03 May 2019

Giving Voice to Black and Hispanic Women

Magazine publisher broke new ground in celebrating minority communities


Edward Lewis (OPM 7, 1980) is the cofounder and chairman of Essence Communications, publisher of Essence and Latina magazines, and a senior advisor at Solera Capital. In this interview, he reflects on the impact of launching these two groundbreaking publications.

“In 1970, when Essence came out, black women were thought of as uncouth, loudmouth, unfeminine, on welfare, poor, and couldn't read. And that's what we had to overcome.

“At the Essence Festival, which is now an extraordinary event that takes place over a 4th of July weekend, it brings over a half million people. There is no magazine that I'm aware of that has that capability, locally or internationally, to bring that number of people together in one weekend to celebrate black women.

“And I remember being at the hotel––this is 2007––and I saw this black woman looking at me. At least, I saw someone looking at me. And I got my breakfast and she came over to me. She said, “Are you Ed Lewis?” I said, “Yes, I am.” She says, “I'm 47 years old and I'm from Mobile, Alabama. I want to thank you for what you did for bringing Essence into the world. You have no idea what you did for me and many other black women.” I mean, that sent chills up and down my spine to know that I may have had that kind of impact by helping bring the magazine into the world.

“I can say the same with Latina. Helping Latina get off the ground, Essence [Communications] put over $20 million into developing that magazine. So that was a really major investment in terms of making a decision to develop a magazine that will speak volumes about how these two communities, particularly Hispanic women and black women, are going to make a difference in the lives of all of us as we continue to be in this great country that we love.”

(Published May 2019)

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Featured Alumni

Class of OPM 7

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