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'Essence' under fire by anonymous letter that demands leader resignations

Written by on June 30, 2020

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Paras Griffin/Getty Images for ESSENCETalk about bad timing. On the heels of Essence kicking off its annual music festival and celebrating its 50 year anniversary, the magazine is being slammed for its toxic work culture in an anonymous letter. 

“We are #BlackFemaleAnonymous,” the letter, which was published online on Sunday began. “We present ourselves under the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, intimidation and the maligning of our media careers.”

The letter then demanded the “immediate resignation” of Essence Ventures owner and Chief Executive Officer Richelieu Dennis, Essence Ventures board member and former Essence Communications CEO Michelle Ebanks, Chief Operating Officer Joy Collins Profet, and Chief Content Officer Moana Luu before going into detail about what makes each of these individuals problematic, which includes claims of “pay inequity, sexual harassment, corporate bullying, intimidation, colorism and classism.”

#BlackFemaleAnonymous also called on the magazine’s sponsors for support. They asked companies like AT&T, Coca Cola, Chase Bank, Ford, McDonalds, Procter & Gamble, Walmart and Warner Media “to immediately eliminate all active or future sponsorships and media buys at Essence Ventures until the company is under new leadership.” 

Essence addressed the claims on Monday in a statement and said that the news is “heartbreaking” and added, “the accusations are false and we fully deny them.”

As of Monday evening, none of the magazine’s leaders have stepped down, but according to the anonymous letter, if it remains this way after five days they will take things one step further. 

“On day six we release personal testimonials,” they threaten, according to Page Six. “Step down now.”

By Danielle Long
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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