NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--ESSENCE, the number one media, technology and commerce company serving Black women, today announced that Michelle Ebanks, Chief Executive Officer of Essence Communications, Inc., will step down from the role of CEO as of March 31, 2020 to pursue other opportunities and to join the board of Essence Ventures, parent company of ESSENCE. In her board capacity, Ebanks will advise on strategic partnerships and new growth opportunities, including the development of a diversity and inclusion capability that supports the advancement of people of color in the workplace. ESSENCE has commenced a search for her successor, and Ebanks will assist with the transition and search process. During the transition period, Richelieu Dennis, founder & chairman of Essence Ventures, will have direct oversight of the company, working closely with its senior leadership team on continued transformation and strategy execution.
“When I joined ESSENCE, I could not have imagined this extraordinary journey and how it would transform me as a person and as a leader,” said Ebanks. “I will always be grateful for the opportunity, but most importantly for the impact that ESSENCE continues to have on tens of millions of Black women globally. Since I began, my priority has been to position ESSENCE for its next phase, and we’ve done that. The brand has been reestablished as 100% Black-owned and is well-positioned for continued success through what is a remarkable time of transformation and reinvention.”
Ebanks continued, “Richelieu is strongly committed to ESSENCE’s mission of serving Black women deeply – as well as empowering equality, investing in community and expanding ESSENCE into the global media, technology and commerce business that it has always had the potential to be. Over the past couple of years, I’ve often called ESSENCE a 50-year-old start-up, with a richness of legacy and poised to leverage new and unlimited opportunity in ways never done before. As the brand celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year, I am as excited to see what the future holds for the next 50 years.”
Ebanks, who has been at the helm of ESSENCE since 2001, has emerged as a foremost authority on women, the multicultural market and a passionate brand steward. She led ESSENCE’s transition to a multi-media brand and architected its cross-platform expansion and diversification – helping to guide ESSENCE into a powerhouse comprising digital, video, television and experiential. Under Ebanks’ leadership, the ESSENCE Festival of Culture grew to become the world’s largest cultural, music, entertainment and empowerment experience – responsible for more than $4 billion in economic impact since it began. The Festival marked its 25th anniversary in 2019 and routinely attracts more than 500,000 international attendees over July 4th weekend.
“There aren’t enough words to express the gratitude, recognition and admiration that we have for everything Michelle has brought to ESSENCE over nearly 20 years – her vision, her leadership, her advocacy, and her determination,” said Dennis. “We value her commitment to uplifting and empowering our community, as well as to building a successful business with an unmatched team of women executives who are leading the way. We are excited to continue to work alongside her on the board of Essence Ventures as we open new opportunities, access, expertise and possibilities for Black women and people of color in the most engaging, authentic and innovative ways possible. This is only the beginning.”
About Essence Communications Inc.
Essence Communications is the number one media, technology and commerce company dedicated to Black women and inspires a global audience of more than 20 million through diverse storytelling and immersive original content. With a multi-platform presence in publishing, experiential and online, ESSENCE encompasses its signature magazine; digital, video and social platforms; television specials; books; as well as live events, including Black Women in Music, Black Women in Hollywood, Street Style and the ESSENCE Festival. Essence Communications is owned by Essence Ventures, an independent Black-owned, consumer technology company focused on merging content, community and commerce to meet the evolving cultural and lifestyle needs of people of color.