What Black Women Want

posted by Sista on August 6th, 2007 at 3:04 am

 Buzz.Pic.83.bmp What Black Women Want 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.



28 Comments

  1. If BrownSista.com was a magazine, then that would be awesome!!!

    But I must point out that this is an industry-wide thing. Jane magazine recently folded and a number of print mags (regardless of their focus) are losing revenue left and right. In the case of Vixen, it might also be noted that VIBE’s rep was a little wobbly to begin with, and still is. The launch of Vixen smacked of desperation to be relevant in an age where people are turning to the internet for alternative, opinionated content that doesn’t involve brown-nosing certain celebrities and completely ignoring others.

    A better question would be, “what do people what?”

    They want content that is varied, instantly accessible and independent of corporate interest. Not to shoot down your thesis, but you have a finely executed and popular website that appeals to the sistas. There’s clearly a market for this content, but print is suffering.

    Also, Vixen was late to the party. If it had launched a year or two earlier, it might’ve had more time to settle and find some security.

  2. himynameiskali

    I liked all those magazines. Magazines like Instyle and Cosmo were too Hollywood for me. When I seen a magazine like Vixen or Honey I would pick it up and look through it while I stood in line, but would always put it back if nothing caught my eye. Magazines right now are trying to get you with quick fixes like wonderful hair in 5 minutes or lose 10 pounds in 10 days. But that is in every magazine.
    What cathes my eye to buy a magazine was articles like how to make 10 thousand in a year,AND articles lke hair care rules for black women. Something I would actually use.
    Beacause even though I like that $1500 Coach bag, Im not gonna buy it, so why look at it? :hmph:

  3. Huh, I never would have guessed that was why the magazines folded. I actually liked the inclusion of all women of color (black, asian, latina,etc) because they’re underrepresented in the fashion industry, but I guess I do see how foolish it is to market it only to black women and have a multi-cultural atmosphere. All I know is that I miss Suede. It filled the void Elle, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and such didn’t.

  4. I totally agree. I used to love Honey mag, also. Then, one day I picked it up and became INCESED that the model(s) on the cover and throughout the magazine were “multicultural”. I specifically remember getting pissed that the mag had went in that direction, so I stopped buying it. It wasn’t that I wanted to boycott the magazine — I just wasn’t interested in it any longer. It was like tea without enough sugar in it (southern thing).

    Now, I have a very fair complexion, but I still look BLACK (think Tisha Campbell without the big head :smile: ) and it is clear that I am Black. I want a magazine with women like me in it…with more interesting articles than Essence offers.

    I don’t think it’s the complexion of the models that angered black women so much – who’d get mad at a mixture of covers featuring Brandy, LisaRaye, Mo’Nique, Rihanna, Gabrielle Union, Erykah Badu, Beyonce, Naomi Campbell, Alicia Keys, Jill Scott, Serena Williams, etc. ? – but, it was the ambiguous races of the models that angered us so. I received the message very loud and clear that “Black women aint good enough”.

  5. Angela, I so agree with you. Cosmo, Elle, even Vanity Fair ARE ALL GOOD! But it does leave a void with me as well.

    It’s crazy all the XXL and Big Booty mag are still here but our black classy ones are a WRAP! SAD. That says a lot.

  6. Excellent commentary from all that have responded! I loved Vibe Vixen. I would tell my girlriends to pick up the latest copy at Barnes and Noble and I would read the mag from cover to cover. I agree with the heavy multicultural influence within the magazine but I think VV was really on to something. I am no stranger to seeing pictures of women who do not look like me or turning on the tv and seeing little girls of biracial ancestry selling “ethnic” products. However, VV was a younger, fresher version of Essence (which I subscribe to). For the magazine to easily just “give up” truly speaks to how quickly Black women are fading into the background as valued consumers. With blogspots becoming more and more popular it behooves me that VV would not try to regroup online. We as Black women need to take back our power and force these tycoons to listen to us. I love your blog and I will continue to support it. Hopefully one day we will be able to have a revoluntionized fashion mag with the spirit of Honey, the vivaciousness of Vibe Vixen, and the sass of Suede. :brownsista:

  7. the reason why black magazines are folding is because they feature the same people in every issue…people know that if say alicia keys is gonna be in cosmo, elle, glamour, seventeen, and vibe vixen all in the same month they only need to buy one or two magazines to cover all bases. and with black magazines being hard to find either way nobody really cares…it’s called oversaturation…if they featured someone on the cover who isn’t getting any media but people are interested in they would sell more…and i feel it’s in the best interest of the celebrities to have covers over a period of time but hey i’m not in the industry, but i do know that kelly rowland’s issue of vibe was one of the best selling issues! hmmm and rihanna’s was one of the lowest!

  8. [quote comment=”11437″]
    I don’t think it’s the complexion of the models that angered black women so much – who’d get mad at a mixture of covers featuring Brandy, LisaRaye, Mo’Nique, Rihanna, Gabrielle Union, Erykah Badu, Beyonce, Naomi Campbell, Alicia Keys, Jill Scott, Serena Williams, etc. ? – but, it was the ambiguous races of the models that angered us so. I received the message very loud and clear that “Black women aint good enough”.[/quote]I just wanted to clarify that I never wrote complexion was the issue. I agree with everything else you have said above though.

    :)

  9. Outside of just the multiculturalism of mag’s being a “dark skinned sista” myslef, I tuned out along time ago and have pretty much given up on the notion of seing my face in the “big mainstream media” as a desireable figure. :brownsista:

    Along with the major downgrade in the quality of music, videos have taken the same turn and dark skinned women have been reduced to the “mammy”, cousins, best friends or angry overweight bitchy women on TV and even kiddie cable shows.

    With the takeoff of blogging and more importantly black celeb blogging, if I want to get immediate gratification and look up the “beef” (pics and all)on a celebrity (which is rare) I can just get online.
    And nowadays I get mags that are teaching me something or constantly changing subjects (Money, Fortune, Kiplinger’s, etc)

    I must say stephanie, I really enjoy the thought provoking you do on this site, that is the main reason I come through here because many blogs aren’t very thought prvoking (to me) and you provide many different views on issues pertaining to the perception of black women in Hollywood and other places.

    Keep up the outstanding job!!! :bowdown:

  10. I just recently started visiting your site and I am truly impressed.

    Anyway, I think the problem stems from a true cultural and class divide amongst the black community itself. It’s hard to find a magazine that will appeal to ALL types of black women and I think that’s what these magazines have tried to do. Magazine marketing is very specific – a Vogue reader is not the same as a Cosmo reader who is nothing like a Architectural Digest reader. White magazines do a lot of demographic research to find just the right content and advertising. When you’re trying to appeal to the “around-the-way-girl” and the “bap” and the “boho” and the middle-aged mom and the “hood chick” – you are bound to fail. However, I think the black community does not want to admit outwardly that there are class and cultural divides wihin our own community which is why things geared toward “black women” as whole aren’t uniting.

    I loved Suede and I thought it was off to a great start, but I can see how some women may not have been feeling it and felt like the cost of merchandise featured was waaaaay out of their price range. Essence tries to appeal to the “every sister” but even they will put together outfits that cost $300 – that’s not “every sister” that I know. So I think the problem is there are just not enough of us to slice and dice to give every woman what they want. The only solution is internet blogs and e-zines which can target a smaller demographic because it’s much cheaper to produce the content.

  11. You made some great points in this blog. I know that when I was in college ( 17-22) I didn’t relate to Essence and when Honey came out, my girlfriends and I went running to the stands. And lets don’t talk about Suede!! I’m still heartbroken over that.I have every issue and still flip through them because they are timeless and fabulous. But I once read that they shut Suede down because the costly production of it. They should down InStyle because it ain’t about nothing no time!:) So what do we do now? That’s the question.

  12. :iagree: with every single post that was written in response to this subject. This subject is funny to me because my friend and I was just talking about this exact thing. My dream was to make a black women’s magazine that represented us to the fullest with issues, fashion, that we can wear and buy…but its still a dream :brownsista:. I actually had a subscription to Honey and after a while they just stopped coming and I still miss that magazine. I thought Suede had came out but I could never find it in the stores. I just dont think these magazines get thier limelight. :sad: I love Glamour magazine and I would love for us to have one like thiers ( well you know with our issues and stuff).

    P.S. I love this Blog…you and I should make a magazine together (j/k). :lol:

    SORRY SOOO LOONG BUT I’M PASSIONATE ABOUT THIS.

  13. I never liked the title “Vixen.” Why does the title of a magazine targeting young black women have to be negative? That’s why I never read it.

    The reason why these magazines are folding is because the corporations that own them think they know what black women want to read. I stopped reading Essence for a while after Time Inc. bought them because the content was terrible. It has gotten better but it was so good when Susan L. Taylor was editor.

  14. :iagree: Everyone has hit the nail on the head. I subscribed to Vibe Vixen, Honey and Suede because I felt that I was all of those black women. I was a young college student, then a young professional, wannabe fashionista and an Urban Girl in the City. I miss all of those magazines and it is a shame that Essence won’t step up and make it happen! Everytime I see an Essence outfit that costs over 500 I think, no more materalisim!!

  15. The bottom line is that the ‘typical’ fashion magazine advertisers (Gucci, Dior, Marc Jacobs, David Yurman, etc) don’t want to pay for ads in black magazines and they don’t want to diversify the models they use in those ads.

    If D&G isn’t buying ad space, the magazine can’t get free clothes for editorials, pay big name models, fly to fashion shows, hire top photographers and writers, and become a presence in the fashion magazine scene.

    They can’t put out the fat Sept issues because there is no one buying all those ad pages to fill it.

    There are only so many auto ads and MAC ads they can use. The audience is there, I don’t know any black woman that doesn’t miss Honey and Suede, but publishers are short sighted and won’t give the magazines time to build readership or promote them.

    All those hip hop artists that are so quick to talk about LV inn their songs should talk instead about how those brands refuse to market to African Americans because of racism.

  16. Hi Brown Sista,

    I’m Dede and I’m the founder of Clutch Magazine. I read Brown Sista everyday – keep it up girl! But, I just wanted give some feedback on this post. My background is Marketing and PR and while at agencies they alway pushed us to use the word “multicultural” – even though they say “multicultural” it means Minority. So, what they do is try to throw in a Asian or Hispanic women to make it “multicultural”. The word Multicultural is used as a replacement for “Minority” (the new politically correct word) So, even though you see this word they really mean Minority.

    The reasoning for publications or sites using that word is for more advertising dollars…companies specifically look for media outlets that cater to “multicultural” women. That way they can spend some money and take care of their “Diversity” budget. Somewhere where they think African American, Asian and Hispanic women dwell…now we all know their really isn’t such a place, unless it’s mainstream magazines (Cosmo, Glamour, Elle). I was a big fan of Vibe Vixen and Suede – and I hope another magazine in print steps up or relaunches soon… I also feel that it needs to be more magazine that cater to the different personalities and likes of Black women. We all are different! So, our magazines need to show show some different views and niches of our culture.

  17. I loved Honey. Until a few months ago I actually had some of my old issues. You know the issues where they actually featured black dark skinned women. I loved Vixen but the content just wasn’t right. A few of the editors just felt so fake to me. They wrote about $1500 bags and $900 boots like it was a necessity to have them. As someone who has worked at a fashion magazine I definitely see where the lines can be blurred as far as fiction and reality because you would hear women complaining about debt but in that same breathe they are looking through their $1600 YSL bag.

  18. You guys complaining about prices are missing the point: when you open up an issue of Cosmo or InStyle, 95% of the products they put together in the beauty and fashion shoots are expensive too! Your complaints about expensive items is exactly what Megan Hood is saying about the lack of ad revenue. You guys are grumbling about items you can’t afford and Louis Vuitton, Neiman Marcus, etc hear this and it validates their assumptions that putting an ad in a black woman’s magazine is futile because there are no black women who can afford their products.

    What’s the difference between subscribing to Elle and subscribing to Suede? A small percentile of Americans can afford the clothes and shoes and accessories advertised in Vogue, but it doesn’t stop middle-class and working-class women of all colors from subscribing to the magazine! They just want a bit of fashion in their lives. I know that I could never afford anything in Vogue or Lucky or even Seventeen–but it doesn’t stop me from seeing luxury items and either striving to be able to attain it someday or using it as a starting point to find knock-offs.

    The rule of marketing is to start high. After all, don’t you judge an item’s worth by its price tag? By black consumers grumbling that in order to market to blacks they need to promote “cheap” products, it really lessens the truth of our buying power to the marketing departments at places like Neiman Marcus or Donna Karan, etc and magazines don’t get the ad revenue they need to keep going.

  19. Also, we’ll never get ads from hair companies like Garnier Fructis, Frederic Fekkai, etc because they don’t know we use their products. So black magazines are left getting their ad revenue from the most unhealthy things black people cling to like lye relaxers and cigarettes.

    Like Script said, black people don’t like to acknowledge class, and that is what’s hurting our magazines. White folks don’t get up in arms over the socialites featured in Vogue–maybe seeing black people with money made in business, entrepreneurship and being passed down would help us see something else outside of sports and music.

  20. :sad: i’m surprised Vixen’s no more! i actually really liked that magazine. It didn’t show women as men see them. It was for womens reading pleasure. we need more magazines like this, i’m tired of reading trashy tabloids and news thats not for me. young women just need to read more! if we were actually reading magazines instead of watching tv this type of thing wouldnt be a problem.

  21. Angela,

    Elle, Cosmo, Marie Clare, and Lucky, feature expensive items but they also feature inexpensive items and they make stories that cater to the college student, recent grad, to the up and coming ladder climbing executive. I think when most of us complain about magazines that cater towards black women don’t feature this type of diversity. Now that Essence has revamped itself the beauty and fashion section has dwindled to featuring products that many African American women do not use. The majority of us do not use the same skin or hair care products as other melanin women because it is not made for us. Since Essence was bought by Time Warner they have made great strides as far as advertising goes. Before my magazine was less than 110 pages now it is almost double that and 3/4 of it is advertisements.

  22. I’m glad this blog was posted. I was just thinking about this very subject as recently as yesterday. I loved Honey until it started going into a different direction. I’d like a magazine that had BLACK (not multicultural or mixed) women represented throughout. I’m hoping for a female version of a mag like XXL. But even XXL lacks Black female models. All over the media, Black women are becoming hard to find and although I’m a grown woman, I still need to see images of women that look like me and are being seen as beautiful and desirable to give me a little boost to my self-esteem. If I had the talent, I would definetly start a magazine myself. For right now, I’ll just have to hope that someone comes around that truly feels that we’re still important enough to be acknowledged. :confused:

  23. I’m a frequent subscriber to the magazines you mentioned, neekah, and if you research their target audiences, they are still targeting women in the 25-40 age range, living in an urban or suburban city, with an income of at least $50,000/year. A $78 wrap dress from Banana Republic is still expensive for many people even when it’s placed beside a $135 wrap dress from Donna Karan. Suede was a black “Elle”, IMO: full of high-end fashion and beauty tips, but catered to black women. But the problem with these magazines still boils down to a lack of ad revenue. Designer labels and luxury department stores don’t see the black woman as a valid market, so for all Suede, Honey and VV’s using designer duds in their fashion editorials, the labels still don’t believe a good amount of black women can afford their products.

  24. [quote comment=”11545″]Hi Brown Sista,

    I’m Dede and I’m the founder of Clutch Magazine. I read Brown Sista everyday – keep it up girl! But, I just wanted give some feedback on this post. My background is Marketing and PR and while at agencies they alway pushed us to use the word “multicultural” – even though they say “multicultural” it means Minority. So, what they do is try to throw in a Asian or Hispanic women to make it “multicultural”. The word Multicultural is used as a replacement for “Minority” (the new politically correct word) So, even though you see this word they really mean Minority.

    The reasoning for publications or sites using that word is for more advertising dollars…companies specifically look for media outlets that cater to “multicultural” women. That way they can spend some money and take care of their “Diversity” budget. Somewhere where they think African American, Asian and Hispanic women dwell…now we all know their really isn’t such a place, unless it’s mainstream magazines (Cosmo, Glamour, Elle). I was a big fan of Vibe Vixen and Suede – and I hope another magazine in print steps up or relaunches soon… I also feel that it needs to be more magazine that cater to the different personalities and likes of Black women. We all are different! So, our magazines need to show show some different views and niches of our culture.[/quote]
    Hi Dede, sorry I missed your comment before.

    I love your website and what you guys are doing there is what I originally wanted to do with Brown Sista. Unfortunately, I lacked the skills you guys have.

    Keep up the good work. Your site beautifully represents us as well :)

  25. Hi Stephanie,

    Thanks for the sweet comment, email me – I have some ideas for you!

    Dede :)

  26. From Honey Magazine – An Open Letter
    “A Digital Day”

    Brown Sister, thank you for sharing your sincere thoughts and opening up this dialogue about “What Black Women Want”.

    I have to let everyone know that Honey magazine is alive at http://www.honeymag.com and supports Black Women of all shades everyday. Quality content for quality people.

    The Facts:

    The readership of Honey’s last issue was huge at 1.5 million. Honey magazine was lost to bankruptcy by Vanguarde Media. Other developing titles you may know of – all went down together. This had nothing to do with Editors, content or multi-culturalism. It was the Publisher who lost their business to bankruptcy. Honey is a great magazine, website and lifestyle brand now owned by Sahara Media. Vanguarde’s past is not Sahara’s future. Honey’s story isn’t over, it’s in a new phase 8 years from inception.

    I’m one of the Owners of Honey magazine and Honeymag.com. Our increasing network of women inspires not only me, but inspires all, as the legacy continues to grow everyday.

    Everyone can be talked with, not just be talked ‘to’. Including passionate elements is what continues to make Honey so unique for the web and the magazine.

    Those who follow our Honey brand, are online to share urban, smart, stylish and sexy ideas. Check out “The New York Blog”, “A Belle In Brooklyn” or “I Like Her Style” if your not understanding about the real people doing real things.

    I host the blogs of over 30 successful, beautiful Black Women who share their lives from around the world:

    New York to Paris, L.A. to London, Atlanta to Toronto, Memphis to Tokyo, Houston, Philadephia and many more at http://www.honeymag.com. Honey also features over 100 stories and is on Glam.com’s network. Also, we offer a Career Center with 1,000’s of jobs posted by Diversity recruiters who are trying to reach (multi-cultural)women.

    Honey loves sharing great pictures of ‘our’ faces centered on Honey’s homepage. There should be no confusion about (who) we stand for, our “Cover Girl” is YOU.

    Honey’s website is dedicated to the aspiring females we listen to on a daily basis. Yes, today’s ‘real’ woman naturally comes before a commerical product; because it’s time. My thoughts as a Publisher and a “Black Woman” with respect for all expressed on this (1) question.

    Suzanne Burge

  27. Hi Suzanne,

    I used to be a big fan of Honey and I am happy to see that you are all back, but honestly, I don’t really fill like Honey is what it used to be. I Loved Suede and Vibe Vixen and my new favorite is Clutch Magazine. Isn’t Honey just a blog portal for blogs? I feel like the site is just busy, I really hope you all turn back into my beloved Honey, but until then – I will be reading Brown Sista, Afrobella, I Like Her Style, Fly, Clutch and the Fashion Bomb on their own sites. And, please don’t take this the wrong way – I just would like to see it be better than it is now. Do you plan to be in print as well?

  28. I know I”m late on replying to this, but I just wanted to say that I LOVED Honey and Suede! I still have issues of Suede because it was such a great mag. I felt it was Vogue and Elle and Bazaar combined into one for brown sistas. I think Essence is the only good thing for us, for Black women without being deemed multicultural.

    It’s just the way of things nowadays. If you’re multicultural then you sell more…more magazines, more albums, more movies, etc. It’s bittersweet in that yes, you’re making money and reaching the masses, but that you get away from what you meant to represent in the first place…Black Women.