I make jokes with my friends all the time that Cosmopolitan Magazine is like THEE sex guide for women of our generation. I call it the Girl Bible because it is loaded with how-tos, honest and hilarious stories of failed sexual encounters that we can all relate to, and answers to anonymous sex questions we were also afraid to ask. Cosmopolitan has been the magazine that we all turn to when we want to spice up our sex lives, need some ideas on how to entice him or even get some beauty tips from experts. It was an all-in-one magazine that left the shelves as quickly as it was stocked, but recently Cosmopolitan has found itself in some deep water.
Beauty writers released an article entitled, “21 Beauty Trends That Need to Die in 2015” labeling the five black models featured as old and outdated with an “RIP” sign and praising the white models with “Hello Gorgeous.” I couldn’t believe the blatant racism in this post. I’m not sure if it was a publicity stunt to generate more followers and readers or just blatant racism through media which isn’t a far fetched idea. This whole ordeal got me to thinking about my own experience with race in what I call popular publishing.
I thought back to when I landed my first internship at Shape Magazine. It wasn’t at all what I thought it was going to be. Perhaps I watched too much Devil Wears Prada or Ugly Betty because there was no fancy or artsy looking building, just a corporate one, with the standard dull gray cubicles. The fashion closet and beauty closet weren’t at all decked out like I thought it was going to be, but more noticeably, I was the only black person at Shape Magazine…and I was just an intern working for the New York minimum wage and college credit. I remember when I went for my interview, the first question they asked me about working for Shape was what could I bring to the table, looking around my answer was too easy. I said diversity. I was asked who are some women I would like to see on the cover. Once again too easy, there are several celebrity examples of African american women who lead healthy lifestyles in the public eye. I said, Angela Simmons, Francheska of Hey Fran Hey, Raven Symone and the list goes on of women who are have transformed right in the public eye. I walked out of there with an internship that easily.
During my internship, I realized that my ideas were just ideas. There was no platform or resources or support from my supervisors in executing everything that I wanted to accomplish there. I wanted to create more images of black women through these magazines, not just in Essence, Ebony, Jet or Jones. I wanted highly popular mainstream magazines that market to a larger audience to promote more positive images of black women. I soon realized that in order for that to happen the promotion of black faces needed to start internally, with staffing. Being the only black person on that entire floor was interesting. I had my moments of being racially self-conscious, especially when an expensive ring went missing from the fashion closet. I profiled myself, I thought oh man since I’m the only black person they must think I did it. There was no one to relate to who worked there. I wanted to document my natural hair journey using organic products for Shape Magazine, but all we got were shipments of regular shampoos and products not for women of color.
So it was coincidental that I attended a Cosmopolitan networking event a couple of weeks before this whole race ordeal and I remember telling a friend, there wasn’t enough melanin in the room. I was immediately turned off. There were only a handful of black women there and by default we all gravitated towards each other. I mixed and mingled with some of the editors, but I had no interest in talking about beauty or fashion. I wanted to talk about how I wanted to write about issues that plague the black community particularly women, but it seems like a foreign language. Surrounded by faux fur jackets, straight blonde hair and expensive accessories, my voice was non-existent.
We need media brands such as Essence, Ebony, Madame Noire and Jet to continue to uplift women of color and expose the real issues, however, there still aren’t enough brown faces in popular publishing.