Essence magazine is being rocked by scandal as it celebrates its 50th anniversary. A derogatory article titled "The Truth About Essence" was published on medium.com on Sunday with the title, Black Female Anonymous.
"We appear on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, intimidation, and defamation of our media careers," they wrote. "We demand the immediate resignation of Executive Director Richelieu Dennis, Essence Ventures board member and former Essence Communications CEO Michelle Ebanks, Director of Operations Joy Collins Profet and Director of Content Moana Luu," the essay continues.
The scathing article paints a picture of a supposedly toxic work environment faced by black women working in a magazine geared toward them. They claim that CEO Dennis' "superficial commitment to black women is fueled by greed and a libertine sexual appetite." They allege that "he has a history of sleeping with women on the staff of Sundial (the Shea Moisture parent company that sold to Unilever in 2017) and for women who apparently do not consent, he openly sexually harasses them in a private company." events, "but did not provide any examples of alleged harassment.
The anonymous poster also claims that Ebanks, who resigned as CEO in 2019, "pointed to the door and told the staff they could leave," when an employee asked about salary increases at a company's city hall.
Essence denied the claims in a two-page statement on Monday morning: "Honestly, the past 24 hours have been heartbreaking … Anonymity does not deny responsibility. The facts will always be important, and we are not afraid of the truth. Accusations and mischaracterizations at all times, whether of pay inequality, intimidation and others, are unfounded attempts to discredit our brand and murder personal character. Furthermore, accusations of sexual harassment or misconduct are extremely serious matters, and we understand completely the seriousness of the implications, ”it reads.
The bomb post was an unwanted distraction from their annual cultural festival that started last week. Sources said Page Six Essence called an emergency meeting to zoom in on Sunday afternoon. “The publisher was concerned that this would happen at the Essence Festival and was concerned about upsetting Festival sponsors. She never addressed the allegations or offered people to communicate with the concerns. It made it even worse, "said a source.
The anonymous posters also launched a return instagram account and tagged the company's festival sponsors, including Coca Cola, McDonalds, Ford, Walmart, Warner Media, and Proctergamble. "If you value the lives of black women, you will immediately get your Essence sponsorship dollars," they captioned.
Sources familiar with Essence told Page Six that it is likely that current and former employees may be behind the posts. Essence executives are being given five business days to respond or "on day six we publish personal testimonies of wage inequality, workplace harassment, layoffs while on maternity leave and immediately after childbirth and sexual harassment. Go down now," they warn. .
In addition, they launched a change.org petition to obtain signatures for his resignation.
"The current female staff at Essence is neither emotionally secure nor prepared for the professional and financial advancement of the company," they allege.