With word that Vibe Vixen would be no more after the Aug/Sept edition, folks are once again scratching their heads and wondering why so many magazines aimed at Black women seem to fail. Granted, few magazines are ever geared towards sisters, but in the last 3 years, 3 of the most visible to do so, have ceased publication: Vixen, Honey and Suede. Now in the past I have written about exactly why I believe Honey folded, but Suede came and went so fast that I never even saw it, while Vixen was an on again- off again project that just never really took off.
Still, at one time all the above publications had the backing of big media conglomerates and lots of publicity among Black women, so why did they fail?
My guess is multiculturalism led to their down fall.
Let me take a moment to share with you all a convo I had some time ago with a sista in the publishing industry who was looking to get a magazine aimed at Black women off the ground.
We were conversing by phone and she sent me to look at a website and a model whom she thought would be a great fit for the magazine. She told me particularly to note how the model looked multicultural and would be hard to place. She felt many people would not know what race she was and in her mind she thought that was a good thing even though she was looking to devote the magazine to Black women. Somehow in her mind it was better to use a multicultural looking model rather than a Black model in a Black magazine for Black women. Does that sound silly to any of you because it sure sounded silly to me? I never spoke to that woman again because I knew anything she attempted to start would eventually fail and I didn’t want to be involved in such a failure.
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. I knew when the new Editor took over that she had a different vision than the original Editor and that vision no longer seemed to include Black women that actually looked Black. Instead, they wanted multicultural women and went about changing all the images in the magazine to suit their new vision. However, their new vision did not suit Black and brown women who revolted by writing letters and when those were ignored sistas did the only other thing they could do- they stopped buying the magazine.
Now then, like now, folks are wondering how such a promising magazine ended up folding so quickly. Lots of excuses were made when the simple fact is, when the magazine first changed directions sistas told them they didn’t like the change. They didn’t listen and Honey magazine became a victim of multiculturalism aimed at Black women (that term sounds as stupid as it is).
So what happened to Suede? I don’t know- never heard of it. But I went and did a Google search and guess what I found? Check out the quote below:
Suede magazine, the Essence spin off that aims toward a hip, multicultural audience, is going on “hiatus” after four issues because it launched too quickly and needs time to regroup, Essence officials said late today.
Yep, yet another brainiac was trying to create a multicultural magazine aimed at Black women. Suede was really suppose to be an answer to Honey and they tried to answer Honey by recreating it in it’s final days and well naturally it ended up just like Honey.
As for Vibe Vixen, this magazine should have worked as it was a spin off from an already popular magazine with a large Black female fan base. So why did it fail? Multiculturalism. When I opened Vixen I felt no connection to this magazine at all. I didn’t feel like the articles spoke to me. I didn’t find their fashion layouts rooted in reality and most off all I could not identify with the models they used. It’s not enough to just put a Black girl on the cover. Black women want to see images that make them feel good about who they are.
Where is the validation for Black girls? We already know it’s okay to look multicultural. We know it’s okay to be fair complected and have straight hair and look almost White. Unfortunately the majority of Black women don’t look like that and don’t want that message shoved down their throats every time they open a magazine that is supposedly aimed at them. The original editor of Honey clearly knew this but for the life of me I cannot understand why this simple fact is lost on so many others.
Now, of course all this is just my opinion on why these magazines folded. I would love to hear what the many sistas who visit this site have to say and think about this subject.
Big thank you to Kendra whose comments helped me get over my weeks long writer’s block.