I Worked In Beauty For 20 Years & Age Representation Is Still A Work In Progress
Beauty editor? I’d never heard of such a thing when I graduated from Vassar in 1990. I spent about ten years trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, before entering the world of magazines: I taught tenth-grade English, worked for a lobbying firm in Washington, DC, started an Interior Design certification program, but nothing stuck. I finally moved to NYC in 1998, with no job leads and no plan. I’d grown to love NYC while in college and although I still wasn’t sure of what I wanted to do, I took the leap and prayed the parachute would appear. It did. A year later, in December of 1999 I landed a job as the beauty and fashion writer for Essence Magazine, and since then I’ve had a front row seat to the evolution of the beauty industry, especially as it related to age representation and diversity.
The first time I ever saw an Essence Magazine was on my grandmother’s coffee table. I was in elementary school. My grandma read Essence, but so did my 18-year-old cousin at the time. Now as a Black woman, working at a magazine dedicated to Black women, I understood that our notions of beauty were not necessarily in line with those in the mainstream, or mainstream publications. Essence’s cover subjects ranged from political figures and corporate heads, to models and celebrities. They were every age and every size. We were never youth-obsessed, but rather celebratory of our unique spectrum of beauty.