Ousted Essence Journal Boss Richelieu Dennis Has Purchased Up BeautyCon and Influencers Are Torn

The proprietor of Black enterprise empire Essence Ventures, who vowed to step away because the appearing CEO of Essence journal after being an terrible boss throughout final 12 months’s racial reckoning, is not-so-quietly asserting his energy once more—and Black influencers are torn.

In the summertime of 2020, a Medium article was printed with damning accusations in opposition to Essence’s proprietor Richelieu Dennis. Underneath the pseudonym “Black Feminine Nameless,” Essence journal staffers demanded Dennis’ resignation—together with different management adjustments—after they mentioned girls have been “systematically suppressed by pay inequity, sexual harassment, company bullying, intimidation, colorism and classism” and the corporate had been “hijacked by cultural and company greed and an unhinged abuse of energy.” The staffers blasted execs for an ironic flip of occasions: A publication that was meant to empower Black girls as a substitute mistreated and abused the ladies who labored for it.

A brand new CEO was named for Essence journal and the corporate, which owns a number of different entities like Afropunk competition and hair care firm Naturally Curly, promised that Dennis could be taking a step again. However this month, he was again.

Essence Ventures swooped in at a foreclosures sale to amass BeautyCon, the so-called “Tremendous Bowl of the Magnificence business” that just about filed for chapter final 12 months after being ravaged by the pandemic, monetary points, employees layoffs, and unpaid payments.

SheRea DelSol, a Black content material creator on YouTube who focuses on pure hair content material, advised The Each day Beast she received’t be collaborating in BeautyCon now that Essence and Dennis are on the helm.

“I’m not within the enterprise of promoting my soul for a few {dollars} or for reputation,” DelSol mentioned. “I must see change, see an apology, in an effort to take part or contribute. Even along with your apology, [victims] nonetheless have their trauma and the after-effects. I don’t even know if there’s an apology substantial sufficient to repair it.”

Within the Medium article, titled “The Fact About Essence,” nameless staffers claimed that Dennis slept along with his staff and harassed those that rejected his advances. Additionally they alleged that he “tried to pressure Essence staff and contractors to signal non-disclosure agreements” to guard himself and his relations who labored in management positions at Essence.

The corporate employed two legislation corporations to conduct an investigation, which discovered that employees felt overworked and underappreciated however concluded that Dennis didn’t interact in conduct that will have amounted to “illegal discrimination, harassment or retaliation.” (The nameless writers of the Medium article didn’t communicate to investigators.)

These findings haven’t modified the views of some.

Alexis Nottingham, whose TressesOfAlexis YouTube channel focuses totally on Black hair care, mentioned she understood that the allegations have been discovered unconfirmed, however nonetheless felt uncomfortable with the accusations. “Everyone ain’t mendacity,” she mentioned.

Nonetheless, she additionally doesn’t assume BeautyCon will endure from the unfavourable stain of Essence.

“Whereas [people] say they wish to defend Black girls, that’s a lie. We idolize Black capitalism, Black consumerism, and Black wealth over Black individuals, and I don’t see this being a difficulty in any respect for them. I see this being extraordinarily worthwhile, truthfully, simply because persons are going to spend cash nevertheless they wish to. They don’t take note of victims until it’s near residence or it occurs to them personally.”

When you could have somebody that dominates house that already gives alternatives for girls of colour—and Black girls specifically—if Black girls communicate up, what different areas are there for them?

SheRea DelSol

The Each day Beast tried to succeed in out to former and present Essence journal staff to get their views on Dennis’ newest enterprise ventures in gentle of the 2020 controversy. Nonetheless, they both didn’t reply or declined to remark.

“I’m not stunned persons are not speaking,” DelSol mentioned. “When you could have somebody that dominates house that already gives home windows and alternatives for girls of colour—and Black girls specifically—if Black girls communicate up, what different areas are there for them? After we take into consideration energy dynamics and who has the ability, if the allegations are true no matter an investigation that befell—the place can these girls go?

“Nobody cares about Black girls,” she continued. “The allegations didn’t even go very far. I believe many individuals don’t even learn about it as a result of nobody cares about Black girls. So, these Black girls specifically, if they arrive ahead, the place will they go? They’re going to seem like whistleblowers, they’ll seem like sellouts, they’ll seem like they’re bringing down the quintessential definition of what Black excellence appears like. We worth Black activism. However Black capitalism appears like misogyny, sexism, and sexual assault. We settle for that as a result of what else is the last word purpose on this nation?”

Based in 2011 by Marina Curry, a Black lady, BeautyCon was a hub of reside occasions earlier than it began to falter in 2019. Final 12 months, The Wrap reported {that a} 12 months after an enormous occasion that attracted hundreds of attendees, BeautyCon was nonetheless struggling to pay distributors. Different companies and contractors who labored the occasion have been reported to have filed complaints with the Higher Enterprise Bureau or sought help from collections businesses. The coronavirus pandemic didn’t assist monetary issues.

And whereas BeautyCon devotees have described the occasion as an inclusive neighborhood that permits magnificence and life-style lovers to community, meet their favourite influencers and get discounted make-up, Black influencers haven’t at all times felt welcome.

The occasion had at all times “centered white girls and white entrepreneurs,” DelSol mentioned, and due to this fact by no means appealed to her.

Shanygne Maurice, creator of magnificence product opinions on a YouTube channel known as TooMuchMouth, mentioned she had a “relatively disagreeable” expertise as a Black creator on the final BeautyCon however really sees the Essence buyout as a chance to make the occasion “extra inviting and inclusive for Black influencers and lovers—given Essence’s historical past within the Black neighborhood.”

“I’m unsure if I’d take part within the first one [under Essence’s ownership],” she mentioned. “But when I have been to see how that goes and listen to concerning the occasion shifting in the appropriate route and it being the enjoyable and welcoming occasion it’s purported to be, I’d definitely attend sooner or later.”

Nottingham, nevertheless, questioned whether or not Essence may actually change BeautyCon or if it was one other case of range initiatives being “whitewashed.”

“Like SheaMoisure,” she mentioned. “When it began off, we knew their demographic. We knew they needed to assist Black individuals with Black hair care, particularly with individuals who do their very own hair. And I really feel that through the years they expanded their branding and their advertising and marketing, which is ok, however I really feel like they sort of uncared for their base demographic.

“They uncared for their area of interest of Blackness… their base demographic of Black girls with kinky hair. It’s to not say that they shouldn’t be capable of cater to all sorts of hair and all sorts of individuals, however there’s at all times this need to cater to whiteness and white options. That outmoded the precedence of Black hair care.”

Regardless of the allegations made in opposition to him, Dennis has damaged some racial boundaries throughout the magnificence business. Initially from Liberia, he based Black magnificence model SheaMoisture after which Sundial Manufacturers, the mum or dad firm to SheaMoisture. In 2017, it was bought to the conglomerate Unilever, however Dennis stays Sundial’s CEO and govt chairman. In 2018, he purchased the Essence model, vowing to “scale Black-owned manufacturers and produce much-needed range” to the wonder and life-style world.

When The Each day Beast spoke to him this week about his purchase up of BeautyCon, Dennis refused to immediately reply any questions concerning the 2020 controversy and his promise to step away from Essence journal. As a substitute, he framed his newest enterprise as a part of a mission to struggle racism within the retail business.

“I spent 30 years of my life breaking down the racial boundaries of magnificence,” he mentioned. “It took me 16 years earlier than I agreed to enter mass retail. The reason being due to the racist buildings that existed in mass retail.”

He mentioned hair care merchandise have been as soon as racially segregated on retailer cabinets however, due to his efforts, retailers have come to comprehend “there’s a a lot larger market alternative once you interact in Black manufacturers on a good and constant foundation. We’re very happy with that, and we see [BeautyCon] as a continuation of that work.”

He vowed that Essence Ventures would “deliver heightened inclusivity” to BeautyCon.

“The entire concept when [BeautyCon] was based was to be an inclusive place for all girls to specific their particular person magnificence,” Dennis mentioned. “Our goal is to make it into that by making it inviting, by diversifying topics, by being inclusive within the manufacturers, by being intentional within the commitments.”

Dennis acknowledged that, although progress has been made within the magnificence business when it comes to racial efforts, it “doesn’t imply the issue is solved.” He mentioned there’s nonetheless a necessity for consciousness and schooling to dismantle structural racism on the root of bias in the neighborhood.

Whether or not BeautyCon turns into a platform to assist fight these inequities stays to be seen. Regardless of Dennis’ guarantees, Black influencers are nonetheless cautious.

“Essence is Black A.F.,” Nottingham mentioned, “which is gorgeous, however how are they going to [integrate that with BeautyCon]? As a result of I hope they don’t stray from the tradition of Essence. I don’t know, however I don’t have excessive hopes of BeautyCon being a extra Black house.”

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