I was really hoping that Michelle Matson (her Website, RichChick.com, has been added to the blog roll) would not pull a September Essence out of her stack of glossies hawking the latest trends in fashion and, of all things, investing. She is right: Our precious, hard-earned money is not supposed to be subject to the latest trendy scheme to accumulate wealth in “three easy steps” or whatever other jackrabbit form of money management people come up with. It takes time and discipline to become financially secure or attain wealth, and we all should adopt good habits to increase our chances. Maybe the financial tips inside Essence are actually sensible, manageable things that every woman can do to attain affluence and maybe wealth, and that’s why Matson overlooked it? At any rate, I was glad that Essence was not in the company of those monthlies that looked good, but had no substance beyond their surface beauty.
And yet the more that I think about it, Essence had no chance of being pulled out of Michelle Matson’s stack of September books. And it’s not because it is a black woman’s lifestyle magazine, but Essence has become, unfortunately, a bit staid in its coverage of our subculture. So it probably had no interesting covers or cover lines to grab her attention.
For at least a couple of years now, my interest in reading Essence magazine has plummeted. I know I haven’t aged out of its core demographic (its median age is 37, my exact age), but I suspect that ever since it was taken over by Time Inc., it has begun to spew out a lot of what I consider to be mainstream nonsense. The cover lines used to have a lot of impact, and the editors used to allow space on their covers from time to time for compelling, charismatic everyday women. Now, its a stream of actresses and singers, which is okay, but kind of dull, actually. And with cover lines like “#1 Sex Secret: Make Him Say Your Name” or “Be the Woman You Really Want to Be” (June 2007) or “Be the Woman You Want to Be: Your Health, Wealth and Sex Plan” (November 2009) I can barely tell one month from another. Half the time, I don’t even care. Especially not if I’ve read Vanity Fair’s latest slam on Bill Clinton, Sarah Palin, or whoever.
I don’t expect black magazines to do those kinds of take downs, for several reasons. But continuing to deliver classy coverage of black women with uplifting messages, and doing it in an attractive and fun format, while being profitable, does not necessarily mean that Essence has to be boring. But I’m afraid that it kind of has become a bit of a snore. And that’s why I let my subscription expire last year. The covers and cover lines had stopped being compelling, daring, real reflections of me and the women I know. It now documents the lives of celebrities, for the most part (just like all the other money losers), and while it does advise us on how to dress, love, spend, etc., I still feel like something is missing.
That’s my two cents. Of course, considering that I have not opened an Essence in several months (except for a quick glance in the supermarket checkout aisle the other day) I could be wrong.