When Essence–a magazine that targets black women–hired Ellianna Placas–a white woman–back in the summer of 2010 to be its fashion director, people were not very happy about it. Former Editor-in-Chief Angela Burt-Murray was criticized for hiring a white person at a black magazine, in an already unevenly white industry. In addition to eliciting a lot of angry comments on Facebook and blogs such as this one, the hire raised interesting questions about what role race should play in such situations, if it should play any role at all.
Well, unless she’s hired at another black magazine, Placas will no longer be at the center of that debate (nor will Burt-Murray, who was replaced by Constance White, previously eBay’s style director, last year). The New York Times confirmed yesterday that she’s left the magazine after two years. But why?
According to the Times, a spokeswoman for Essence said only that Placas had left the magazine and requests for comment were denied. Page Six, however, dug up a little more (unconfirmed) dirt. It alleges that White fired Placas, not necessarily because of race, but because of creative differences. “They had different visions for fashion coverage,” its source said.
So, until we hear otherwise, the above sounds like a plausible explanation. Of course now the big question is, who will Essence‘s next fashion director be? If she’s black, will people assume Placas was fired because of race? If she’s white, will people be just as outraged as when Placas was hired? Can Essence really win with this one?