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 revealed with damning accusations towards Essence’s proprietor Richelieu Dennis. Underneath the pseudonym “Black Feminine Nameless,” Essence journal staffers demanded Dennis’ resignation—together with different management modifications—after they mentioned ladies had 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 ladies 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 can be taking a step again. However this month, he was again.

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

SheRea DelSol, a Black content material creator on YouTube who focuses on pure hair content material, informed The Each day Beast she received’t be taking part 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, with the intention to take part or contribute. Even together 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 Reality About Essence,” nameless staffers claimed that Dennis slept together with his workers and harassed those that rejected his advances. In addition they alleged that he “tried to power Essence workers 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 companies to conduct an investigation, which discovered that workers 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 converse 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 had been discovered unconfirmed, however nonetheless felt uncomfortable with the accusations. “Everyone ain’t mendacity,” she mentioned.

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

“Whereas [people] say they need to defend Black ladies, 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, actually, simply because individuals are going to spend cash nevertheless they need to. They don’t bear in mind victims until it’s near house or it occurs to them personally.”

When you might have somebody that dominates house that already gives alternatives for ladies of shade—and Black ladies particularly—if Black ladies converse 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 workers to get their views on Dennis’ newest enterprise ventures in gentle of the 2020 controversy. Nevertheless, they both didn’t reply or declined to remark.

“I’m not stunned individuals are not speaking,” DelSol mentioned. “When you might have somebody that dominates house that already gives home windows and alternatives for ladies of shade—and Black ladies particularly—if Black ladies converse up, what different areas are there for them? Once we take into consideration energy dynamics and who has the ability, if the allegations are true no matter an investigation that occurred—the place can these ladies go?

“Nobody cares about Black ladies,” she continued. “The allegations didn’t even go very far. I feel many individuals don’t even learn about it as a result of nobody cares about Black ladies. So, these Black ladies particularly, if they arrive ahead, the place will they go? They’re going to appear like whistleblowers, they’ll appear like sellouts, they’ll appear like they’re bringing down the quintessential definition of what Black excellence seems like. We worth Black activism. However Black capitalism seems like misogyny, sexism, and sexual assault. We settle for that as a result of what else is the last word aim 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 1000’s of attendees, BeautyCon was nonetheless struggling to pay distributors. Different companies and contractors who labored the occasion had been reported to have filed complaints with the Higher Enterprise Bureau or sought help from collections companies. The coronavirus pandemic didn’t assist monetary issues.

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

The occasion had all the time “centered white ladies and white entrepreneurs,” DelSol mentioned, and due to this fact by no means appealed to her.

Shanygne Maurice, creator of magnificence product evaluations on a YouTube channel known as TooMuchMouth, mentioned she had a “moderately disagreeable” expertise as a Black creator on the final BeautyCon however truly sees the Essence buyout as a possibility to make the occasion “extra inviting and inclusive for Black influencers and fans—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 had been to see how that goes and listen to concerning the occasion shifting in the best course and it being the enjoyable and welcoming occasion it’s imagined 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 variety initiatives being “whitewashed.”

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

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

Regardless of the allegations made towards him, Dennis has damaged some racial obstacles inside the magnificence trade. Initially from Liberia, he based Black magnificence model SheaMoisture after which Sundial Manufacturers, the dad or mum firm to SheaMoisture. In 2017, it was offered to the conglomerate Unilever, however Dennis stays Sundial’s CEO and government chairman. In 2018, he purchased the Essence model, vowing to “scale Black-owned manufacturers and convey much-needed variety” to the sweetness 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 an alternative, he framed his newest enterprise as a part of a mission to struggle racism within the retail trade.

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

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

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

“The entire thought when [BeautyCon] was based was to be an inclusive place for all ladies to precise 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 trade 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 locally.

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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