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In a socially conscious environment that has given rise to movements like #blackgirlmagic and the embrace of natural hair, women of color are not only demanding more, they're creating more. Instead of waiting around for companies who for decades have made black women an afterthought, Saafir, Day, and Amaka are taking matters into their own hands and creating the types of publications that their moms, sisters, and best friends have always yearned for.
Hannah Magazine’s mission is simple, to create a space for black women to just be. "I wanted to celebrate black women in all that we are. There aren’t many magazines for women of color, less still for black women. We’re so diverse as a people and have varied interests like every other human," Saafir says. Part lifestyle, all beauty, Hannah welcomes women of color "to have a seat at the family dinner table." A read of the magazine’s first article, a candid and grounded conversation between two women, features actress Joy Bryant; the love, upliftment, and support that Saafir speaks about is abundantly clear.
As a freelance writer and editor, Qimmah has seen up-close just how how rarely women of color get to see themselves reflected in the pages of their favorite magazines. "There aren’t many magazines for women of color — less still for black women and we’re so diverse as a people. Black women are always being forced into a box," she explains.
But Hannah is changing that.
While Saafir doesn’t expect her magazine to be the end-all, be-all for all black women, something she believes far too many ethnic publications try to be, she does want it to "highlight our beauty and diversity and hopefully inspire publications from other unique perspectives to emerge. Some people will love it, some people won’t."
When asked what inspired her to create such a beautiful ode to black women’s beauty, she points out that once upon a time, women of color had options when it came to magazines. "I grew up reading magazines like Honey, Suede, and Vibe, etc. Now, we’re supposed to be content with one or two publications. Women of color have had so few options and they rarely see images that are inclusive of all types of beauty," she says.
By creating content that shares a multitude of voices, perspectives, and opinions, the diversity and complexity of black women is in turn celebrated. Readers can expect smart, fresh, and entertaining articles alongside stunning visuals that will have you wanting to collect and preserve every single issue of Hannah.
Two years ago while sitting on the rooftop of her apartment in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Lindsey Day was struck by an interesting thought: Who was immortalizing the natural hair movement and our authentic hairstory in print?
This thought led her to start Crwn Magazine, a magazine created for us, by us. "While Crwn is a hair magazine, it’s so much more than that," she says. "Just how Self and Shape are fitness magazines but they also cover beauty and fashion, that’s how I see Crwn. So often, black women are depicted as this monolith, or it seems as though only certain types of black women are portrayed in publications and I want to get away from that."
After noticing that many of today’s magazines were failing to share the hairstories of her and friends, Lindsey decided to do something about it. "I looked at my own hair journey and had an epiphany. Most of my close friends and I had all transitioned from flat ironing, relaxing, or weaving our hair to embracing our natural textures."
Since having that fateful conversation with Nkrumah Farrar, her friend-turned-business partner, on her roof in 2014, the two have since launched their first full issue. The duo’s creative background (Lindsey’s in music and Nkrumah’s in creative direction) has been infinitely helpful in bringing the first issue to print. According to Day, the inaugural issue —whose cover star is none other than the queen of natural hair herself, famed YouTuber Whitney White (@naptural85) — is a celebration and an authentic depiction of black women in the history of print.
When asked what she hopes to accomplish with Crwn, Lindsey eagerly answers, "my dream is that all young black girls will grow up knowing how beautiful they are, feeling confident in the value they bring to this world — no matter what hair texture grows from their heads. I want women to read the mag and feel empowered, their diversity celebrated."
When Ofunne Amaka grew tired and frustrated of only seeing her favorite makeup brands swatched on lighter skin tones, the twentysomething started an Instagram handle dedicated to showing the latest products swatched exclusively on deeper skin tones. Having receiving an overwhelmingly positive response to the account, @cocoaswatches (which has since been turned into an app), Amaka decided to launch Skindeep. The mobile magazine discusses the everyday makeup issues often glossed over or forgotten about by other magazines, especially those concerning complexions.
"I wanted to elevate some of the discussions that I would see play out in the comments section of the Cocoa Swatches Instagram page. There are many things about the beauty industry that can be marginalizing and frustrating; I wanted Skindeep to be a place where I could address some of these issues with nuance and research," she says.
According to Amaka, Skindeep fills a void in an industry where a "one size fits all" approach to beauty is the norm by most publications. Amaka aims to bring to life diverse cosmetics content. "Beauty and makeup are supposed to be fun, but when you read light articles about 'The Top 5 Red Lipsticks of 2016,' for example, and none of them suit someone of your complexion, frustration arises. No one wants to feel left out of the conversation time after time after time." The first issue of the in-app publication (for $1.99 a month users gain access to Skindeep’s researched knowledge about the makeup industry) is dedicated to highlighting "The New Nude."
"I want to start important conversations about the beauty industry that can actually affect change," Amaka says. "It’s one thing to try to add something like dark arm swatches to your social media feed and call yourself diverse. But it is important to realize that the lack of diversity happens in multiple facets of the beauty industry, from makeup artist instruction to diversity in beauty editors to communications by beauty brands."