Julee Wilson

Julee Wilson

by Melissa Magsaysay

The Editor Bringing More Diversity to Fashion

At a time when our country feels increasingly divided and general conversation ranging from politics to pop culture can be polarizing, the need for strong voices perpetuating positivity to cut through the cloud of rhetoric is vital whether on the campaign trail or across social media.

Enter Julee Wilson, the journalist and fashion and beauty director of Essence magazine proving that fashion and lifestyle media are not exempt from being a prime platform for positive change and a real shift toward representation and diversity. Wilson has emerged as a leader in the space, not just talking about change, but consistently making it with stories and entire issues dedicated to topics including the state of black designers in fashion and a stunning homage to designer Dapper Dan.

Through her exuberant social media posts and infectious personality, Wilson inspires those listening to push harder and do more whether that’s with women’s issues and progress for people of color in hard hitting news stories or via her always cheerful “Dope Stuff on My Desk” series.

Here, Wilson talks about her start as a writer, her vibrant personal style and demanding change when it comes to size-inclusivity.

Lead Image: Julee Wilson wearing Zero + Maria Cornejo Jazmin Shirt

Q&A with Julee

Where are you from originally? Where do you live now?

I was born in Boston, but raised most of my life in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania (40 miles west of Philadelphia). Now I reside in Harlem, NYC.

Have you always wanted to be a writer/editor? About fashion/beauty specifically?

I definitely knew that being a writer was my destiny. I’ve loved writing from as early as I can remember. Marrying my love for words and fashion was the ultimate dream. I’ve thankfully been able to add beauty over the past several years to the list of genres I’m passionate about.

How would you describe your personal style?

My style is distinctly me. I don’t subscribe to trends, I just wear whatever makes me happy. More often than not you’ll find me in all black with one statement piece — a shoe, a coat or a piece of jewelry. And my favorite accessory would have to be my hair, in all it’s shapeshifting forms.

Your focus on diversity and inclusivity in your work is amazing and inspiring. Is this something you set out to incorporate into your stories and how you select topics?

It’s not necessarily something I set out to do, but it quickly became my responsibility. The lack of diversity within fashion and beauty is a problem that I hope I can help change. It’s not an easy task, but it’s one that I’m dedicated to.

Did you feel reflected in fashion and lifestyle media growing up?

No, which is why beauty is so self referenced for Black women. While I didn’t see myself reflected in the media, I saw my beauty and style reflected in the Black community and hearing affirmations from my mother and father.

Do you feel like the fashion industry has made great strides to be more diverse and inclusive?

We’re a work in progress. There is still a lot of work to be done. I’m a glass-half-full type of gal, so I believe we’ll get there.

What more can we be doing to strengthen and further the conversation around size inclusivity?

Keep demanding change. Size inclusivity isn’t just right, it’s good business. Once brands understand the economic opportunity that they are blatantly missing then hoping things will get better.

Is there a story/shoot (or 2, 3...50) you feel most proud of at this point in your career? What is it and why is it a highlight for you?

I’ve really proud of my piece about the state of Black fashion designers for Business Of Fashion. I also recently just pulled together the September 2018 cover story for ESSENCE, which the cover model was Naomi Campbell (who I styled), the cover feature was about legendary fashion designer Dapper Dan, the story was written by Andre Leon Talley (who I edited), and the photos were captured by iconic street style photographer Jamel Shabazz. Last but not least, I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to write the September 2015 cover story of ESSENCE about my friend Misty Copeland -- which I wrote while I was working at HuffPost.

You said something that has really stuck with us about how beauty and fashion editors should be covering and paying attention to all beauty and fashion brands, those for people of color and those for plus sized women, not just the more "mainstream" and obvious companies. Do you think that the media for the most part still operates within the antiquated ideals of what it thinks "Fashion" is supposed to be or look like? How can editors, writers and people with platforms and voices help make a real and lasting shift?

Yes, I think the fashion industry still has very narrow ideals. But I do think that things are slowly but surely changing since we’re talking more about these issues. I would encourage editors, writers, and anyone with platforms to stay woke — keep the industry’s feet to the fire.


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