Essence Magazine is to America’s women what Cleo is to Australia. Iconic, historic and necessary to the growth, progress and empowerment of today’s modern female. What gives Essence Magazine a more definitive edge is that is has been gone on to create avenues of exploration, empowerment and above all understanding of women of colour. Founded in 1968, Essence Magazine was launched as a magazine that spoke to, for and about African American woman, their beauty, their style and their lives in a voice that the major magazine publications seemed to bypass at the time.
This interview is very important to me as during my own journey as a woman of colour growing up in a country that didn’t have many media outlets catering to what I could identify with at the time as a female, Essence Magazine served as the oasis to my truth seeking desert. I vividly remember walking into Border’s Bookshop ( now defunct sadly ) and seeing its glossy cover gleaming at me from the stand, the faces of Aaliyah, Halle Berry or Angela Bassett looking down at me and me feeling like my questions would finally be answered. Daring to look at its exorbitant import price of $14.95 at the time, it was a small price to pay to feel like I belonged. Speed track a decade or so and I am still buying my copies, a little cheaper and quicker thanks to the likes of ITunes and Amazon.com and devices such as IPads and Kindles make delivery a breeze.
Filling that much needed gap over the last three decades for women of colour in America has seen the popularity and demand for Essence Magazine grow on a global scale, heralding readership as far and wide as Britain, Europe and the Islands. Thanks to the World Wide Web, Essence Online is now readily available to anyone and everyone interested in the magazines mainstream appeal, celebrity endorsement and thought provoking research, articles and information that spans beyond the definition and boundaries of colour. Speaking to Charreah Jackson, Essence Magazine Relationship Editor and a woman who has inspired my own literal journey, she sheds light on today’s Essence Magazine and the women who read it, learn from it and continue to keep it at the forefront as America’s most respected and sought after publication, proving that Essence is still holding its ground as the informant of beauty and knowledge no matter what your creed or culture.
Hey Charreah, thanks for taking the time to talk to Ms Hennessey Speaks Blog – how is life treating you?
Life is good! I am excited to kick off another year, though it seems 2013 flew right by me.
You are the relationships editor for one of my favourite women’s magazines in the US called Essence – a true pioneer in the magazine game for woman of colour! How long have you been with Essence and how did you start your editor’s journey with such a lucrative magazine?
Currently I am the Relationships Editor for ESSENCE where I manage our love and dating content for the printed magazine and also work with our digital team on connecting with our audience online. I’ve been in this position for two years and this actually my second time working here. I previously was a web editor for the brand. In between my positions at Essence I was a social media manager at a fashion and beauty PR firm where I managed social media accounts and strategy for our brands like Tresemme and Motions.
I got my start at Essence as an intern while I was in college. I built strong relationships with editors during that time and was hired as an editorial assistant. I started four days after I graduated from college.
Essence is not readily available in Australia unfortunately and can only be found at certain news outlets but with huge export charges to pay – we’re talking about $15AUD against the $4USD you would look to pay for the magazine. How do you find your international traffic grows with the online version of the book and of course e-subscriptions now – has that enabled Essence to reach other countries and demographics around the world better?
Technology has definitely allowed media brands to have a further reach. Our website is read all over the world and also allows us as editors to quickly connect with readers all over the globe. Our print magazine is also available in tablet editions so readers can easily download.
You are the Relationships Editor for the magazine – that sounds quite intense but also fun. What does your position entail and what are the range of stories you get to work on?
It is a privilege to serve women of color in the one the most important areas of their lives: their relationships. We provide a full range of relationship resources for our readers including tips on sex, dating, marriage and breakups. One of my favorite projects I worked on was our Storybook Wedding contest where we flew six couples to Walt Disney World and helped the men surprise their ladies with a proposal. I also represent the brand on media outlets like CNN to discuss relationships and help plan discussions for our annual ESSENCE Festival, one of the country’s largest social gatherings.
What would you say is a typical day in the life of you as an Essence Editor?
There is no typical day. We are usually working on three issues at a time so you are planning for content four months away while promoting the current issue. I am always reading and listening in search of story ideas. I work with our editors to discuss cover story ideas and the text that is on the cover. I also manage our internship program.
What do you think has been the ongoing reason behind Essence continued success, with each generation change and of course social media today – what makes Essence the go to magazine for woman of colour?
It really boils down to trust and relationship. Our reader feels connected to the brand and that also means she has no problem telling us what she doesn’t like.
What would say are the highs and lows of being an editor of a major national and at time internationally recognised magazine in America?
It is a privilege to be charged to empower some of the most amazing people on the planet. As a monthly magazine we have to think in advance, which doesn’t always allow for of-the-minute responses when breaking news happens. We have to be creative in covering things that have already taken place.
Women that have and continue to inspire you and why?
I have many mentors and women that inspire me. I had the pleasure of interviewing Mara Brock Akil and her husband Salim for our February issue and they are such an inspiration of a creative and hardworking couple. Of course I am still playing the new Beyoncé. I love that she is a woman who has not let her relationship status or family be what defines her. As a Black woman, it’s also great to see her embrace her God-given sexuality. As a writer, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Octavia Butler and so many other Black women have motivated me and taught me so much.
Are you an RnB / Soul or Hip Hop and what song best describes your spirit and why?
“Golden” by Jill Scott has been my theme song since it was released. I LOVE Jill and this song captures how I like to treat each day. I actually was at 106 & Park the day she released the video for the song and consider that fate.
Your future with Essence and will it ever expand on a global level, like to Australia, do you think?
I definitely want to see and serve more of the world as my career grows. I am developing new resources to serve today’s modern woman. Stay tuned!
For more information on Charreah Jackson and Essence Magazine visit: www.essencemag.com