Essence is the first monthly magazine for African-American women between the ages of 18 and 49, and has become a cultural institution in the African-American community. The magazine covers fashion, lifestyle and beauty with an intimate girlfriend-to-girlfriend tone.
There are sections such as Work and Wealth, Healthy Living, and Looks We Love that cover topics that focus on career, finance, health, lifestyle, fashion, and beauty which share an intimate connection with readers.
The magazine was founded in 1968 by Edward Lewis, Clarence O. Smith, Cecil Hollingsworth, Jonathan Blount, and Denise M. Clark. Essence Communications Inc. (ECI) began publishing in May 1970. Its circulation began at approximately 50,000 copies per month, subsequently growing to roughly 1.1 million. Photographer, Filmmaker, Author Gordon Parks served as its editorial director during the first three years of its circulation.
Susan L. Taylor was the editor in chief for 19 years (81-00) and then publications director for 7 years. She retired on 28 Dec 2007 to focus on her national Cares Mentoring Movement non-profit organization.
In 2000, Time Inc. purchased 49 percent of the magazine from its original publisher, Essence Communications Inc. By March 2005, Time Inc. became the majority owner, buying the remaining 51 percent in a deal reported to be worth US$170 million. In 2008, Essence won 12 New York Association of Black Journalists awards in the Investigative, General Feature, International, Business/Technology, Science/Health, Arts and Entertainment, Personal Commentary, Public Affairs and Online categories.
For 38 years, the company has flourished and expanded beyond pages of its magazine to generate brand extensions such as the Essence Music Festival, Women Who Are Shaping the World Leadership Summit, Window on Our Women (WOW I, II & III) and Smart Beauty I, II & III consumer insights, the Essence Book Club, Essence.com, and ventures in digital media (mobile, television and VOD) via Essence Studios.