For several decades, the much-adored fashion industry has set the global precedent for what and who should be considered fashionable and beautiful. Fashion publications prioritised (and in some cases still do) ‘white beauty’ over everything else, with the constant display of euro-centric features and fair skin on the magazine covers. The same theme ran through all the pages, copy after copy. As a result, until very recently, the industry held little regard for the opinions of people of colour, with very few holding positions strong enough to determine the images and stories consumed by the general public.
As a proud black woman pursuing a career in fashion, specifically in the editorial space, I have battled challenges. One of which is feeling alienated and labelled as not good enough by my industry peers. Yet, times are changing for the better and there are more people of colour, specifically women, who occupy senior seats in fashion offices and their presence can undoubtedly be felt on the pages.
I’ve compiled a list of 10 black fashion and beauty editors to know and it’s just a start. With the years to come, I hope the list grows and continues to serve as inspiration for future generations.
Vanessa K. Bush
Before being appointed as the Essence E-I-C, more than a decade ago, Vanessa first joined the publication as a beauty and fashion features editor; where she directed all style and beauty sections. Prior to joining Essence, she worked at a variety of editorial publications such as Life and Glamour.
Vanessa received her Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude, in English and American Literature from Harvard University and her Master of Science in magazine concentration from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
NICE TO KNOW: Vanessa is also the author of Tyra Banks book, ‘Tyra’s Beauty Inside & Out’
Harpers Bazaar US, Senior Digital Fashion Editor
Chrissy is what many aspiring fashion girls would consider as ‘career goals’. She’s not just the Harper’s Bazaar senior digital fashion editor, she’s also the special projects director and oversees all at Harpers Bazaar US Instagram posts, growing its following to 4.3 million.
Her journey and love for fashion started during two summer internships in the fashion closet at Bazaar. During which, Rutherford studied communication with a focus in media studies from Fairfield University. A key to her early success was bagging an impressive list of relevant fashion and editorial internships, assisting stylists and making meaningful industry connections along the way. Before joining Harpers Bazaar US, Chrissy was InStyle.com’s fashion News Editor.
Yahoo Lifestyle, Beauty Director and Editor
Former Huffington Post Executive Fashion and Beauty Editor
Dana Oliver is the former executive fashion and beauty editor at The Huffington Post. She previously worked for AOL Stylelist, VIBE, Glamour.com and NY City News Service. She studied Journalism and African-American studies at Temple University and is currently working at Yahoo Lifstyle as a Beauty Director and Editor.
Freelance Fashion Editor
Former InStyle.com Fashion and Beauty Editor
Kahlana began her career as an intern at InStyle before eventually being hired full time.
She worked her way up and became InStyle.com fashion editor. Throughout her career at the magazine, she took on several key positions, including beauty director and reporting live from the red carpet. She’s one of the leading fashion and beauty experts and studied B.A Journalism at the Howard University (A historically black University aka HBCU). The ‘fashion obsessive and beauty aficionado’ (according to her Instagram bio) is currently a freelance fashion editor and influencer.
Editor-in-Chief of ThisThatBeauty
Felicia Walker Benson is the E-I-C of ThisThatBeauty, a top-rated blog that features fashion, beauty news, product reviews and industry reviews. She’s a highly sought after beauty expert and has been featured in numerous publications including Glamour, Allure, Elle, Marie Claire and Essence. The blog has been rated a Top 50 Beauty Blog by StyleCaster.
Former Paper Magazine Editor
Former Essence Digital Fashion Editor
Zandile Blay was formerly a digital fashion editor for Essence Magazine, women’s fashion editor for Paper Magazine and readers editor at SEVENTEEN Magazine. She’s currently a fashion and beauty journalism lecturer at Syracuse University and still works a contributing editor for numerous publications.
Zandile holds an undergraduate degree in Broadcast Journalism from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University and a Masters in Fashion from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London. She is a 2012-2013 Semi-Finalist for the Nieman Journalism Fellowship at Harvard University.
Freelance Fashion Editor
Former W Magazine Accessories Editor
Shiona Turni is a fashion industry veteran and you may have seen her street style outfits on social media. She first started as an intern at YSL, after which she became the Accessories Editor at W Magazine. Stephanie became the Accessories Director at Teen Vogue before moving on to become the Fashion Marketing Director at Cosmopolitan Magazine. She’s currently a freelance fashion editor, stylist and costume designer for the acclaimed series Insecure.
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They ask me what I do and who I do it for || After the @chanelofficial couture show, I bumped into a group of African-American studies students from Boston college on a @blackparistours . It was hands down the highlight of my trip and a beautiful reminder for me to keep grinding + continuing to set an example as a black creative tryna make it. I loved seeing the students in Paris learning about our history, culture and the influence of the African diaspora globally. The tenacity of their instructor, who devotes weeks of her time in Paris educating and expanding the minds of our youth, blew me away. Buy, love, embrace Black, and get your passport. Thank you @mrstreetpeeper for capturing this magical moment.
Not only do these trailblazing black fashion and beauty editors exude a glow that can only be characterised as ‘black girl magic’ but they continue to affirm, elevate and change the prominent narrative about black women. These women of colour are persevering, despite adversity and have paved the way for aspiring fashion editors.
Do you have any others you’d add to the list? Let us know in the comments below. For more articles on women of colour in fashion, click here
Words by Wandi Jama