issue – I just want it to stay in circulation! Aside from that I don’t buy magazines anymore; I even cancelled my subscription to Essence (gasp). I really like ymib.com, 55secret street, I like Her Style, and fitsugar.com

  7. Bella,
    this was a super splendid post (really). I must confess I am a mag-a-holic and use to subscribe to several at one time. However, I stopped because I had an issue w/not seeing women like me (meat on the bones, but still healthy). The only mag’s I subscribe to now are; Essence (they hit the mark w/Jill Scott), Ebony, Black Women and I sometimes purchase…O and Jet (depending on the topics). I view Honey on-line and love it! Now, I have a few blogs I read on a daily…here we go… Afrobella (of course), Shake Your Beauty (a must read for me), Fly, 1969 (big fan), Royce’s Daughter, Erica B., Single Ma (Finances), Los Angelista, The Field Negro and Thick Misses. These are all wonderful, do check them out if you haven’t already.

    On another note…Bella, I would like for you to do a post about the “Do’s and Don’ts ” of hair in the work place. I know someone whose dealing w/this issue right now and maybe you can give your opinion about hair in the workplace. Again, great post!!!!!

  8. Coming up over the weekend, StAr! Not to make excuses but this was a crazy week – Monday kicked off with my crown flying off into the sink while I was Waterpikking. Tuesday was an emergency dental appt. to fix said crown. Wednesday, one of our best friends moved to North Carolina. (sadness). So over the weekend I’ve got a TON of hair and beauty stuff to write, at the top of that list is a post on workplace hair, and second on the list is wedding styles for natural bellas part 2. Thanks for writing!

  9. Bella,
    thanks for the update and not to put anymore pressure on you…but are tee-shirts coming soon…smile

  10. Bella,

    I loved Suede too! For some reason, I just can’t let go of my March 2005 issue featuring Zoe Saldana. Could’t find the mag after that…go figure.

    This was a fab post. I’m an avid reader have to admit that you are on your way, girl. Keep up the good work.

    ty!

  11. Nameislove says:

    I miss Suede too! But there is a new blog spot that is already great and refreshing! here is the link: oldskoolnew.blogspot.com. It’s really new but it’s great! She even talks about afrobella!

  12. Thanks Afrobella for this great post! It’s Dede – from Clutch….I love all the magazines you’ve mentioned! YMIB.com is a great site and lots of great articles and I like the others for different reasons. I just think we need to support all of our magazine choices out there. Cause I think it’s a shame that every year tons of magazines can come out in print for the Caucasians, but we can’t even keep one out. I think we are always competing with each other instead of supporting each other – there is enough space and opportunity for us all. I know for Clutch we support each and everyone out there and is here for them all in anyway.

  13. This post is exactly how I’m feeling. Just read the article in Clutch about Naomi Campbell complaining about fashion’s preference for white women. It’s sad because black women are the most beautiful in the world. I wanted to like Vibe Vixen so much but there was a substance lacking to it. Honey was amazing when it first came out. I was one of the original readers and also stopped buying it when the format changed. I think Vixen also didn’t know what it wanted. Everytime I picked it up there was a new editor. Why is it so bad for a magazine, an institution, to just be BLACK? I think that done the right way that black magazines could have amazing staying power. I love Essence but as a young twentysomething I feel as if it’s not really written for me. It’s like picking up my big sister’s magazines. Perhaps they should try to take the reins and create a younger sister publication. I love my blogs but sometimes you just want to take something with you on the road trip or to the doctor’s office. If Naomi wants to start an agency, maybe she should get her hand in to print media as well.

  14. I completely agree with everything that was said in your post. I am always on the hunt for good magazine reads to replace the ones that disappeared, but now we live in a world where better reads exist in blogs and online mags. one of my personal favs is oldskoolnew.blogspot.com – this blog is fairly new but i can already tell its goin to be refreshing and fun with the added bonus of shopping. i can relate to her vibe bc ive been told oh so many times about what an “ole soul” i am, so in that respect i feel like i know her. and of course i love afrobella bc i love to read about people who are like me from people who are like me. cant wait for the next post!!

  15. Wow Bella, you have once again managed to express my thoughts exactly! There is definately a lack of quality reading out there for women like myself! It angers me to see the fluff they put out there for African American women! Of course we love to read about clothing, shoes, hair, etc, but I need a nice intellectual read every once in awhile! I must say, I was an avid reader of Suede! The page they had dedicated to natural hair salons, with phone numbers and all was great. There were times during Suede’s tenure that I wanted them to feature clothing and shoes the average women could affored, instead of only things we could dream about. I enjoyed Honey as well, but the online Honey magazine is questionable. I see spelling errors on the home page, and up until yesterday, I noticed that they had mispelled Lauryn Hill’s name. I’m not trying to nitpick, but I just expect more. I would also like to see everyday women on the covers of magazines in addition to the same 5 or so famous black women. So sorry to vent, but I would just hope that in some way, all of the opinions here on this page can count! Your site is truly a breath of fresh air! You have a true fan in me. I check your blog multiple times everyday just to witness a smart, talented, artist that you are at work!!
    Love,
    Syretta (Greenstar)

  16. This was a wonderful post thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    Some magazines to check out:

    Mahogany Magazine: http://www.mahogany-mag.com

    Black Health: http://www.blackhealth1.com

  17. I think the problem is that “black” women magazines and I use that term loosely, is that they often try too hard to be the the white version of magazines that already exist. That’s completely boring, stupid, and artless. You know why Essence rocked, because Essence was Essence. It wasn’t a black Cosmo or black Vogue, it wasn’t trying to be. I don’t want to read a black version of a “white” magazine. I will just read the “white” magazine. I like Vogue just fine. I don’t want or need a black version of it. It’s kind of pathetic to aspire to be a weak darker carbon copy of an already rockin’ magazine. Kind of like K-Fed doing rap, does that work? No I don’ think so. I’m not feeling the black barbie doll/sorority girl thing, unfortunately that’s the type that usually has the funds to do this kind of thing. Not feeling the mainstream black woman thing, which unfortunately what we keep getting rehashes of. I never did get the whole Honey thing, I wish I had, but I didn’t. This is what I saw Honey as, “look we’re just as boring and ordinary as upper middle class white women, we can be black and vanilla, but with kinky, dready hair …” Oh great…I like this Nawja Moses chick, now if she started a magazine, I’d want to see that, she’s unique and fresh and original. I’d definitely write a check to see what her crazy butt what put out.

    http://www.styleaholics.com/founder.html

    Jane

  18. Bella, Sassy was one of my favorite magazines as a teen and tween. I subscribed to all of the teen magazines but Sassy held a special place in my heart.

    Like Miss New Beauty I so loved Suede magazine. In my opinion Suede was the AA woman’s version of Vogue. I read many blogs and have one of my own but nothing can take away from print media for me. I read so many magazines including a number of black French,European and Jappanese fashion magazines.

  19. I hope the editor in question was not a black female. The funny thing about this editors comments is I have a picture on my refrigarator of a Glamour do. The Glamour do was a plus sized black woman with natural hair(medium sized fro). I think the caption is someting along the lines of natural is always better.

  20. TheBeautifulOne says:

    Interesting new post!
    The only time when I want a fashion magazine I take a ten minute taxi to where the American Army base is here: Itaewon. There’s a small but great English only book store and they have O magazine. I’ll buy O from time to time, Essence ONLY when it has interesting, thought provoking articles about finance, health issues, etc. Essence lost me years ago when it decided to become more celebrity obsessed (there’s only so many celebrity covers I can take) and superfiicial. They’ve followed the trend of selling their mag by using celebrities and there’s just to much product pushing going on for me. Other than that, I buy Lucky for trends in everyday American fashion, French Vogue (because of the articles and the photography, truly inspiring) travel magazines, Interview (may this mag never fold!) and the French Elle, etc.
    I’m more into fashion inspiring me on many levels than reading about how a celebrity overcame this, that and the other.

  21. TheBeautifulOne says:

    To Glamour Puss:
    I could not get enough of Sassy when it debuted! I had a subsription and everything! Ha! I loved that a magazine talked about something different, the articles were interesting, the photography was fresh and new. I didn’t hop on the Jane train too much as sometimes the fashion was a little futuristic, but Jane Pratt really did create something new and innovative at that time and I haven’t seen it since. My mother and I used to devour Mirabella. Do you remember this one?

  22. TheBeautifulOne says:

    Oops!
    It’s really too early here in Seoul, I just looked at my post and it’s terrible English.
    The first sentence should start: When I want a fashion magazine…Sorry Bella.

  23. Bella.

    I read that Glamour link and that ish is just scandalous! But truth has a way of coming to the light. It just goes to show you how the culture of power continues to flex and appropriate what they deem to be acceptable.

    Black magazines. Hmmm. I love Essence ( A childhood addiction for a beautiful black glossy). I read “have it all magazines” like “Better Homes and Gardens”, “Real Simple”, “O Magazine”, and “Fast Company” and “Entreprenuer.” Anything that helps me to feel empowered.

    Overall; magazines are a great resource for quick inspiration; particularly because of their powerful imagery. Magazines give us hope for a better tomorrow and blends into the mythical fabric of a woman having it all: The dream career, finding perfect love, the hot and sexy body, the perfect hair, 2.5 kids, great sex, flat abs, dream vacations with the gurls, me time, volunteering, and all other kinds of perfect womanhood. However there are some facts about mags that have put my rose colored contacts into perspective.

    A magazine’s number one adjective is to create profit by selling ad space.
    (Madison avenue is the boss; and the product pusher).

    Most magazines are under the umbrella of three or four corporate giants.
    (Lack of diversified information and for the most part the same information is gussied up and regurgitated from publication to publication)

    Magazines can perpetually make women feel as if they can never measure up
    (Here’s a situation where everyday women compare themselves to models and actresses who have an army of personal trainers, dieticians, personal chefs, makeup artists, personal wardrobe stylists, hair stylists, colorists, daily mani/pedi and well you get my point…and to ad insult to injury….an airbrushed and photoshopped image to perfection.

    Some of these September issues are like encyclopedia’s. And you have to hit at least 60 ads before you even get to the editor’s page.

    Online blogs: YBF, the low culture of “Media Takeout”, Dlisted (cause it’s wild and funny as all get out ), and CRUNKTASTICAL.

    However I will say this. Afrobella as a refreshing blog that is in a whole nother category because it iisn’t filled with the sour grapes of resentment, anger, bitterness and judgement that so many of our black blogootys (particularly gossip blogs) are filled with. While certainly entertaining, the most celebrated of black blogs are filled with superficial one dimensionality. I mean…do I really care that Kim Karshardin…has booty implants? And why do I care that Beyonce fell during a stage performance?

    Thanks Bella for keeping it real and discussing issues that are a bit more meaningful; at that are at least beyond shallow.

  24. Hey Bella,
    I recently started visting your site and i absolutely love what you’re doing! I love being able to see my thoughts/feelings in writing from the voices of other women and this post was definitely one of those times! I have stopped buying magazines altogether for the very reasons mentioned and decided to focus my need for good reading into books. So…i’m going a little off subject but i’m wondering if you have any advice on a good book review or book blog site? Does something like this exsist or am i making things up to suit my interest? LOL Thanks.

  25. I had to let go of Essence for a while. They were really on this “you ain’t got a man-here’s why/how to get a man in 7 days or less” kick for a while. Ever since Time Warner took over,I feel the quality of the articles have gone down. Susan Taylor is all the way on the last page. I really love Ebony and Jet even more now and buy the Jet every other week or so.

  26. “Most magazines are under the umbrella of three or four corporate giants.
    (Lack of diversified information and for the most part the same information is gussied up and regurgitated from publication to publication)” Bella

    “I had to let go of Essence for a while. They were really on this “you ain’t got a man-here’s why/how to get a man in 7 days or less” kick for a while. Ever since Time Warner” msnyc718

    I know…fudge, Essence so sucks now. I used to love that magazine. That was a real woman magazine, now it’s just, “Help me get a man, black men are evil, here are some weight tips…” Just dumb, dumb, dumb. Any black women magazine that is obsessed with the black man are the devil angle, I don’t want to deal with them. Oh yeah and if I hear another story on the “lowdown” I’m going to smack someone. There aren’t that many straight black men that are carrying on a secret life with other men. I’ve been around the block many times and I know. The impression that it’s an overwhelming presence of “lowdownism” in the black community is complete bs. There are a great deal of high profile black women who are afraid of men who go out with obviously gay men, but there are lots of white women who do that to (see Liza Minelli.) I mean Terry MacMillian’s husband, who couldn’t see that guy was obviously gay.

    Jane

  27. Yes beautiful one, I remember Marabella. I think it stopped publishing when I was about 12 years old. I liked Marabella a lot too.

    I have a subcription to Jane, and as the magazine is no longer in publication the company is going to send me Glamour in its place. I don’t want to read Glamour until the company issues an apology for its idiot editor.

    I think one of the problems fashion magazines are having in this country is the pushing of celebrities and less of fashion as art(like French Vogue).

  28. know…fudge, Essence so sucks now. I used to love that magazine. That was a real woman magazine, now it’s just, “Help me get a man, black men are evil, here are some weight tips…”
    Jane

    You said it all with that quote. I still can’t believe the Puffy and Kim were on the cover as an example of black love. Why not Boris Kojoe and his wife or Samuel L. Jackson and his wife. I mean really, what does Essence magazine’s owners and editors want us to believe,think and feel about ourselves when they portray that type of relationship as the ideal for BW.

    Jane thats one reason I like French and Japanese fashion magazines because they are fashion magazines, not magazines about how to live your life and have it all.

    American Elle can drive me up the walls some months with its articles about femminism and how women need to stay home one month and go to work and support the family the next. I undertand that its important to expose different viewpoints but this magazine just throws complelty different viewpoints without a major theme month after month.

  29. There aren’t that many straight black men that are carrying on a secret life with other men. I’ve been around the block many times and I know.
    Jane

    One of my best friends growing up is now a drag Queen and I will add you would be surprised if you knew how some men get down. His photo albulm almost killed me.

  30. I was a Marie Claire fan for a long time. I really enjoyed their creative articles concerning what was in women’s purses from around the world and women’s issues in general. Then they changed and it just seemed like they were trying to keep up with magazines like Vogue and Cosmopolitan. Like they wanted to dumb the magazine down. I will say that Essence and Ebony appear to be getting better. I’m hoping Essence follows the path that Marie Claire abandoned.

    Besides, I can’t name one time that Marie Claire featured an African-American on the cover. They’ll feature Asians, Puerto Ricans, and Angelina Jolie :) but nobody Black.

  31. Bella,

    I’m waiting on the corporate hair discussion. I’m in a rut with this issue as we speak. I am looking for a new job in Accounting but I am also letting my relaxer grow out. I have been either wearing twist outs, braids, or just slicked back into a ponytail. Many of my friends and fam insist that I should straighten it out before interviews. However, I don’t think that I should be limited to straight hair in the corporate world neither am I particularly interested in working for a company that would have me conform this way. I’m looking for styles that aren’t intimidating without having to conform and flat iron it into submission. Please Help!!

  32. TheBeautifulOne says:

    Robin, here’s the question:
    What type of industry will you entering? From there the answer will be easy.
    Hair becomes an issue when you make it one. You’re looking for a new job that should be your only focus. I know that you will go to your interviews looking poised and professional. As long as you have the skills and poise and professionalism that it requires to land whatever job you are seeking then hair should be the last thing that you think about. So many people think that natural hair is about bucking the system or not conforming. It isn’t. Hair is just hair. I know Afrobella will have a post about this because I and other people have said this comment before, but really it is.
    Now get ready to look great from head to toe and show them that you have the skills to pay the bills.

    Good luck with the job search!!!

  33. TheBeautifulOne says:

    To Glamour Puss:
    You are so on the mark. French Vogue, almost any Japanese fashion mag are the standard of what a real fashion magazine should be in my opinion. I grew up with Vogue and Essence (when it had integrity) Life magazine, etc. in the house. French Marie Claire is a favorite. American Elle has great photography but the articles are too over the top at times. No, when I feel like putting my books down for a minute, I buy a Real Simple or Lucky. Domino is the only magazine that I’ve subscribed to in a long time.
    A blog that I check daily is http://www.thesartorialist.blogspot.com. Amazing!!!!!
    Check out the photos of the Harlem citizens!!!

  34. afrobello says:

    How topical for me, Bella. I temped at a women’s magazine last year, and you’d better believe that the running of those publications on the inside is reflected by what you see on the newsstands. This one isn’t even geared to any ethnic persuasion. Actually, it’s promoted as if its articles are of interest to all women. Yet, the storage room of back issues reveals only a couple women of color on any given cover, going back many years. It’s a lily white affair in all departments – sales, marketing, and the big execs. It’s a shame that the industry can’t produce magazines that acknowledge our shared experience as Americans. They’re so busy creating more division. Then again, they’d only offer you a cover once in a blue moon and maybe exposure in a fashion spread. I don’t think it would kill Elle or Vogue to explore Black women’s hair care. You do still share a gender with natural blonds, right?

  35. @glamour puss: i think puffy & kim were on the cover because susan l. taylor is puff’s godmother but i could be wrong?? this is just a rumour i heard.

    @the beautiful one: it is ALL about french Vogue! wow, that magazine’s fashion spreads are wicked. british Vogue is brilliant, too. i think the US one is a bit too ‘celebrity-party’. it seems more like Tatler.

    this is a great post. one thing that i’d also like to say is it is good that there was some choice in the past but deeply saddening that there is not choice anymore. i love reading magazines and even in the UK, there was a new black girl’s magazine called Colures, not in the same vein as Suede since it is more luxe but i think it has great potential.

    i just think we live in a global culture that frowns upon ethnic minority mags but they matter. that glamour comment proved that.

    suede was a brilliant point in the timeline of black magazines.

  36. by the way, if anyone would like to contribute to my potentially one-off magazine [kerosene], please e-mail me at kerosenemagazine@gmail.com. it’s going to be an afro-diaspora journal on politics, culture, music and that subject girls love, fashion :)

  37. WOW !

    I loved this post. Everytime I go to the bookstore I think the same thing. I LOVED Honey – used to subscribe even (sorry I have thrown them all away – my collection was out of control). I really am not sure why I keep them.

    Loved your article !

    Renee
    http://www.artofexoticdancing.com/miami

  38. This is a very thought provoking blog on very many levels. It has always perplexed me as to why magazines aimed at African American or Caribbean women never do that well. I used to read Essence and I stopped a while ago because it no longer interested me and I got tired of fighting through the ads before I got to the editorial. Also I found it to be a bit thin, I like my magazines to fat as well as phat. Also what is with that ‘go to page 189 to read the rest of the article?’ There I am reading away at an article and then it ends on that page and I have to flick all the way to the end to finish. Hmm, not liking that at all. Essence is beautiful to look at but as someone mentioned before it is a bit on the old side. I did like Honey a lot and felt that it hit the mark but I found it hard to get hold of copies. Over here we have Pride magazine which is doing a good job and a new magazine called True and another one called Colours. So things are looking up. As for that ignorant remark made in Glamour magazine – well they can go to hell!! Black women will and do wear their hair as they please whether it bothers them or not. What a retarded comment to make.

  39. tinevimbo says:

    Bella this really hit home for me, we also have the same problem down here in Southern Africa, you would think that perhaps being in an african country there would be more magazines targeted for black women, except for O magazine and True love which are both great reads for african women there really is not that much, the shelves are filled with the South african versions of the cosmo’s, elle,glamour and all your other glossy magazines that you can think of, which still do not cater for african women. I love reading and i love magazines but ive had to stop buying many of them because although on the surface it looks like they cater for everyone they really dont, all you need to do is read their “beauty articles” or “how to have great hair” articles to realise that the magazine is not meant for you. And i can count the number of times i have seen a woman of colour on any of these magazines. It breaks my heart actually, but thanks for yet another great post

  40. TheBeautifulOne says:

    Afrobella, you have truly been an inspiration to me.
    I’ve finally published my first blog and would like to invite you and anyone else who’d be interested in viewing Seoul, South Korea through my eyes.
    Here’s the address: http://www.nearandfar.wordpress.com
    Have great morning. It’s bedtime on this side of the world.

    Merci bien!

  41. Hi, Bella! A great post. I too have been a magazine junkie since I was about 10 years old. I was so excited when I got my first subscription to Seventeen. While I have a (gift) subscriiption to Essence, I find that my need for fashion info is often satisfied mo re by Elle and Vogue. Trace magazine is great (although I was conflicted about the tone of their article on mixed-race women in this year’s Black Girls Rule issue). However, with that said, Honey magazine (the original five issues put out by the original editers) was the absolue best magazine I ever read. I felt like it really spoke to me as a thirty-something, mulifacteded, and not quite mainstream African-American women. However, after Honey was sold (to Vanguard Media first?)it became a shadow of itself. Suede almost caputured that original flavor, but in my opinion suffered from trying to be too “mulicultural” (as described in your post and by other commenters).

    I have four of those original issues of Honey in storage if you’re interested, Bella :-)!

  42. Love this post Bella. I think the attact on our hair can be seen as an attact on black identity(like AA names) and also some non black people don’t understand that our hair does not grow naturally straight.

    American Marieclare was very nice in the begining, now its spilaed into something else.

  43. T.Maria please share what was written about mixed girls in the new issue of Trace.

  44. Great article, as always! Bella you can purchase those copies of Suede magazine via the publisher. They are still the same price as if on the newstand. Kinda weird. Anyhoo.. as an youngin’ I read Essence and Black Enterprise every month. I felt connected to those publications as I saw people that looked like me on the cover. I had learned early about things like having a diverse investment portfolio all the way to how to curl my eyelashes. I STILL have the eyelash curler that I purchased after an intriguing article in Essence, that was the little beautifying that I could get away with at my young age. But as I got older Essence became very monotonous and redundant. Never really cared for Ebony and would read Jet once in a blue. Honey.. meh. Didn’t do it for me. Jewel…some of the fashion and makeup stories grabbed my attention. Suede.. LOVED IT!!! I was so disappointed when they closed shop. I’ve entered InStyle, Lucky, and the occasional O as well as Elle Decor and the main issues of Vogue..March and September, into my rotation of published glossies. But by and large, I get my fixes from blogs, such as AB, of course, Don’t feed the models, All about the Pretty, YBF, and a host of others that I check out every day.

    Lastly, I’m so interested to see wedding styles for natural hair, most particularly as I’m a beauty editor for World Bride Magazine. I think it would be a fabulous story to pitch to my editor.

  45. Speaking as someone who had subscriptions to Sassy, Suede, Honey, (in both its incarnations) and was thisclose to getting a subscription to Vibe Vixen (I had the card filled out and had already bought my US money order as I live in Canada) I was very upset to hear that Vibe Vixen had folded. I was hoping that this magazine would be different. I remember being younger waiting for my favorite magazines in the mail and that horrible day when I got a magazine and a sad but appreciative letter enclosed with a refund check for the remainder of my subscriptions. I hate to say it but this ALWAYS happens to fashion magazines for women of color. I had hoped things would change as I got older. Even as a young girl it didn’t take me long to realize that ‘Seventeen’ was not for me. So I saved my hard earned allowance for Subscriptions to better magazines that were more related to what I was interested in. Even MODE magazine, directed to full figured women of all ethnicities, eventually folded in 2001. My subscription for that went up in smoke. I just wish that we could keep these magazines afloat. Every time I found one I subscribed. Just to show the owners that I was more then vaguely interested. At this point all I can do is wait to see if someone else will take up the challenge.

    The funny thing is during the rise and fall of all these magazines ‘Latina’ magazine has somehow managed to grow, evolve, and stay on the newsstand. ‘Latina’ has been around for some 10 years now. So what’s so different about us that we can’t maintain enough interest and revenue to keep a fashion, health, beauty, entertainment, news & information magazine geared towards black women afloat?

    As for the hair debate as an afrobella myself I just see it as another wall to break down. There was once a time when women with hair that was ‘too short’ or ‘too long’ were deemed as having ‘political’ hairstyles. Even women who wore pants were ‘political’. At one point a woman who wanted to work at all was ‘political’.

    I never read Glamour magazine. Now that I see the editors not only have no clue about my demographic, but they are outright against me I see no reason to try a Glamour magazine. I’ll stick with Essence.

  46. Hello everyone. I am a magazine freak. I love reading blogs and magazines. I think the article was great and conveyed the way many black women feel about magazines. I invite everyone to check out my new blog site at http://wisdomispriceless.blogspot.com/

  47. Although I’m a bit older than you and the average Afrobella reader, I do enjoy checking your website 2x-3x a week. It keeps me current on what’s happening with urban, neosoul, edgy women of color like yourself.

    While most of you seem to have come of age in the 90s (emotionally and spiritually, i mean), I am a 70s “girl.” Essence was all there was in the late 70s and early 80s when I was a young woman. I’m out of its demographic range now, but I keep up my subscription out of loyalty. I prefer “More” and
    “O” magazine now.The articles are excellent.

    I have a blog where I write about matters of black women and faith and popular culture which perhaps some of you would like to check out: http://somethingwithin-rjweems.blogspot.com/

    Keep up the great work you’re doing Afrobella. By the way, I’m married to a Trini who loves when you talk about Trinidad.

  48. TheBeautifulOne says:

    For Ms. Nappiejean,
    All that I can say is THANK YOU. I will check out more of your blog but the piece where featured Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, really touched me. What you wrote about them really touched my heart because at heart I’m an artist as well. You made me listen to Nina Simone’s “Aint got no” song, what a force! I want to thank you for your blog, I thank God everyday for being alive and now what a treat it was to wake up this Sunday morning in Korea to the sound of Nina Simone and Billie Holiday. My blog focuses on my life here in Seoul but you’ve given me an idea about including perhaps a spiritual aspect to it. No matter where I am in the world, God has me and it is that belief that has taken me around the world fearlessly to experience and witness God’s magnificent artistry. Thank you!!!

  49. You just broke the news to me that Jane is no longer! But to be honest, the time I heard Jane was leaving but still LEAVING her name with the mag, I knew it was doomed. I think I’m sad about the Jane-post-Sassy era death, but I look forward to new publications that intertwine the multi-cultural avenues of fashion, beauty, music, and literature. Thank heavens that with blogging and the revolution of online communication, we can share our thoughts with one another — in regards to what’s hot, what’s missing, and what’s plain ridiculous. Suede was hot, as is Honey, Vibe Vixen, and Nylon (but barely enough ethnic beauties featured). Ever get into Flaunt and Paper? Those are artsy and fabulous. Now, I’m gonna go blog on myspace and say how Afrobella broke the news of a previously-favorite magazine’s death…wonder where all of the awesome writers such as Stephanie is gonna go?

    As editor of plastic surgery-related Web sites and blog — PlasticSurgery.com, iEnhance.com, and Beauty Chat — I do my best to adddress issues and topics that cover all lifestyles and interests. All suggestions welcome!

    ~ Elana

  50. Thank you so much for this post! I feel like I just had this conversation with one of my sorority sisters. “Multiculturalism” has been the downfall of many of the new black mags because for some reason people feel that there is something wrong with addressing the black community with articles that are revelant to our needs. I’m in grad school now working on a degree in mag journalism, and I hope to create a teen magazine for black girls since I don’t really see a teen mag that represents our girls on the market. This post helped to confirm for me the dire need for such a publication. As far as magazines that I read, I pick up Upscale and Jewel here and there. It seems like as far as black womens’ print mags are concerned, there is no real competition for Essence. I know this is mainly a money thing, since Essence is owned by Time and most of the other mags are independently owned. Maybe the answer is to form a media firm like Time that these independent mags could umbrella under. It breaks my heart to see so many great black mags go under…and I just subscribed to Vibe Vixen right before the announcement!

  51. Bella & fellow readers,
    I am a magazine freak! I love them!
    I too loooooved Honey Mag and Suede!! They were fab! Honey spoke to me on so many levels and I had never seen anything like Suede greared to Black women. It was amazing! I’m getting teary eyed because I miss them so much! I used to buy Glamour but my heart really hurts based on there statements.Whats a fly girl to do.?!!

  52. Nice post, bookmark it

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  1. [...] But by my teenage years, I wasn’t feeling Cosmo’s endless exhortations on how to please a man (there are just so many numbered lists and Bedside Astrology guides one can take!). My godmother read Essence, but it seemed boring to me then, with too many articles about finances and not enough fashion spreads and celebrity interviews for my then-immature taste. My sister was a regular reader of both Glamour and Mademoiselle, so I absorbed those. But my school friend…”more. [...]

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