Suede Magazine and its Predecessors

I stumbled upon Suede Magazine at CVS in Amherst, Mass a few years ago.  I remembering bringing it back to my girls and we all clamoured over that magazine.  The love shown was evident in its tattered feathered pages and unraveling binding.  No matter how many times I say it, there are not enough positive images for Black women and girls, especially in fashion magazines.  Especially ones that do not traffic in the same tired stereotypes that others have imposed on us.  Worse, we take these up, perpetuate and build on them, then inflict them upon one another tearing each other down (aka cattiness).  Growing up, I remember being subscribed to various magazines for Plus Size women and Women of Color, but none of them lasted.  There was Vibe Vixen, which was a shoot-off from Vibe, but didn’t last and has been rumoured for a re-launch.  Yeah, right.  Vibe Vixen had Tracee Ellis Ross gracing its cover, most famous for being one of Diana Ross’s children, but also for her fantastic role as Joan on Girlfriends!  Girlfriends was on that level with A Different World and Living Single, for those left out of the loop; but, I digress. Honey Magazine has been reduced to an online presence that is not very focused.  Trace Magazine seems to be holding on, still eeking out a print copy.  Granted, their website is poor and not very functional.  However, each issue is available to download!  I was browsing through some other blogs, to see if any of them remembered what I couldn’t and I found from one Brown Sista that she complained many of these magazines started failing because they abandoned their target audience embracing multiculturalism which, apparently, doesn’t appeal to anyone.  Personally, I think she got this all wrong because I understand what she meant to say.  Most (those editors in power) believe multiculturalism is embodied in some sort of racial/ethnic ambiguous look, rather than embracing a variety of looks.  There’s no rule that says we can’t have more than one token minority on a page!  Take a look at the runways when Gisele hit the scene and everyone wanted a Brazilian (even though the country’s numbers of African descendants are higher than ours here).

The stalwarts have kept marching on, Essence, Ebony, and Jet.  However, those are stuck in time and do not speak to the millennial generation, they’re for my Mom (50+) and her friends.  That’s why there was so excitement amongst my friends when I found Clutch, even though it’s only online it’s better than nothing.  Now, living in New York, there are those hoity toity magazines like Uptown and Upscale which seem to be focused towards affluent black males, which is fine, but where is the equivalent for women?

It’s already hard enough for Black women and girls with a healthy sense of identity to look presentable to the world what with all the obstacles when it comes to purchasing products for our hair and skin, and buying suitable clothing.  But to couple that with the images of Beyonce or hideous models like Alek Wek (I don’t care what anyone says, she is NOT attractive, pretty, beautiful, etc – her presence on runways seems like an attempt to exoticize and fetishsize Africa, and satisfy quotas), and music video vixens – Where is a Black girl to go to feel good about herself when she hasn’t been provided that daily affirmation?  Not Vogue, Glamour, Elle, Bazaar or any of those other rags.

I might be getting too emotional because I hate explaining why I want to see beautiful diverse positive Black people in media, and for that matter every other color, too.  So, again, – I ask – Is it too unreasonable to ask for a positive reflection of our sisters, mothers, daughters, cousins, aunties, grandmas, lovers, and friends?  The soundtrack for this post is is Talib Kweli’s song, Black Girl Pain from his album – The Beautiful Struggle.

So, on that abysmal note Vibe Magazine is closing.  It’s not that I ever read Vibe, it’s that I expect to see it on the magazine racks when making my monthly purchases.  I expect to see it the way I expect to see Time in the newsstand.  This is a sin tantamount to the lack of Black comic strips.  And believe me, when I was subscribed to the S.F. Chronicle my last two years of high school I read The Boondocks every morning.  And, don’t even get me started on the numbers of Black fashion designers.  Watching these companies close or fail to exist is like watching my Mom’s bookstore close all over again after ten years.  R.I.P. Shades of Sienna.  It was the only African American children’s bookstore when it opened in 1995.  What? Black people don’t want children’s books? Marcus Books is still holding it down on MLK Blvd in Oakland as the oldest independent Black bookstore in the country.  I hope Marcus still smells like incense when you pass throught its doors.  Again, I digress, I met fantastic people in that little store on Grand Ave during those years:  Walter Dean Myers (SLAM!), Candy Dawson Boyd (Fall Secrets & A Different Beat), Morrie Turner (Wee Pals – comics strip), Robert San Souci (Sukey and the mermaid), and Jerry Pinkney (The Talking Eggs).  Those titles in parentheses are my books that my Mom cajoled the authors into signing.

Now, if I could just turn on some KBLX, The Quiet Storm, while sitting in the chair at Ringlets, maybe – just maybe, all will be right in the world.

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One comment

  1. I came across this blog post today and though you posted it last year, I was compelled to comment. I, like you, was excited when I heard Suede was coming. Finally, a fashion-forward publication for my peers and me! To my surprise and disappointment, the mag only lasted a short period of time and I was compelled to 1) find out why, 2) find out about these women wanted and, if they did indeed feel under-served 3) create a media property on my own. While in business school in my MBA program I researched just that and I found out that African American women did indeed feel under-served and they over-indexed in various media including print, TV, internet and radio. Last year, my best friend and I started The Vyne – a media brand focused on the modern black woman – cultured, successful, savvy and chic. We launched a weekly e-zine (email me to get on the distro list) and a blog (www.thevyne.wordpress.com) and are also working on some television projects. Just in planning and audience building mode right now, we intend to make this a brand women relate to, be inspired by, and be proud of.

    By the way, have you heard of Jones Mag? It just launched and it has the chance of being a more sophisticated version of what Suede hoped to be (and what we hoped for Suede).

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