ESSENCE is more than just a magazine geared for and toward Black women — it’s a cultural institution that has reshaped the way we report on Black culture.

However, in recent years, the parent company of the cultural mainstay has had to endure allegations of a toxic work environment that included claims of racism, sexism, misogynoir, and general workplace abuses. Although it was ultimately determined that there was no evidence of wrongdoing after an extensive investigation, Richelieu Dennis stepped down as the CEO, and Caroline Wanga stepped in as the interim CEO.

ESSENCE, meanwhile, suffered a blemish against its once-impeccable reputation.

Now, in an effort to keep up with the changing times, and to distance itself from its problematic past while remaining relevant for a new and digital generation, the iconic magazine is undergoing a rebrand and it has hired an A-level executive team to lead the “strategic realignment.”

In a press release posted to the company’s corporate website, ESSENCE has announced that Wanga (Chief Executive Officer), Latraviette D. Smith-Wilson (Chief Strategy & Engagement Officer), Avani Patel (Chief Operating Officer), Cori Murray (Deputy Editor), and Stephanie Hodges-Dunivan (Vice President, Experiential, Branded Content & Video) will lead the rebranding efforts.

According to ESSENCE, Wanga wrote in a statement:

“I could not be more excited for the opportunity to serve this cornerstone of Black culture into its next phase of growth, innovation and impact alongside this incredible team of accomplished women. ESSENCE has at our disposal some of the most recognized, trusted and treasured assets through which to engage Black women and our communities in service to not just surviving, but thriving, and we are grateful for our broader teams across the organization who demonstrate commitment every day to ensuring that we are building our capabilities in service to that purpose. Moving forward, we will be bringing this to life through a three-pillar focus—Culture, Equity and Celebration—and are driving each of those through a prioritized set of goals that include engaging the global Black diaspora, leveraging an inclusive and multigenerational approach, optimizing our 360-integrated capability including virtual and live agility, capitalizing on our first-party data and research to uncover key insights and more.”


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Before becoming the Chief Executive Officer of ESSENCE, Wanga came to the company from Target, where she served as the Chief Culture, Diversity, and Inclusion Officer for the mega-store.